Freezing Fresh Herbs For The Best Quality

Drying is one of the easiest and most space-saving methods of preserving and storing fresh herbs for the off season, but it is time consuming and even the best herbs suffer a downgrade in quality by being dehydrated. Some, like cilantro, lose all flavor. Freezing fresh herbs preserves the flavor, though the texture of the leaves will suffer.

Tray Freezing Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs with sturdy, large leaves like sage, rosemary or basil can be dried flat and lose. Simply lay out the leaves on a waxed-paper lined baking sheet and freeze until they are solid, about 1 hour. Then pack in labeled zip-top bags for storage. Freezing fresh herbs dry is the preferable method when they are going to be used in an application where excess water would be noticed.

Freezing Fresh Herbs In Water

Smaller-leaved herbs like chives, cilantro and marjoram tend to get lost if they are frozen and packed loose. Freezing these fresh herbs in water preserves them conveniently. Simply pack a few leaves or a tablespoon or two of chopped herb in each segment of an ice cube tray, fill halfway with water and freeze. Once the half cubes are frozen, immobilizing the leaves, top off the ice cube trays and freeze again so the leaves are completely submerged. When the herb cubes are frozen solid, pop them out of the tray and store in zip-top bags. Be sure to label the bags, since a cube of one herb looks like the cube of another herb after a few months. The cubes can be added to recipes as is, with no thawing or draining. Freezing fresh herbs in ice cubes is recommended only when the herbs are to be used in soups, sauces or other recipes where the extra tablespoon of water can be compensated for.

Freezing Fresh Herbs In Recipes

Because of the oil and water issue, freezing fresh herbs in water for use in pesto is not recommended, and dried basil just does not substitute for fresh in pesto recipes. Fortunately, fresh basil pesto freezes up well. Simply make extra pesto and freeze in sections of an ice cube tray. To make pesto-sauced pasta, simply cook the pasta, drain and throw one or more frozen pesto cubes and toss. The heat of the pasta will melt the cube in no time.

Unlike dried herb, frozen herbs retain only the flavor of their fresh state and can be substituted in equal measure for fresh herbs in recipes. Frozen herbs will keep their quality through the winter months until the next harvest time, but the flavor tends to degrade after a year.