If you’re one of the many Canadians who grow their own herbs in their gardens and on their windowsills, then you’ll know there will come a time when you will either have to harvest and freeze your herbs or risk losing them altogether.
Freezing your herbs is the simplest way to preserve your harvest, maintain its flavour and enable you to have fresh, tasty, and nutritious homegrown herbs ready to use all year round.
Before you toss your herbs in the freezer, it’s important to understand the difference between soft herbs and hard herbs. An herb is considered soft or hard depending on one key factor: cooking time. Each type has a slightly different method for preservation.
Soft herbs, such as basil, cilantro, parsley, oregano, and mint, can be eaten raw or require only a few minutes of cooking to release their flavour. Soft herbs are much easier to damage and do not last as long as hard herbs, and as a result, they are best enjoyed fresh.
Hard herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, savoury, and sage, should not be eaten raw and are more suitable for long cooking times. Hard herbs, true to their name, are hardier and more easily preserved than their soft counterparts.
Remove all the leaves of the herb and wash them very well in a salad spinner. Spin them as dry as you possibly can. If you don’t have a salad spinner, wash your herb leaves in the sink and dry them well with paper towels.
Put a few of handfuls of herbs into your steel-bladed food processor. The food processor bowl should be full, but not tightly packed.
Pulse the food processor with one hand and drizzle olive oil into the feed tube with the other hand, pulsing until the herb is coarsely chopped. Make sure that all of your herbs are coated with oil, which will keep them from going dark in the freezer. Use about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil for each batch in the food processor when making coarsely chopped herbs.
It doesn’t matter what size container you use, but a good trick is to measure and mark the containers before you first use them, and make sure they can be sealed tightly. That way, when you pull one out of the freezer for a recipe, you’ll know exactly how much is in each container. No sense wasting your herbs!
Cut your herbs, wash them in cold water and either spin them dry in a salad spinner or blot them dry with paper towels, just as you did with your soft herbs.
Once the herbs are dry, place them in a freezer bag, ensuring a tight seal. Place your herb bag in the freezer. Have a seat and relax; your job is done for a few weeks!
After two or three weeks, take the freezer bag out of the freezer and use a rolling pin to roll over the bag containing the herbs. You should see a significant amount of leaves come loose from the stems. These are the herbs you want to save! If some leaves don’t come off, you can remove the loose leaves and freeze the others a bit longer, or pick the rest by hand.
After separating the leaves from the stems, store the leaves in canning jars with a well-sealed lid and put them back into the freezer. This keeps moisture away from the herbs.
You’re now set for a whole winter of delicious spices. Enjoy!