There’s a bit of a theme going on around here at the moment – harvest. At this time of year a lot of my ‘gardening time’ is spent picking produce and working out how to store it, cook it or preserve it. It can be time-consuming in the short term, but it’s so great to be able to enjoy your homegrown fruit and veg all year round.
In this post I’m going to share some ideas for preserving herbs – they make such a difference to recipes and you don’t have to limit this to the warmer months when they are producing lots of growth. (You might like to get some simple tips for cooking with fresh herbs too).
Drying in bunches: I think herbs look fantastic hanging in little bunches to dry out, you also get the benefit of their scent too. It will take about a month for them to dry out, they need to hang upside down somewhere reasonably warm but ventilated. Once they are dry you can remove the leaves from the stems and store them in an airtight container.
Freezing: dead easy, just place clean, dry leaves in freezer bags and pop in the freezer – remember to label them!
Oven drying: I’ve never tried this method but apparently it works, you do need to keep a careful eye on things though. Lay out the herbs in a single layer on a baking tray, put them in the oven at about 100 degrees C / gas mark 1 and leave the door open slightly to let the moisture escape. It will take about 4 hours to dry them out, keep checking them regularly.
Salting: this involves building up layers of leaves and salt and leaving the whole thing until the leaves have dried out. Once dry you need to sieve the mixture to remove the salt and store in an airtight container.
Herb ice cubes: this is a great time-saver for cooking things like pasta sauces. Chop the herbs and sprinkle into an ice cube tray – think about how much you’d normally add to a recipe and aim for that amount in each cube. Fill the tray up with water and freeze. When you want to use them you just pop a cube in with your cooking.
Herb Butter: I’ve never thought of making herb butter in bulk before, but you can freeze butter so why not? Chop the herbs, mix with butter and freeze in single serving portions – I bet an ice cube tray would work well again here.
Pesto: you can freeze homemade pesto, which is another great timesaver in the kitchen. It’s as simple as whizzing up the herb leaves with olive oil and your other chosen ingredients such as parmesan, pine nuts and garlic. To freeze, put the pesto in a container with a lid, cover it with a layer of oil to protect it from the air, and store flat in the freezer until it’s frozen. As well as the traditional basil pesto you can use rocket, coriander, spinach, parsley – pretty much any leafy green herb that you like the taste of!
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