Friday, September 11, 2015

Preserving herbs

It is that time of year when I am crazily harvesting herbs to preserve them for winter.
I hate to loose out on any of that flavour and I absolutely detest buying herbs imported from faraway places in the middle of winter. Yes, sometimes I've been known to do it, but I hate it. 
The last time I picked up a package of store-bought 'fresh' herbs, I noticed the sad little package of wilted chives were imported from Israel. Israel! The other side of the world from where I live. A ridiculous import when chives grow most of the year here.
Since I began growing herbs, I also have a really hard time buying dried herbs in a jar when that same cost would buy me several fresh plants in spring. 
So, this was my year to plant even more herbs and preserve them! 
Here is a little rundown on my favourite ways to preserve herbs this year.

1. Pesto it! My farmer friends have joked that if you don't know what to do with something, you 'pesto it'! There is so much written online about pestos. My favourite is basil or parsley, garlic, pumpkin seeds and a bit of oil. My farmer friends have done cilantro, kale or whatever is green! Freeze it in small containers or bags, or for small portions, in ice cube trays and then bags. You can add parmesan just before serving. Put it on pizza, pasta or swirl into minestrone. For more details, check out this article on thekitchn

2. Very finely chop herbs and freeze with a bit of oil or water. Great for adding more flavour to sauces, soups and stews. This article has some great tips.

3. Tie fresh herbs up in a small bundle and hang them to dry. This works great for hearty herbs such as sage, thyme, savoury, and bay. When completely dry, pack into glass jars. (Basil and parsley are really sad when dried. Pesto those guys.) Here are detailed instructions on drying, including the surprising method of microwave drying (which works great- I've used it for rose petals).

3. You can further process dried herbs by making them into a herb salt. Just stick dried herbs into a blender or processor for a super quick whirl with sea salt. Pack into jars. Then use it for seasoning vegetables or protein. 

4. Make a flavoured vinegar. I've written about my favourite chive flower vinegar, but try it with other herbs to add a mighty herbal punch to salads.

5. Make a better butter. Into softened butter, stir in minced herbs. About 1/4 cup loosely-packed minced herbs per cup of butter. Do single herbs (like sage butter, pictured) or a multi-herb blend. Sage butter is fantastic warmed in a small pan and stirred into fresh pasta or rubbed onto a chicken that will be roasted. Garlic-parsley butter can be put on a seared steak or steamed vegetables. Freeze it in a log and cut off coins as needed. 

I'd love to hear more ideas on preserving herbs! Share your ideas below.