As every self-respecting domestic goddess/god knows, fresh herbs make all the difference to any dish and work particularly well in winter stews and soups. At least they would, if it weren’t for the fact that they are singularly difficult to get hold of at this time of year. My attempts at “grow your own herbs” are valiant and persistent, but unfortunately due to a spate of recent frosts my oregano has gone the way of all flesh and my coriander has withered away. This is partly due to a lack of attention on my part; in one case I forgot that the herb in question would prefer to be on the inside of the kitchen window, while in the other I forgot the cat loves coriander. Winter herbs are not that difficult to maintain and there are several useful ways of storing them over winter, which is useful if you have a healthy crop towards the end of the year. Even if you buy herbs as part of your regular fresh food delivery, storing them to save waste can also make sense. Freezing herbs is a simple way to store them, but frozen without some preparation will cause them to ‘burn’ in the freezer and the quality will be worse. Freezing herbs in butter is one common way to deal with the problem and you can also freeze them in olive oil.
Suitable Herbs for Freezing in Oil or Butter
Most soups and stews will call not only for herbs but will also require oil of some variety. Olive oil has a distinct flavor of its own and is usually a good base. By freezing your excess herb harvest, or the leftovers from the fresh food delivery, in oil you’ll have the perfect base for all manner of dishes. Frozen cubes of herb filled oil can be popped into the pan and used to fry off onions and garlic, creating a rich flavored base as the starting point of your meal. Generally the softer herbs such as basil, mint and dill are not best suited to this type of freezing; dill does work pretty well though if you melt some butter in a pan, add the chopped dill and allow to heat for a minute or two. Remove from the heat and pour straight into ice cube trays and freeze; the resulting herby butter is packed with dill flavored punch and helps to make a fresh sauce for fish dishes in the winter.
The technique for freezing herbs in oil is simple. Once you’ve decided which herbs you’re planning to freeze, simply chop them roughly or tear into smaller chunks. If you have a secret herb mix that you commonly use, you can combine herbs to make a handy batch for winter cooking. Pack each ice cube tray as full as possible with the herbs that you are using and simply drizzle oil into the compartments until full to the top. For easy long term storage it makes more sense to take these out of the freezer once they’ve solidified and pack the cubes into a plastic bag. For the most domesticated, it goes without saying you’ll need to label the bags, for the less experienced it’s worth making a note to do so!
How to Use Your “Fresh” Frozen Herbs
As mentioned above you can use each cube as a base for the soup, stew or casserole in question by adding to the dish at the start of cooking. It’s also a good idea to pop a cube in half, or three quarters of the way, through cooking as fresh herbs (which is what they effectively are) are best added later in the cooking process. If you need to just the herbs to add to a dish at the end, place the cubes in a sieve to quietly defrost over the sink; this is a slightly messy process, but the best cooking usually involves a certain amount of devastation in the kitchen!
Author: Carlo Pandian is a freelance writer and food lover. He blogs about e-commerce and food trying out online retailers offers such as the Milk & More fresh food delivery and healthy products subscription boxes.