There is nothing that will make or break a dish like choosing the right quality and type of herbs and spices. And, as with all things, growing your own is always better, cheaper, and more rewarding. But, while fresh herbs are pretty fantastic, sometimes it can be hard to keep up with the growth rate. I mean, there’s really only so much rosemary a person needs, right?
So, if you are in that boat then don’t worry! There are plenty of options for drying, preserving, and storing your overabundance of herbs. Here are three of the more common ways to preserve your herb harvest:
Drying herbs is obviously the most common and probably the first thing most people think of when I mention preserving herbs. There are multiple ways that you can dry herbs including air drying, using a dehydrator, or even popping them in the oven for a few minutes.
If you’re planning on drying your herbs, here are some tips:
- Always rinse off herbs before drying
- High moisture herbs (mint, basil, lemon balm) should be dried in the oven to prevent mold
- Low moisture herbs (rosemary, thyme) can be hung to dry, but should be covered with a paper bag
- Air drying generally takes 1 – 3 weeks, so be patient!
- Woody herbs like rosemary take longer to dry than more delicate ones
- Hang herbs in a warm, dry area and check often
- Make sure herbs are completely dry and crisp before storing
- Store in an airtight container for best results
Most herbs can be dried. You can either choose to store the whole leaf and crush it before using, or pre-crush and make your own herb mixes!
Freezing herbs is an equally good option and preserves your herbs almost as though they were fresh! With this method, you can prepare savory herb mixes and simply pop them in your pan while cooking for fresh taste year-round.
When freezing herbs, I tend to use water for more versatility. However, I have known people who freeze commonly-used savory herbs in olive oil, beef broth, or chicken stock. That way, when cooking you can just throw a couple cubes in and not worry about seasoning at all!
I recommend measuring out your herbs in a regular ice cube tray and freezing them. Then, put similar herbs together in labeled freezer bags. This way you can know exactly how much of each herb is in each cube and you can decide what liquid base would be appropriate.
Herb Salt or Sugar
Last, but not least, another method for preserving herbs is to create an herb salt or sugar. I actually haven’t played around with this method as much, but the idea of it is pretty fantastic. Basically, you take fresh herbs and layer them in a jar with either salt or sugar (depending if you’re doing savory or sweet) and let it sit for a few weeks, stirring occasionally. What you end up with is an infusion of herbs in your salt or sugar. You can then add it to your cooking or baking recipes or, in the case of sugar, use it in your hot or cold drinks for a bit of a kick.
I haven’t really tried it as much, so I won’t try and give you a whole lot of advice on it. But if you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, then Craftsy has a great article with some fantastic information that you should definitely check out!
These are just the basics and there’s actually a lot more that you can do with herbs, so don’t be afraid to experiment. If you’ve got a great idea or method for preserving herbs, share with us in the comments!