I love having fresh herbs on hand, so I love the summer months when I can just head down to the garden for a few sprigs of parsley or basil. Slice a tomato and an onion, add a few basil leaves, pour a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and you have a company-worthy salad on the table in about three minutes. The temperatures have cooled off (although for the most part, this fall has been wonderful in Indiana), so I picked several last rounds of parsley, cilantro, and basil out in the garden. I tried this method last year with cilantro, and it worked so well that I tried it again this year with basil and parsley.
To preserve herbs in the past, I’ve either made a pesto or just frozen them in some oil, both of which I still do, but this version is quick, easy, and a bit more versatile. Of course, it won’t taste as good as the fresh stuff, but it’s a close second for the cold weather months and still better than the dried versions of these herbs (dried parsley, basil, and cilantro just don’t do it for me).
Step 1: Clean your herbs. I like to remove most of the stems, rinse them out, and then run them through the salad spinner a few times so that they’re mostly dry.
Step 2: Stuff them in a plastic bag. Label the bag with which herb it is and the date. Don’t be like me and wait to do this once the bag is full or wet because then it will look like your five year-old labeled your herbs.
Step 3: Using your hands, push all of the air out of the plastic bag and push the herbs down toward the bottom of the bag. I use a rolling method and just continually roll the bag, so that it pushes the herbs down toward the bottom. It helps if you get your Montessori-schooled kid to sing while you work, “roll it up, roll it up, roll it up…if you roll it nice and tight, then you know you did it right,” which, by the way, is about rolling up your work mat at school but provides us with endless amounts of laughs at home.
Step 4: Add more herbs and repeat step 3 until you’ve used up your herbs. In a gallon-sized bag, I could fit about 4 large bunches of herbs. In a quart-sized bag, I could fit 2-3 bunches. I realize “bunches” isn’t a very scientific measurement, but the point is that you can get a whole lot of herbs in one plastic bag.
Step 6: Once you’ve stuffed your herbs in the bag, roll it up and wrap a rubber-band around it so that it stays rolled. This way, when you’re ready to use it, it’s easy just to take out and slice a bit off the end. Since you’ve squeezed so many herbs in there, a little goes along way. Keep in mind that freezing the herbs take away some of their freshness, so you will just have to experiment with how much to use.
This method works great for soups and sauces. I use the cilantro like it’s my job in winter pico de gallo and curries. The parsley adds great flavor to pretty much any soup, red sauce, and roasts. The basil is yummy in anything with a little Italian/Mediterranean flavor, especially pizza sauce.