Preserving herbs is easy and rewarding too. Herbs can be dried frozen or mixed into vinegar. Our guide on how to preserve herbs will help you use the herbs throughout the winter months, and can help deal with herb gluts.
How to Preserve Herbs
There are many different techniques that can be used for preserving your herb harvest. All are very straightforward and rewarding. Our step by step quick guides to drying, freezing, and preserving will tell you all you need to know to get started!
Many herbs dry well, especially those with a strong flavours such as sage, rosemary and thyme. This is due to the low moisture content in their leaves so they dry quickly.
Herbs that dry well include:-
How to Dry Your Herbs
It’s very easy to deal with a herb glut and preserve some beautiful fragrant herbs for winter by following a simple process to dry them. All you have to do is:-
- Try to pick your herbs just before they flower as this ensures that the oil content in the leaves (the flavour) is at its highest.
- Pick your herbs on a dry day and avoid washing them before dying (excess moisture on the leaves can cause the valuable essential oils to be lost).
- Pick whole stems of long-stemmed herbs such as basil, sage, rosemary and mint and tie in loose bundles so air can circulate between them.
- Whole plants of bushier herbs such as thyme and oregano can be tied in pairs.
- Hang the bundles in a warm, well-ventilated place until they are dry.
Herbs with soft leaves, (such as basil, coriander, chives, mint and parsley) are ideal candidates for the freezer, as this method is the best way to keep their colour and flavour after they have been picked. This is an easy way to preserve herbs to use over the winter months.
How to Freeze Herbs
Having a steady supply of those summer harvested herbs in the freezer is a great way to use up a glut of freshly harvested herbs. It’s very easy to store in this way.
Simply follow these steps:-
- Freeze your herbs as soon after picking them as possible (this avoids the loss of valuable nutrients, flavour and colour).
- First wash the herbs, then pack them into individual plastic bags and place in the freezer.
- Once frozen, they will crumble easily and can be used directly from the freezer without the need to defrost them.
- If you are planning to store herbs for a long period, it’s a good idea to blanch them first. Blanching helps keep the herbs in a suitable condition in the freezer for longer.
- Simply dip them in boiling water, then transfer them into iced water and pat them dry before freezing.
- Freezing herbs in ice cube trays is another great way of preserving herbs. This way you can simply pop a few cubes into a meal to bring on the flavour.
- Coarsely chop the herbs and place in the ice cube tray and top up with water. Then add the cubes to your meals as you would with fresh herbs.
Herbs can easily be preserved in vinegar, which make excellent salad dressings. Rosemary and basil make particularly good vinegars.
How to Preserve Herbs in Vinegar
Simply follow these steps to enjoy delicious herb infused dressings for many months after picking your herbs:-
- Simply wash the herb in cold water and crush it slightly to release its flavour.
- Then push into a tall, clean, sterile bottle and fill with warmed vinegar (wine and cider work best).
- Seal the bottle and leave to infuse for a few weeks before use.
- You can then strain the mixture through muslin or filter papers to separate the herb from the vinegar.
- Store the vinegar in a sterile airtight bottle out of direct sunlight.
Herbs can also be soaked in oil to capture their aromatic flavours. The best herbs to preserve in this way are:
- French tarragon
How to Preserve Herbs in Oil
Loosely fill a clear bottle with your washed, crushed herb and cover in a mild olive oil. Leave the concoction on a sunny windowsill for about 2 weeks and shake the container every day to maximise the infusion of the flavour. After straining the leaves (see above) from the oil you can add more fresh leaves to create a really intense flavour. Store the oil in an airtight bottle out of direct sunlight.
Preserving herbs is an excellent way of maximising their use and using them throughout the winter months. Making a herb oil or vinegar can make cooking with herbs really easy, as you have instant flavour without any fuss.