Looking for more ways to preserve your harvest before frost claims the less hardy plants? Preserving herbs is easy and can bring the summer taste of your garden to your cooking all winter long.
Simply hanging the herbs upside down to dry, then bottling them in glass jars is a great way to preserve many herbs including thyme, parsley and oregano. If your cilantro has gone to seed, let those plants dry too. Picking off the coriander seeds is a bit time consuming, but grind them in a mortar and pestle and they’re a delicious addition to seafood and vegetarian dishes.
You may find that some herbs retain their flavor better when frozen rather than dried. Try spreading the clean leaves, such as mint or cilantro, or chopped up herbs, such as chives, on a cookie sheet in your freezer until just frozen. They can then be stored in freezer bags. Herbs defrost quickly when added to cooking so there’s no need to thaw them in advance.
Herbs that are going to be used in soups or drinks can also be frozen in water in ice cubes trays. Just put the chopped herbs in the tray and fill with water. This works very well with both parsley and mint.
Another option is to follow the very old tradition of preserving your herbs in salt. Salted herbs, or herbes salees, are a common addition to traditional French Canadian cooking and can be added to almost anything. They are delicious in soups or mixed with mashed potatoes.
There is no set recipe for salted herbs. One simple one passed on from a French Canadian neighbor says only, “green onions, parsley, and lots of salt.” Other recipes add things like garlic, grated carrots or celery tops to the herbs. You can make your own recipe with any blend of herbs you like. Just chop them up, mix with salt and store in a jar in your refrigerator until ready to use.
For leafier herbs and greens, make pestos and keep them in your freezer. While basil is the traditional pesto herb, you can make delicious pestos from parsley and sharper flavored leafy greens such as arugula and mustard greens. Chop up the herbs in your food processor with a healthy amount of olive oil, salt and garlic to taste, and some optional nuts, and you’ve got a simple pesto.
Store your pesto in an ice cube tray in the freezer, and you can easily access and thaw small amounts at a time.