Preserving Herbs in 3 Ways - Kitchen Conundrums with Thomas Joseph
How to Store Herbs
Learning to properly store fresh, dried, and frozen herbs can help to ensure that your pantry is well stocked with greenery at all times of year. Whether you want to store some fresh leafy parsley, or some hearty dried oregano, you can learn the proper method for storing them and getting the most life our of your herbs.
Storing Fresh Herbs
Choose fresh and firm herbs to store.When you're selecting herbs, you want to pick very perky bunches and avoid any with lots of wilting leaves, or any sliminess or spotting. Generally, leafy herbs will spoil more quickly, compared to heartier herbs, which can be stored more easily.
- Leafy herbs include basil, cilantro, parsley, and mint, and should be stored in water in the fridge.
- Hearty herbs include sage, rosemary, thyme, and dill. These herbs should be bundled loosely and stored in the fridge, wrapped loosely in paper towel, but not in water.
Remove the herbs from the packaging, dry them, and trim the stems.Whether you've bought your herbs in a bunch at the market, or purchased them fresh in a plastic container, it's a good idea to remove the binding and examine them. Remove any wilting, spotted, or slimy stalks, and trim the end of all of the stems.
- Dry them thoroughly. Leafy herbs will spoil much more quickly if they're wet.
- You don't have to trim much, just the very end of the stems. No more than a centimeter or two.
- Do not remove the leaves from the stems. If you want to dry or freeze your herbs, skip to the next section.
Place the freshly trimmed stems in a glass of fresh water.Generally, you want to treat fresh herbs the same way you would treat fresh-cut flowers. Put about 1-2 inches of clean filtered water at the bottom of a drinking glass and let your herbs sit with the cut stems submerged. Keep them unbridled and loose.
- Don't submerge the leaves in water. Just the ends of the stems. Think flowers.
Cover the herbs with a dry paper towel to help keep them from drying out.Use a loose, open paper towel wrapped around the top of the leaves, and tucked into the glass. This helps to keep the moisture around the herbs, without trapping it against the leaves. It also helps keep the herbs from taking on the smells of your refrigerator.
- If you don't have a paper towel, a plastic bag can work just as well. These tend to trap moisture against the leaves, making them spoil more quickly, but they can work just fine.
Store in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.Depending on how old your herbs were when you bought them, they should stay fresh in the fridge for up to a week. Change out the water every couple of days, and make sure they're not wilting or spoiling.
- Remove individual leaves as you use the herbs, or remove whole bunches you plan to use and discard the stems.
- Remove spoiled leaves you find, to keep the rest of the bunch from following suit.
Dry the herbs indoors in loose bundles.When you get your herbs home from the store, dry them as if you were going to store them freshly. Rinse them, if necessary, dry them thoroughly, and trim the stem ends of the herbs. Gather them in bunches and let dry for at least a week. Different herbs will dry at different rates.
- Gather the herbs in loose bundles, tying the stems together with rubber bands, twine, or old twist-ties.
- Hang the herbs upside down in a cool dry place in your house, so the air circulates around them thoroughly.
- You can also store your bunches in dry paper bags, which helps to collect falling dried leaves and seeds that can fall. Some people like the way it looks to have herb bunches hanging around the house, though.
- Herbs are done when they're crunchy and dry and no longer have any moisture in the leaves.
Dry herbs in the oven at very low temperature.The fastest way to dry herbs is in the oven. Generally, you'll get more flavor and life out of herbs if you dry them more slowly or freeze them, but this is a method to use quickly if need be.
- Arrange picked leaves across a baking sheet and bake at extremely low temperature, the lowest that your oven will go.
- Turn the leaves frequently to make sure they don't burn, and the herbs should be thoroughly dried in an hour or so.
- Depending on the herbs and the temperature of your oven, the herbs can burn very quickly, or dry very slowly over a period of several hours. Leave the door open a crack and watch them closely, turning often, to keep them from burning.
Leave the leaves whole, or crumble them up.If you want your dried herbs to resemble the herbs you might buy at the store, crumble them by putting them into a plastic bag and massaging them with your hands, or with a rolling pin. It's also fine to leave the leaves whole and break them up when you choose to use them.
Keep dried herbs in air-tight containers.Dried herbs can be stored in the pantry in airtight containers to keep them fresh for several months. Old mason jars, pickle jars, and other containers are perfect for storing a large quantity of dried herbs.
- Light can cause dry herbs to loose flavor and color faster, so storing them brown glass or metal is a good option.
Store in a cool, dark, dry place.Keep dried herbs away from heat sources like toasters, ovens, dishwasher, or the space above the fridge. The heat can cause the herbs to lose lots of flavor and color. Your pantry should be a fine place for storing herbs.
Remove the leaves and discard the stems.Wash the leaves of the herbs as soon as you're ready to freeze them. Pull the leaves off the stems individually and start placing them in a pile for chopping up and freezing.
- This method doesn't require you to dry the herbs at all. If they're a little damp, that'll be to your advantage.
- This method generally works best with leafy herbs like parsley, basil, mint, and cilantro.
Chop herbs finely.On a cutting board, chop up your herbs finely, to the consistency you would if you were going to cook with them. Depending on what herbs you're freezing, you can chop them according to your taste, or what you plan on using them for in the future.
- Remove leafy herbs from their stems and roll them on the board in loose little "cigar" shapes, then chop them into thin strips, then chop them across the mince.
- Roughly chop hearty herbs like sage and dill before freezing them.
- Pull heartier small-leaf herbs like thyme or tarragon from their stems and freeze them directly without chopping.
Fill a clean ice tray with portions of herbs.Rinse out an empty ice tray and wipe it dry, then start piling your fresh chopped herbs into the individual ice wells of the tray. Fill them as full as possible, so it'll be easy to remove them when the herbs are frozen.
Cover with a small amount of water.To make certain the herbs stick together, cover them with just a small amount of clean filtered water. You don't need to soak them, just pour a little on to get them to form solid cubes.
- For an added treat, consider using a liquid other than water. You can make lemonade-basil cubes, or rosemary-simple-syrup cubes if you want. Get creative.
- Sometimes, you won't need to do this at all, and herbs will freeze normally without any added water. It's good to use a little for a precaution, though. The cubes tend to look a little better in the end.
Freeze until solid.Place the tray in the freezer and allow the herbs to freeze in their small blocks until solid. This will usually take several hours, so it's best to leave them overnight. If you notice a bit of frost on the top of the herbs, they're probably solid.
Remove and store in Ziplock freezer bags.Since you probably need your ice trays to make actual ice, it's best to remove the cubes from the trays, then store them in Ziplock freezer bags. When you need to use a portion of herbs, you can pop them directly into a soup, or into a stir-fry, and they'll defrost on the spot. Instant fresh herbs.
QuestionHow long does it take to dry out chamomile flowers?TheBadgerousCommunity AnswerIt depends on which drying medium you use. If you just leave the flowers in the kitchen, then it'll take quite a while. If you choose a very dry, non-humid location, then it'll be a quicker process. It also depends on how dry you need them. For super-crispy, I'd choose a warm, dry location and leave them there a week or two.Thanks!
- Refill the water and re-trim the stems as necessary.
Video: 3 Ways to Preserve Fresh Herbs For Cooking
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