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Herbs


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Much more than I have immediate need of! But even though some are present in my garden in large amounts I still prefer not to waste them and need to use them before they deteriorate. Ideas that would make good gifts would be nice.

I've been gifted with 15 1-oz bags of fresh herbs: 2 bay, 2 spearmint, 2 peppermint, 2 opal basil, 2 lemon basil, 5 rosemary. To these I could add herbs from my garden (rosemary, lemon thyme, oregan, peppermint, spearmint, opal basil, lemon verbena, chive), I also have a bunch of dill I just bought today to dry for winter use.

So my questions are:

--can I freeze the bay leaves? the rosemary?

--thought I'd make a lemon basil pesto for dinner, so don't worry about that (unless you have a more interesting suggestion)

--if I make mint syrops, how long will they keep refrigerated? And should I blanch the mint before infusing the syrup? And am I right in assuming that I ask for trouble if I don't strain out all the vegetal matter?

--any good suggestions for the opal basil other than adding to salad greens? Opal basil pesto?

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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You are lucky to have bay leaves! Mine never last and the poor little trees always end up with bugs and I end up giving the bay leaf tree up!

Try the rosemary in rosemary oil or vinegar. Almost any herb can be used this way - in the past Ive made basil oil. Havent done this with opal basil - but why not? What can you loose?

Judy

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I believe I caught a glimpse of Alton Brown doing a show on flavored vinegars last night...not sure...you might check the Food Network website. He always explains the science of food preparation so I feel confident if, indeed, it was him, the instructions for making herb-infused oils would be explicit.

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If the bay leaves are on stems, pull them or clip them off. Put them into a wire colander and set them on a counter and give the colander a toss to mix them around once a day. As soon as they feel brittle, break in half when bent double, you can put them in an airtight jar. They keep very well.

I used to hang them up on the stems but found that little spiders found them perfect for making a nice home and the colander method works much better and the daily tossing discourages any temporary residents from moving in permanently.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Rosemary can be dried on the stem. Lay them on a tray in your oven with the light on. This will be warm and dry enough.

When they are brittle, they will fall of the stem very easily (like needles from a xmas tree) and you can simply strip them from the stems and store them in an airtight jar.

If the stems are sturdy enough, you can put them in a plastic bag and store in the freezer to be used for ka-bobs in the future, soak them before you use them.

Opal basil makes a beautiful vinegar and you can also make a basil/white wine jelly which is very nice with delicate chicken salads.

Chop and crush the basil before you add it to the warmed vinegar or wine to extract the most flavor. Strain before bottling or jarring.

Use the recipe for wine jelly that is on the Sure-Jel package.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Thank you all. In fact I have made opal basil vinegar before. It was very pretty, but I didn't think the basil flavor strong enough to hold up against the vinegar. Maybe I'll try some again this year as I have a ton in the garden. It self weeds itself each year.

I may get some sure gel and make some herb jellies. Today I bought a local farmer's lemon verbena jelly to check out how much I like it before turning some of my lemon verbena which also runs rampant. Never made jellies before, might be fun.

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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  • 11 months later...

Bumping this one up, as we can expect a freeze within the next few weeks.

I know about drying herbs.

I tend to leave the rosemary in the garden where it freeze dries. Middle of winter, boots on, out in the garden and push the snow away and snip what I need.

Parsley is cheap and easily available, so I just buy fresh.

I also know that I've had good luck by finely mincing (or in the food processor) basil and mixing it with a bit of oil, laying it out on plastic wrap and forming into a log and freezing it. This works very well, I think, and the oil keeps it from freezing so hard that you have to thaw it to break off a chunk. This is also the only way I've found to preserve Thai basil and it's distinctive taste (which gets lost when it is dried).

Will this work for other leafy herbs like sage?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Both bay leaves and rosemary can be frozen. The rosemary can be frozen on the branch and will lose some its color, but will still have plenty of kick.

You could also make a anchovy-rosemary sauce zipped with some olive oil. Keeps well in the freezer. Great over potatoes or as a pasta sauce.

I would also be interested in some ideas for preserving sage.

Edited by sanrensho (log)
Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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I've got bay leaves, tarragon, parsley, (two kinds), oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage and chives.  Can I freeze them all?

Marlene. Chive oil. Wash, drain a bit, then chop the chives until the food processor can do the rest. Do the same with garlic, if you're a garlic fan. Whirr it all in the food processor with EVOO, and salt to taste. You now have a fine, beautiful chive oil that is wonderful drizzled over, oh, scalloped potatoes or baked potatoes or, um, eggs or broiled fish or, um, use your imagination. This stuff freezes wonderfully, also.

Oh, did you do dill? Imagine dill and chives together, with garlic, salt and olive oil. I hope you did dill this year.

My usual trick for end-of-season herbs is to wash and drain, of course, then whirr them together in a combination I think will be pleasing, along with a bit of salt, garlic, perhaps pepper, and enough olive oil to get it all liquid, and then put the mixture into an ice cube tray to freeze. I've done this with varying combinations of parsley, oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, chives, basil. (I usually keep the basil separate for pesto jars, but not always.) This year I'll have tarragon to try that way, but I haven't tried it before. Can't see why it wouldn't work. Once the cubes are frozen you can break them out of the tray and pack into a smaller container or bag, then stuff in the freezer. Voila! Instant wonderful herb cubes for soups and sauces through the winter...and more winter...and then spring...until finally you have the fresh stuff again. It's a lifesaver up here. I generally do basil, garlic, salt and olive oil in the appropriate proportions for pesto and then stuff those into larger containers, enough to make a goodly portion of pesto when the winter blahs set in. I read somewhere that the nuts and cheese shouldn't be added until everything is thawed lest it all go bitter, but I haven't tested that meself. Andie addressed bay leaves above, and I have no experience with trying to freeze them although I know they dry just fine on a dying plant. :raz:

Finally: I've heard that most of these herbs can be frozen as is, then broken off as necessary, just as Snowangel mentioned wrt her rosemary. I suspect the oil in the oil cubes I discuss above will help preserve some of the herb oils, but I really don't know that. I do know that random cubes are easier to locate in my freezer than random flat freezer bags.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I just read the surprisingly few threads on this topic. Not nearly as much info as I expected to find, but maybe it's really just simple. Thanks to my pal upstate, I came home with more sage than I've ever used in my life (and it's goooorgeous), along with rosemary, thyme, tarragon and oregano. I'd prefer not to make flavored oils or vinegars b/c I just won't use them quickly enough.

So you're telling me to mince all of this gorgeous basil I have (reg and purple, btw), add EVOO, S&P and then freeze it in ice cube trays? Any specific amounts, or just enough to make a paste so I can get it frozen? And are cubes better/worse than frozen pesto in Mason jars with a metal lid? And how long will these cubes be good? I'm just worried that I'll go through the effort of doing this and not use it soon enough.

I'm likely to use a lot of the rosemary this week, as it's simply begging for lamb chops and/or a roasted chicken--it's all of the other herbs I'm worried about!

Curlz

P.S. How interesting to note the date when this thread began, and to see when it was bumped up and that it truly is an annual issue!!

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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I don't add any S or P when I mix the minced stuff with EVOO. And, I prefer to freeze it in saran wrapped logs because a quick whack on the counter with the log allows me more control over what I'm using.

Enough EVVO so that it is a very thick paste. The EVOO just makes it such that it is easier to portion once frozen.

And, yes, these topics that pop back up after quite a lapse are wonderful!

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Another thought/question...would any of these be good for compound butters? I'm sure those would freeze well! I'm open to any recs y'all have. Thanks!

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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Compound butters sound interesting. I'd think you could freeze those too. I'd be interested in knowing if anyone has done this.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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My cubes last a year, easy, and I can't detect deterioration in the quality. I suspect some are over a year old, just because I forget they're there. I use cubes for herb mixes that are likely to go into a stock or sauce in tablespoon quantities; it's really easy to pop 1 or 2 cubes into whatever I'm mixing without having to break off a chunk from a large frozen mass. With basil, since I use a lot of it as pesto, I tend to freeze it in larger quantities (like the mason jar, or the bags, or the logs). Actually, I've done that with the chive oil also, using the little 1-cup mason jars, on the theory that I could just thaw the jar slightly, scoop out what I needed, and return the jar to the freezer. Somebody had reported that the stuff never froze harder than the slush stage with that setup. I haven't found that to be true, and this year I may do chive oil in cubes also.

Adding to what Snowangel said: the other thing the EVOO does (or butter would do) is help protect the herbs from freezer burn. You want enough fat to coat the herbs, hence her paste analogy.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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  • 2 weeks later...
So you're telling me to mince all of this gorgeous basil I have (reg and purple, btw), add EVOO, S&P and then freeze it in ice cube trays?  Any specific amounts, or just enough to make a paste so I can get it frozen?  And are cubes better/worse than frozen pesto in Mason jars with a metal lid?  And how long will these cubes be good?  I'm just worried that I'll go through the effort of doing this and not use it soon enough. 

Curlz

P.S. How interesting to note the date when this thread began, and to see when it was bumped up and that it truly is an annual issue!!

I recently had an heirloom tomato salad with salsa verde . The salsa was basically pesto w/o the cheese--basil, parsley, mint, EVOO, garlic and anchovies (in place of salt). You could probably do the same with your basil/EVOO popsicles after they thaw.

John

"I can't believe a roasted dead animal could look so appealing."--my 10 year old upon seeing Peking Duck for the first time.

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I would also be interested in some ideas for preserving sage.

Sage,and other firm leaf herbs can be preserved in salt.

Put a layer of pickling salt on the bottom of a jar, then add layers of herbs and salt until full.

Screw the cap on, and keep for winter use in a cool dry cellar.

This method comes from Elizabeth David.

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Put a layer of pickling salt on the bottom of a jar, then add layers of herbs and salt until full.

Screw the cap on, and keep for winter use in a cool dry  cellar.

Thanks for the rec! I'm definitely going to do this, as I'll never be able to use all of what I have before it goes bad! But what is pickling salt? Any reason I can't use Kosher salt, which I have plenty of?

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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But what is pickling salt? Any reason I can't use Kosher salt, which I have plenty of?

I have both pickling salt and Kosher salt, both made by Windsor Salt, and apparently from the Detroit salt mines. They taste exactly the same, but the Kosher crystrals are very uniform in size. The pickling salt was cheaper, and has particles ranging from very small to slightly larger than the Kosher. There is no reason not to substitute one for the other, except for religious observances..

I would add, that if the herbs are rinsed before salting, they should be dried in a salad spinner, which won't bruise them. They should not be damp before preserving.

I've never had much luck drying in a microwave, or air drying without danger of flies around.

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I'm so pleased I checked back on this thread! I'd never heard about preserving sage leaves in salt before. I have a ton of sage, and I'm going to try this one.

What about tarragon? There's only so much tarragon vinegar to be made in my world. Is it best to just dry the rest, or can I whiz it up in oil? Butter? Salt? Any ideas? Tarragon is new to my garden.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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--if I make mint syrops, how long will they keep refrigerated?  And should I blanch the mint before infusing the syrup? And am I right in assuming that I ask for trouble if I don't strain out all the vegetal matter?

I made spearmint syrup last year - didn't blanch first, but did strain out the matter after. Then, froze them as ice cubes - great for ice tea and lemonade. Zip-lock bag and good for a long time.

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