All too often I have no choice but to purchase a large bunch of dill or basil or thyme for a recipe that requires only a small quantity. After a few days in the fridge, they get limp, slimy or otherwise useless. What do you do to keep fresh herbs fresh for extended keeping?
Can you freeze them? If so, how?
For Christmas my sister got me an Herb-Saver (I think she got it from a King Arthur catalog). I was skeptical at first but it really works well. It can only hold one big bunch at a time, but it lasts a lot longer than traditional storage. I just used some basil yesterday that I had in there for a little over 3 weeks...still perfect.
I have that same problem often too....especially with all the herbs that I have in the garden during the summer. I know that parsley and sage freeze quite well. I have also frozen pesto in ice cube trays and that holds up really well, so I assume that if you put oil and basil in the food processor and make a paste, that it would freeze just as well. Cilantro is similar in texture to parsley so I would assume that it would freeze well also. Usually with parsley, I store it already chopped.
Thyme freezes like a dream. So well that I freeze big hunks of it in late summer when its flavor is most intense from the heat and sunshine. It starts to get weaker in intensity as the temperature drops and daylight wanes. I went outside and cut some last week when it was about 10 degrees because I wanted the whole sprigs and was amazed how much stronger and more flavorful the frozen was by comparison.
Just pop it into a ziplock and keep it in the freezer. The tiny leaves strip off the stems very easily when it's frozen. Right onto your chopping surface or into the pot.
I freeze dill too. It gets pretty wilted and sorry looking but the flavor lasts.
Basil is a lost cause for freezing whole but I've had good luck chopping it with some olive oil in the food processor and storing the basil/oil mix in the freezer. It defrosts to a usable texture pretty quickly at room temperature.
I do large quantities of basil and oil in late Summer when it's at his height of flavor and then make fresh pesto in Winter. It tastes much better and fresher than freezing the prepared pesto.
The most successful is parsley. Chop up an entire bunch and freeze it. When you need a tablespoon or so, you can throw the frozen chopped parsley straight into the pan. It even stays bright green.
Rosemary is also a champ. Again best harvested in high Summer when it's at its peak flavor.
I've found that most herbs do far better in the freezer than they do dried. Much closer to flavor of fresh and definitely closer to the texture and color..
I try to make a vegetable both when I have lots of leftover herbs. I throw in some vegetables
and let it all simmer. Then I'll make a soup...depending on what kind of herbs I used. It might be a little stronger than basic broth...but I just adjust the kind of soup I make to however the broth tastes.
Thyme dries really well. I put it in a paper bag and hang it somewhere dry with good air circulation until it is dry. Then I strip in from the stems and store it in a sealed container.
I have stored fresh herbs (basil, oregano) in a ziplock with a damp paper towel (the towel is barely damp, well squeezed out) for a couple of weeks. But then they were from my garden, so were guaranteed fresh picked. No idea how old the herbs in the stores are by the time they get there.
You can use the leftover herb to infuse olive oil. Briefly blanch the herb then put it in a mill with olive oil and blend. Strain and use to enhance/bump up the flavor of your food.