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Freezing Basil (or any herb) 3-methods (or more)?

Hi All,

I've got a bunch of basil. I normally cook for one or two people and a lot of times I find my fresh herbs go bad because I just can't get them all in a dish in time. I've been researching ways to try to freeze them to save for later. I've seen three methods (but maybe there are more?):

---Put in ice cube trays with water & cover & freeze
---Put in any container with oil & cover & freeze
---Put the leaves in a jar (no water, no oil) & cover & freeze

If possible, I'm looking for the best way that they would retain as much of their original texture and taste as possible. I understand that there may be no way to preserve them for...let's say a salad, but for cooking maybe?

Interested in other herbs too, not just basil, and your experiences.

I've got a couple of ice cube trays with lids and canning jars, so I'll do the experimenting but would like to limit the waste if I can get the best method right away.

Thanks!

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  1. I just posted this on another thread! I finely chop herbs and stick them in Ziploc bags and put it in the freezer. It tastes exactly like fresh when you take a pinch (or handful) out to use in whatever you're making. No oil, no cubes, just plain old frozen herbs. It works beautifully. I do this with cilantro, basil and parsley.

    10 Replies
    1. re: mels

      Wow mels, that is amazing. I see your post in that other thread and it was not there when I made this one, which was based on that one! As I read it, that thread was more about what dishes could be made to save the herbs rather than what could be done to preserve the herb. I know it addresses most but I thought the focus of each was different.

      Wow, we are in the zone, two CHer's thinking about the same thing at the same time. Your method actually felt the most right to me, BUT.. it is the least representative on the Internet and I've Google'd extensively. Most are in the oil/water camp. I'll start with your method.

      1. re: mels

        Several months ago I started doing the same. At the beginning, it was just a test. But it turned into such a successful one that I've expanded it. In addition to cilantro, basil, and parsley, I've successfully frozen whole sprigs of thyme and rosemary as well as chopped shallots and lemongrass. At first, I used Ziploc bags, but the herbs got icy. I now put the herbs in a Reynolds Handi-Vac bag and vacuum the air out. I seem, at least so far, to be able to open and reseal the bags almost indefinitely. And the iciness problem has been eliminated.

        1. re: JoanN

          So you use no oil, no water also? I don't know what you mean by the switch in bags and how you vacuumed the air out? Can you clarify what did the trick? I know of vacuum machines, but are you saying I need to get one to do this? Not that I'm opposed, just want to know.

          1. re: Rocky Road

            Right. No oil, no water. Just the chopped ingredient.

            I always coveted one of those vacuum systems, but I live in an apartment with very limited kitchen closet space and even more limited counter space. A few months ago I bought a Reynolds Handi-Vac:

            http://www.reynoldspkg.com/reynoldski...

            Only about $10, and you can often find coupons so you can get it for even less. It requires dedicated bags, but they're readily available in my neighborhood and not horrendously expensive. I read a lot of reports before I bought it and some people reported problems with bag failure; i.e, the bag either didn't seal properly to begin with or it's lost its vacuum while it was in the freezer. I haven't had that problem. In the five or so months I've been using it, I've only had one bag failure. I've been extremely pleased with how well it works and would recommend it without reservations.

            1. re: JoanN

              Thanks for the reminder - I got those same kinds of bags but the Ziplock ones, and my initial excitement of having a v. organized freezer quickly abated as the pouches did not stay vacuumed, so to speak. Ziplock did send me a bunch of coupons for free bags, but it wasn't worth the effort I decided.

            2. re: Rocky Road

              I don't have a vaccum sealer. I just squeeze all the air out and never had a problem. No oil, no anything, just herbs.

            3. re: JoanN

              I do the same thing as you do except I don't use a vacuum. I just push the air out and it works for me. If it does get a little ice on it I just shake it off. I did it with parsley and worked great. No more drying herbs. I'm going to freeze all of them.

            4. re: mels

              I do mine the same way all the time. Large tropical oregano leaves don't do as well because of so much moisture. But pretty much everything else. For fresh salads that require very fresh non cooked herbs as in a salad or garnish, I buy fresh. But these frozen herbs are perfect for most everything else. I have used them in breads, casseroles, soups, stews, sauces, anything. But fresh is always better if you have it. But don't sweat. This works great.

              I also dry by just hanging up and then I dry and then crunch up and put in my basil jar. I do this with my oregano, basil which I can't eat it all. The parsley I usually go through.

              1. re: mels

                Mels,
                This is great. I had no idea you could just chop these herbs and freeze them. I'll try it right away. I took it as a given that if you froze fresh herbs, all you would end up with would be limp cellulose, just like what happens if you freeze iceberg lettuce leaves. It still seems counterintuitive to me, but I'll give it a try! Thanks.

                1. re: gfr1111

                  Try a small batch, you will be converted! I first experimented with this due to my admitted sheer laziness. It is way easier to chop and store than to mess with water for cubes or oil. Let us know how it works out for you.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  LOL.....Ok...I get it...I'll do my research here, not Google. Funny, I do not do research here because the few times I tried I felt the search mechanism was bad, and the results were no expansive. I'll enjoy reading these.

                  1. re: Rocky Road

                    unfortunately the default setting for the Search function puts the most recent threads first, which is typically useless as it often brings up any random thread that contains the keyword(s). so when you do search, change the Display option so that the results appear in order of Relevance.

                    i REALLY wish they'd change that already!

                2. My intuition has been that some herbs do better in oil and some do fine in water.
                  For example, an herb like basil that is often used in pesto seems like an herb I would preserve in oil. (Or compound butter.)

                  Herbs that are good in a simple syrup like mint I would do in water.

                  The herbs I put in the oil (or butter) loving class include chives and parsley and marjorum and oreganos.

                  But I have not tried this idea of just plain freezing them, and will probably give that a try. Especially once we are drowning in herbs and looking for ways to save them.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: karykat

                    I make a basil oil, I dry basil and I freeze basil. I do the same for oregano and thyme and tarragon. Thicker leaves such as basil and tropical oregano do better in a dehydrator or dried in an oven or chopped before freezing because of the larger leave and moisture content. Chopping or dicing is important. Other leaves such as rosemary taken off the stem and thyme freeze just fine. It just depends. Think larger leaf, more water so they need to be cut smaller. Drying is a great way, I dry several of mine and so is just fresh.

                  2. Where I live most herbs are available fresh year round, but I do freeze some basil- I grind it with minimal water in the blender and freeze in ice cube trays (the point of this post being mostly to warn you that if you use plastic trays, they're the very devil to clean). It works OK in made dishes, better than the scrawny, bolted and overpriced winter basil in markets. It also allows me to look forward every year to the fresh basil coming in. I'll have to try freezing some whole, I'd have thought the leaves would explode if it wasn't wilted.