Having a selection of fresh herbs on hand is a great idea for anyone working toward a culinary arts certificate online. Adding a sprinkle of basil to a pizza or a pinch of thyme to a soup contributes that extra bit of flavor to take the dish to the next level. The only problem is that these savory, aromatic plants have a limited shelf life.
If you have more herbs in your kitchen or garden than you can use right away, consider preserving them. As tasty as fresh sage, rosemary and parsley are, you’ll also find plenty of uses for them weeks or months down the line. Try these methods to find out how handy and delicious all that preserved flavor can be.
1. Just chill
“Freezing herbs maintains a taste that’s as close to fresh as possible.”
Freezing herbs is the best solution if you want to maintain a taste that’s as close to fresh as possible. As Serious Eats explained, the plants will inevitably lose much of their original texture, but they’ll still be great in sauces or soups. This approach works well for basil, dill, chives, cilantro, mint and many other common flavor enhancers.
One way to put herbs on ice starts with rinsing and removing the leaves from stems. Place the herbs on a flat surface to dry. Then, just gather the leaves in a plastic bag and place in the freezer, cutting off pieces as you need them.
You may also try gathering finely chopped leaves in an ice cube tray and freezing in leftover broth or water. Blanching the herbs before you freeze them is not required, but it can help to retain more potent flavor and also reduce how much space they take up.
2. Dry them out
Dried herbs have a wide range of culinary uses, especially when they are added in the middle of the cooking process to infuse the dish with flavor. Oregano, thyme and rosemary all have woody tastes that hold up well when dried out. For these plants, you can hang them in bunches in dark, well-ventilated place and then store the leaves in an airtight jar.
Particularly when it comes to herbs with more delicate leaves, like tarragon or chervil, using a microwave will allow them to hold on to powerful taste and distinctive color. Spread out the leaves on a plate, covering both the plate and the herbs with paper towels. Microwave heartier herbs on high for one minute and lighter ones for 40 seconds, continuing in 20 second increments until they dry completely. Then, store in an airtight container or grind into a powder.
3. Find the perfect combination
Another way to keep your herbs ready to bring a burst of flavor to your dishes is combining them with another ingredient, like oil, butter or vinegar. To preserve them in oil, The Pioneer Woman recommended filling each section of an ice cube tray halfway with leaves. Fill in the rest with extra-virgin olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for eight hours.
For an herbal butter, mince one part leaves per two parts butter. Mash together, forming a log, and then freeze. Cut off pieces whenever you want to add flavor to vegetables or meat.
To make a flavored vinegar, wash and pat off an herb like tarragon before placing it in a bottle. Pour in vinegar, cork the bottle and store in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks. The infused vinegar will be perfect for topping salads or using in marinades.
Anyone attending culinary academy will discover there are countless uses for preserved herbs and also many methods for keeping them tasting great. By experimenting with a few, you’ll learn the best ways to keep the flavors and colors you need to craft your favorite dishes.