7 Clever ways to preserve fresh herbs

Sep 25, 2015 at 12:00 a.m. ET
Image: Getty Images/Image Source

While most of us are familiar with the hang-dry and oven-bake methods, there are more than two ways to preserve fresh herbs. Give one of these seven smart options a spin — your herbs (and appetite) will thank you.

1. In frozen olive oil

Frozen herb olive oil

Image: The Kitchn

If you stash dried herbs in the freezer, they're prone to browning. If you freeze them in water, they're liable to come out slimy. So while freezing fresh herbs is a fantastic and often overlooked way of preservation, it can lead to unappetizing situations — and, well, that just defeats the purpose, doesn't it? That's why the brilliant bloggers over at The Kitchn recommend freezing herbs in olive oil. Not only does this reduce the likelihood of freezer burn, but it also means you'll have fresh herbs ready to toss into dishes at a moment's notice. Find the full how-to here.

2. In an herb paste

Herb Paste

Image: Herbal Academy

Did you know the flavor profile of herbs changes when they dry? Don't feel bad — we didn't either. Since you can't just stick fresh herbs in the fridge and expect them to stay fresh forever, herb paste is a smart alternative. Bonus? They're super quick, and pretty much anyone can master them. To get started, all you need is the fresh herb (or herbs) you want to preserve, a little olive oil and a food processor. Essentially, it's the refrigerated version of No. 1 and, speaking of refrigeration, this potent mixture will keep for up to two weeks.

3. In salt

basil salt

Image: Return to Simple

If you're not up for blanching your basil or other aromatic herbs, here's a method that is a no-brainer — preserving the herbs in salt. Truly, this could not be any easier. You simply layer sea salt and said herb in a canning jar until full. Cap that sucker, toss it in the freezer and you're good to go. Just make sure you use the herb within a six-month window from the time you salted it down. Bonus? This method easily segues into making your own herbal salt blend.

4. In sugar

Image: The Kitchn

Another method for preserving some herbs (this specific method is especially effective with mint leaves) is to mix it with sugar. You can go one of two routes — layer it in a jar, as with the salt in No. 3, or actually make a mint sugar. This will keep leaves fresh while simultaneously giving you a sweetener for summer salads, cocktails or any other culinary need. For the latter method, you'll once again need to break out the food processor. But don't worry, the steps are easy-peasy.

5. Like flowers

Image: Gourmet Persuasian

There's nothing like getting a big ol' bouquet of flowers, but watching them wither away after a day or two is the pits. Luckily, we've figured out by now that blooms will maintain their beauty if you give them a little routine TLC. So, here's a fun fact: fresh herbs are much the same. One way to preserve them is to treat them as you would a bouquet of fresh flowers — trim the stems, place them in a jar with just enough water to cover the ends, wrap them loosely in a bag or wet paper towels and store them in the fridge. Change the water every few days, and you've got fresh herbs that will last for weeks.

6. In butter

Image: Brown Eyed Baker

I mean, if you're going to preserve and/or repurpose fresh herbs, what better way could there be than in butter? Am I right? If you have an abundance of herbs you don't want to go to waste, consider using them in the creation of a compound butter. This method feels so divinely Italian, it makes us want to sit at a bistro and eat crunchy crusted bread alfresco. Fortunately, it's not as difficult to do as it sounds (creating the butter, not lunching like an Italian).

7. As a "cigar"

Image: A Garden for the House

When you preserve an herb, you run the risk of losing the aromatic oils of the leaves with some methods. This is, well, undesirable. But according to gardening guru Kevin Lee Jacobs, you can store a wealth of large, flat-leaved herbs — without wasting those aromatic oils — by creating an "herbal cigar." He offers a great tutorial over at A Garden for the House that is, to be frank, a whole lotta fun.

This post was brought to you by Mueller's and Ronco Pot-Sized Pasta.

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