DIY: Freezing your herbs

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HerbsSome herbs are best frozen while still on the stalk. Dillweed, in particular, is easiest to handle if you gather a whole bunch and freeze it in a freezer bag or container. When it’s frozen, snip off bits as if it were fresh. If you freeze sage, rosemary and thyme on the stalk, they are much easier to toss in the cooking pot and retrieve later.

Another alternative is to snip the leaves from the stems, rinse and dry them thoroughly. Lay leaves out on a cookie sheet and leave overnight in the freezer to freeze individually so they will not stick together when collected in one container. Pack leaves tightly into a freezer bag or container. Use leaves straight from the freezer.

If leaves are not frozen on trays, the leaves will stick together, but can easily be broken off in portions. Don’t bother chopping herbs before freezing them, they are easy to chop when frozen.

If you would rather do more work on freezing day, dicing the herbs well before you freeze them gives you added convenience at cooking time. Pack into small containers or freezer bags. Diced herbs can also be frozen in ice cube trays with a little water or stock to cover. Use herbs frozen in ice cube trays in soups and stews.

Herbs may also be incorporated in ready-to-use mixtures, bouquets garni, and then frozen. There are plenty of variations in what constitutes a bouquet garni. The most popular combination is a bouquet composed of three or four sprigs of parsley, two sprigs of thyme and half a bay leaf, tied together with kitchen twine. The bouquets, packed into freezer bags, can be used one at a time, or dropped into sauce, stock or soup duringthe last minutes of cooking.

The same can be done with chopped or dried herbs. Collect them in a 4-inch square of cheesecloth and tie tightly with kitchen twine. To make enough herb mix to fill a dozen bags, combine 4 tablespoons of chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons of chopped thyme and 4 crumbled bay leaves. Add a few tablespoons of chopped celery leaves or a little marjoram, if desired. Freeze bouquets and use straight from the freezer. These infusions make good food better.

Herb blends that are added to dishes a pinch at a time can also be frozen. These blends are called fine herbs. The traditional mix is equal portions of parsley, chives, and chervil, and half as much tarragon. Since all these herbs freeze better than they dry, make up small batches, wash well, dry, chop and freeze.

Freeze any of the following blends. For fish, mix equal quantities of thyme, basil, sage, sweet marjoram and crushed fennel seeds. For poultry, game and meat, try equal quantities of sweet or French marjoram, basil, thyme, and lemon thyme. For vegetables, mix sweet marjoram, basil, chervil and summer savory. For cheese , egg or potato dishes, soups and sauces; mix parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon.

Herbs can be frozen in oil or butter. Unless blanched basil loses its color in the freezer to a greater extent than most herbs, so try freezing basil in oil. Also try adding 1/4 cup of oil to a cup of packed leaves of basil, or rosemary, sage, tarragon or thyme. Spoon the mixtures into ice cube trays. Once frozen, transfer them to freezer bags. Remember, when you add them to marinades and salad dressings, they are highly concentrated.