Preserving Fresh Herbs is a simple and easy way to reduce food waste. Because let’s face it…
We all do it
Yes, we all do it! No matter how much we try there is almost always an amount of food that goes to waste. In my defense, I almost always have a grocery list and I do follow it.
Then the question arises: “How do I get to the point where I have food that went bad if I am being so proactive?” The answer is quite simple. Life happens. And schedules can not always be followed. Also, we must not forget that the best meal plans leave room for emergencies and changes of plans. In these situations, we almost always fall back to our pantry and freezer staples. Besides, isn’t this why we keep a well-stocked kitchen? Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to use up everything before it goes bad. Although it is worth the effort.
Fresh herbs are notorious for going bad really quick! They are also wonderful to use in the kitchen. Unlike their dried cousins, fresh herbs can complement any dish or drink whether it is served cooked or fresh. From hearty soups and casseroles to fresh and vibrant salads and drinks. And let’s not forget that they make wonderful garnishes.
Preserving Fresh Herbs
Preserving fresh herbs might sound intimidating. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality it is very easy and depending on the method it is actually be quite fast.
Methods of preserving fresh herbs
- Dehydration. I am sure you have already guessed this. Dehydrating a herb means that you remove its moisture. This can be done either naturally or mechanically.
To naturally dry (dehydrate) your herbs all you have to do is to tie them in small bundles and hang them upside down in a dark and dry place. Unfortunately there is no exact time that it will take for them to dry, since it depends on too many parameters, so you will have to check on them from time to time. After they dry you can store them in air tight containers either whole or grind.
Alternatively, you can dry them either in a dehydrator or your oven. To do so follow your dehydrators instructions or put them in the oven at 40C with the fan running for approximately 30 min. Remember that every oven is different so keep a close eye on them.
2. Preserved in oil. Preserving your herbs in oil is, in my opinion, the best way. That is because not only it is very easy to do so, but it is also very fast. In addition the final product resembles much more to the original. In my experience the herbs preserved by this method are much more fragrant than their dried counterparts.
To preserve your herbs in oil you must of course first wash and dry them. Then all you have to do is submerge them in your oil of preference in air tight containers. It very important to thoroughly dry your herbs. Failing to do so might result in mold forming on the herbs.
3. Freeze them! Lastly you can freeze your herbs. To do so wash and dry the herbs. Then lay them flat on baking sheets covered with parchment paper and put them in the freezer. After they are frozen solid you can transfer them in zip lock bags.
Alternatively, you can chop them up and put fill ice cube trays. When they are ¾ full of herbs fill the rest with olive oil. Lastly put them in the freezer. Again, when they are frozen solid you can transfer them in your container of choice.
To my knowledge there are two methods to preserve fresh herbs.Alternatively, you can mechanically dry them either in a dehydrator or your oven. To do so follow your dehydrators instructions or put them in the oven at 40C with the fan running for approximately 30 min. Remember that every oven is different so keep a close eye on them.
How to use Preserved Herbs
Dehydrated herbs are used the same way fresh herbs are. Keep in mind that their smell and taste are not as strong any more. Of course you can use them interchangeably but the amount used will defer. A good rule of thumb is to use a ratio of 1:3. Meaning that 1 part fresh herbs is equivalent to 3 parts of dried herbs.
Herbs preserved in oil can be used in a number of ways but I would only use them in cooking. Of course you could try using them in raw salads too. I also love to use the oil that they were preserved in to marinate meats or make salad dressings.
Lastly, frozen herbs are used for cooking. Herbs that were frozen have a very different texture. One completely lacking in bite. This makes them only suitable for use in soups and stews.
Is preserving herbs worth my time?
This is a very difficult answer to give. It all depends on how you use herbs and how much time you can invest. The preserving method also plays an important role. If you want to freeze herbs but are lacking in freezer space I would not advise it. Maybe buying fresh or even better a plant might be a better choice for you.
For me it is almost always worth your time to limit your food waste. Also by preserving surplus food is good for the environmet and the wallet. Don’t forget that all the aforementioned preserving methods actually take very little hands on time and require very little space. In addition you create a totally different product which actually make you consume a wider variety of foods.
And let us not forget that the time we spend today to prep is the time we take back when we use that food. So we don’t actually spend more time; we just spend it wisely. And that is always a good idea.
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