Drying and freezing are the two most effective ways for preserving herbs for future use. Though drying is the more commonly employed traditional method for this purpose, some herbs have been found to do better and retain their rich aroma, when they are preserved by freezing.
Usually, herbs with high water content and soft leaves do well when they are preserved by freezing. Such herbs can sometimes mold, if they are preserved by drying. But, when preserved by freezing, they are found to retain their color and flavor to a great extent. Herbs like basil, cilantro, lemongrass, mint, parsley, chives, sage, tarragon, and lemon balm are ideal to be preserved in this way.
Preserving Herbs by Freezing
Freezing plants and their vital parts, like leaves, roots, etc., is quite simple and easy, provided you choose the fresh and the healthy leaves. So, be sure to pick only the fresh herbs, discarding the dry and diseased leaves and stems. Now, wash the selected herbs properly to remove dirt. Use soft paper towels to dry them, and then take a small tray and spread the leaves on it.
You can also chop the leaves and then spread them on the tray. Now, cover the tray and put it in the freezer. Once frozen, take out the tray from the freezer, and transfer the herbs to an airtight plastic container or sealable freezer bag. Be sure to suck out all excess air from the container or bag, before placing the herbs in it.
Another method is to blanch the herbs before putting them in the freezer. This method can help you preserve herbs for a longer period of time. It is also employed for certain herbs like basil, which when directly frozen can turn black. This method involves dipping the herbs first in boiling water, and then in iced water. The herbs are then dried with soft paper towels. Now, they can be placed in a freezer bag and then in the refrigerator.
Keeping herbs frozen in the form of ice cubes is yet another popular method. For this, select the freshest herbs with the healthiest leaves, and wash them with clean water to remove any kind of dirt. Cleaning should be followed by drying, for which you can use paper towels. Now, you can chop the leaves, put them in the ice cube tray, and fill the cubes with water. Keep the tray in the freezer until the ice cubes have frozen completely, after which take it out and remove the individual cubes. Place these cubes in a sealable freezer bag, and keep it in your freezer.
Another way is to blend the herbs with oil. In this method, the fresh herbs are first washed and then dried with paper towels. Now, take about 1/3 cup of oil (if possible olive oil) for each 2 cups of herbs, and blend them in the food processor or blender. Transfer the herbs to the ice cube tray and freeze them for a night. Next day, when the ice cubes have frozen, take out the tray from the freezer and separate the ice cubes. Put these ice cubes in a sealable freezer bag after removing excess air from the bag with a straw. Otherwise, you can place the entire tray in the freezer bag or wrap it thoroughly to make it airtight, before keeping it in the freezer.
Frozen herbs can work well for dishes, like soups, cooked dishes, and sauces, though they may not be so good for garnishing. The most crucial part for preserving herbs in this way is to make sure that they are placed in completely airtight containers or freezer bags.