Freezing herbs: Preserve those fresh summer flavors
There is nothing quite like the taste of fresh herbs or produce from the garden. I don’t really want to be the bearer of bad news and say that summer’s coming to an end, but we all know fall is just around the corner. Let’s preserve summer and keep that “fresh from the garden taste” in your food for the much cooler months to come.
Over the years, I have tried several different ways to preserve herbs and produce, but my favorite way is the freezer.
One of the first items on my list works for either garden-grown or store-bought produce. I use a lot of fresh parsley in sauces and soups, and even though it can last a while in the refrigerator, I still find myself throwing out a bundle every couple of weeks.
Instead of throwing it out, I decided to start freezing it in white wine. Those are two very common ingredients in my soups, so it seemed logical to freeze them together.
You can, of course, always substitute water for the wine; various oils, such as olive oil or butter, work great for the liquid as well. Adding butter to finish a pan sauce is actually a classic French preparation method, and it gives the sauce a little bit of viscosity and a richer taste.
Another fun way to preserve the fresh taste of summer — or to add a fun twist to your next backyard gathering — is to freeze fresh herbs into your ice cubes for lemonade. A few of my favorites for this are basil or thyme. You can also freeze mint into cubes to use in fresh mojitos. With a little bit of rum, you can taste “summer” well into the fall.
Leafy herbs such as basil, oregano, parsley or mint work best for freezing into cubes, and the steps are simple. First, wash and dry your herbs in a single layer. Second, remove the leaves from the stems, then finely chop the leaves. The final step is to place the herbs in an ice cube tray or mini muffin pan, usually one teaspoon or tablespoon at a time for easy use in recipes, and cover them with a liquid or oil of your choice.
After six to 10 hours, or once the cubes are frozen, simply pop the cubes out of the tray and place them into a labeled resealable bag until you are ready to use them in your favorite soups, stews, sauces or beverages.
Woody herbs such as rosemary or thyme freeze better in whole leaf form outside of liquid. This also makes them easier to use in recipes since they are often used as a dry seasoning in things such as roasted potatoes or crusts on different roast meats.
To freeze these types of herbs, wash and air dry the whole stalks of herbs. Once dry, place the herb stalks into resealable bags and place in the freezer. Once frozen through, simply run your fingers in the opposite direction the herb grows, and the leaves will fall right off.
Discard the stems and store the leaves in the labeled resealable bags until they are ready to use. When you are ready to use them, simply remove the amount you would like from the freezer bag and chop.
I have found that a few other items freeze well in cube form and not only keep summer around a little longer, but also save a lot of prep time when making dinner on busy school nights. Foods such as fresh tomatoes, garlic, ginger and berries that have been run through the food processor make for excellent “fresh” sauces in the middle of our cold North Dakota winters.
Jessica Karley is a contributor to the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald.
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- Pinch garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary (or fresh frozen)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, make piles of parmesan cheese, using 2 tablespoons per pile. Sprinkle each pile with rosemary, pepper and garlic powder. Shape each pile into a slightly flattened circle.
Bake for six to eight minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and let cool. Serve as crackers or as an accent on a salad plate. Makes 8 crisps.
- 2 tablespoons rosemary, fresh, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup pine nuts, toasted (plus a few more for topping the cookies)
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon iodized salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1¼ cups sugar, plus more dusting sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the chopped rosemary in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add pine nuts. Pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer the mixture to large bowl. Add the flour, baking soda, ginger, and salt. Whisk to combine.
Place butter and sugar into the bowl of a mixer and whip with a paddle attachment until pale and fluffy. About five minutes on high. Slowly add in oil and cream with mixer on med/low speed. Reduce to low speed and add eggs one at a time.
With mixer still on low speed, slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture.
Shape dough into 1 inch balls using hands or a melon baller. Place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Flatten slightly with fingers and sprinkle cookies with sugar. Top each one with a pine nut.
Bake cookies for 13-16 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.
Makes about three dozen cookies.