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Storing Herbs by Freezing

Find out how to freeze herbs to retain their flavour for months

Storing Herbs By Freezing

preserving | grow your own

In our article Drying Herbs we looked at how many herbs can be preserved by drying them. Unfortunately, for herbs with a high water content such as basil it can sometimes be a bit tricky to dry their leaves before they turn mouldy. The alternative is to freeze herbs so that their flavour can be retained for at least 3-6 months after the growing season.

Basil can be frozen to preserve its flavour

There are two different techniques typically used to freeze herbs: freezing whole leaves and storing them, or freezing chopped leaves in water in an ice cube tray. With both methods the best fresh leaves from the plant should be selected, washed, and patted dry with paper towel.

Freezing Whole Herb Leaves

Freezing herbs and storing them in zip lock bags

For this technique the leaves should be spread out over a baking tray or similar. They must not be in contact with one another and certainly not piled on top of one another or they will fuse together and be inseparable after freezing. Once the leaves are frozen, they can be collected in air tight containers (e.g. zip lock bags or tupperware) and stored in the freezer. As they are independently frozen already, they will now not stick to one another.

The problem with this technique is that if you have a lot of leaves and do not have a large freezer and many trays, you have to do the freezing process in batches, and it can be quite slow.

Freezing Herb Leaves in Ice Cube Trays

Basil frozen into ice cubes

If you have lots of ice cube trays the alternative method offers a very fast, simple, and reliable way to freeze herbs. Chop the herb leaves quite finely with a knife or in a blender. Put a teaspoonful of chopped leaves into each cube of an ice cube tray, and then fill with water only until the chopped leaves in each cube are just covered. Put the ice cube tray in the freezer and leave to freeze. Then top up the tray with water and freeze again until solid. Now you can break the herby ice cubes out of the tray and store them in an air tight container.

Note that chopped herbs float - hence the two stage water filling process described above. This ensures that the chopped herbs are locked in the middle of the ice cubes rather than being left spread exposed over one surface.

Using Frozen Herbs

When herbs are dried their flavour is concentrated and intensified, and so you need to use only a small quantity in cooking. For frozen herbs, the flavour is just retained, and so for a recipe where you would have used only one fresh leaf, you still only use one frozen leaf. With the herb ice cubes, simple drop the required number of ice cubes straight into the cooking pot.

Make sure all containers of frozen herbs are labelled with the date of freezing.

Article Published: 16:10, 4th Jun 2010

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