Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Freezing Fresh Herbs

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about using herbs and spices to flavor your dishes instead of over-dosing them with butter, salt and sugar. But I also understand that the hesitation most of us have when buying fresh herbs. They are usually sold in pre-packaged bunches and the sizes of these bunches are usually much much more than what you need in the recipe that you are going to make that night. So for those of us who don't cook everyday, we feel like we are wasting the rest away in the fridge; literally throwing money away!

Well, don't let that deter you from experiencing the wonders of fresh herbs. Trust me, once you get to know them and what they can do to your palate and experience in the kitchen, you will never want to let them go! ;)

Here's a quick and easy way to quickly and effectively freeze your fresh herbs. Buy a variety of them when they are on sale and looks fresh. But...still be careful not to buy too much. Freeze them upon returning home from the grocery store. Frozen herbs can keep up to a few months and retain their nutrients and flavor but they lose their structure so they are not ideal for garnish/presentation purposes.

1. Wash herbs lightly in a colander (see 1st picture) or a even better is a salad spinner (see 2nd picture). The salad spinner will allow you to quickly and gently spin dry the herbs. If you don't have a salad spinner, don't go running to the store to get one. Use the colander you already have and extend the amount of time you take to dry your herbs per step 2 below.

2. Whether you are using a salad spinner or colander, dry your herbs completely using kitchen towels. It is very important to remove all moisture before freezing to prevent the herbs from becoming limp and soggy when you thaw them. Be gentle when you pad them down with the towels to prevent/minimize bruising.

3. Once they are dried, put them into a good sturdy freezer bag and pop them right into your freezer.
4. If the original packaging of the herbs has a removable label, go ahead and use that to label your freezer bags with those labels.

You might be asking, why not just use dried herbs instead of going through all this trouble to freeze fresh herbs? Dried herbs are more intense in flavor than fresh herbs (with the exception of bay leaves). Besides the retention of their nutritional value, using fresh herbs sometimes not only allows a better and more subtle addition of flavors, they are also more palatable especially in sauces that are to be eaten such as a pasta sauce. Dried rosemary for example remains very hard after cooking. Fresh rosemary on the other hand, blends well into a sauce.

So go ahead and start enjoying the wonderful experience of using fresh herbs in your cooking today!

No comments: