Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Make the most of big bunches of fresh herbs...

You know how you have to buy fresh herbs in impossibly large bunches. I always feel like I'm never going to use the whole thing and I hate to waste. So I got down to business and did some research on how to best store those fresh herbs so that they will last - or so I can do save what I'm not able to use.

Parsley and cilantro: These delicate herbs are a lot like fresh flowers, so treat them the same way. Trim their stems as soon as you get them home, and stick them in a small glass of water (vases or clean empty tomato sauce or salsa jars work well). Cover them loosely with a clear plastic bag, and put them in the fridge. Every couple days, change out the water and give the stems another small trim to keep them fresh.

Mint and basil: Follow the same steps as above, but no need for the bag or fridge. Mint and basil do better at room temperature; mint, in fact, is so weed-like, if you put it in front of a sunny window, it may even start to send roots down into the water and sprout new leaves.

Rosemary, thyme, and oregano: These hardier herbs will brown and mold if kept in water. Put them in a ziplock bag with a crumpled slightly damp paper towel, and keep them in the crisper or in your fridge door — the warmest spot in the fridge is ideal.

Freeze what you don't use.

 I've found it's easiest to simply pluck the leaves and freeze them according to the first method here, but some people really love the ease of ice-cube freezing and find that herbs last longer this way. Experiment and see what you like.

Method 1: 
  1. Wash, if necessary, and pat dry with paper towels
  2. Spread the individual leaves on a small tray or cookie sheet. Freezing the leaves flat and individually will prevent them from freezing together into a brick.
  3. Cover and place the tray of leaves into the freezer
  4. When frozen solid, place in airtight containers and return to the freezer. Once frozen individually, the leaves will not stick together.

Method 2:
  1. Wash, if necessary, and pat dry with paper towels
  2. Stuff 2-3 individual leaves or a spoonful of chopped herbs in ice cube trays.
  3. Fill the tray half way with water. Make sure the leaves are down into the water, as best you can. They will tend to float, but we'll fix that with the next step. Place the half filled tray in the freezer.
  4. Once the ice cubes are pretty much frozen, finish filling the try with water. The leaves will no longer be able to float and should be completely surrounded with water. Now place the tray back into the freezer to freeze solid.
  5. Once the ice cubes are frozen, remove from the tray and store in zip closure bags.
  6. When ready to use, toss the whole ice cube into your favorite stew or dish.

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