Herb Preserving 101
Aloha beautiful people! It seems that summer went out and autumn is on her way in. Today is the day I have been longing for. Rainy and cool and all the herbs that I’ve dried out and laying in a spare room taking up space, can now be crumbled off the stems and bagged for future meals.
But as I sat and bagged the herbs, I wondered how many other methods there were for saving culinary herbs, beside my old standby, stripping and drying on paper. Another way to preserve the essence of the plant is to freeze them in ice cube trays with a good olive oil, like our Picual or Koroniki varietals. But in my search, I found 3 additional methods of preserving your herbs for later use.
First, select your herbs carefully. Believe it or not, the best time to harvest your herbs is early morning when it is cool and dewy. Essential oils are at their peak and this translates to increased flavor! Also look for tips that are just about to flower and inspect for any damages to the leaves. You can either pinch off or use a pair of snips to collect your bounty. I tend to pinch my plants back unless it is a woody herb or plant.
Once you’ve collected your herbs, reinspect each item and gently rinse in cool water. Place on paper towel to dry off and pat dry with another paper towel. If you choose to hang and dry your herbs, group each type of herb with no more than 6 stems. Tie the small groups together and hang in cool dry room out of traffic, such as a cellar, spare room etc. These will dry in approximately 1-3 weeks, depending on the characteristics of the herb. Once dry, you can store in airtight jars or baggies. The info I found stated that this is good for up to 1 year,
There are 2 ways to keep your herbs in oil, but always use a good olive oil for either method. The first method is to clean and roughly cut your herbs up and place into an ice cube tray. Next carefully pour olive oil over each slot and freeze. Once frozen you can then transfer to a zip lock bag that is labeled and dated. Again, a 1-year limit.
The other method of oil/herb storage is to steep your herbs in olive oil. Select and clip your herbs and place into a labeled wide mouth jar. Fill jar with olive oil and store in cool dark spot. This method may be easy and simple, but it also has the shortest shelf life, 6 months of preservation date.
Another method is simple freezing. After washing and patting dry, I either de stem the herbs or keep small clippings from woody plants and place into a freezer bag. This is so simple and easy and is very easy to store flat!
So hopefully this gets you started on saving the freshness and flavor from your garden you worked so hard for long into winter!