If, like me, you like fresh herbs, but never have them when you want them, and popping out to the shops really isn’t an option, there is a solution. It also works for some vegetables too.
About 10 years ago, growing my own basil, I ended up with a glut, as you do, and there’s only so much pesto one can make before terminal ennui sets in and/or you run out of jars. I knew that freezing it would result in a bag of green mush, so I looked around for a better way.
I have a technique for freezing veggies, like the 2.5kg of Echalion shallots** I’m in the middle of processing, that normally don’t respond well to freezing, becoming mushy.
**I use a lot, often don’t have them when I want them, and the nearest supplies are 4 miles away, at Sainsbury’s – right now, they might as well be on the moon. Freezing them will solve the supply problem. Likewise, it’s good for easily available veg of which I use only a little at a time, like celery. And it avoids a lot of waste.
I prepare the veg as if for cooking, then bag it and mix with plenty of olive oil. I use olive oil because it sets hard at freezer temperatures, ensuring that it continues to coat the veg and not run off them. It also makes the frozen veg less messy to handle than a runnier oil would.
Turning the bag over several times for an hour or so before freezing, and again during the freezing process, squeezing it gently to evenly distribute the oil – it can pool while still liquid – will help.
That’s pretty much it. The veg has a greatly reduced tendency to become mushy, and is protected from freezer burn and dehydration. Very simple, very effective.
And it worked brilliantly on the basil, which, once bagged and oiled, I formed into a flat mat, and froze. That made it very easy to cut pieces off, and chop it, as needed. By the way, ignore advice about not chopping basil, it’s decades out of date and pre-dates stainless steel or ceramic knives. I have NEVER had basil discolour when cut.
It works for pretty much any herbs. Rosemary, I keep in a small plastic tub, after removing the leaves from the stalks. It needs removing from the freezer to allow the oil to soften, to extract the leaves, then it can go back after topping up the oil as needed. Once the leaves have been used, the intensely rosemary-flavoured oil can be used, too – works well for topping home-made focaccia.
You can, incidentally, use the same technique, but freeze herbs in ice-cube trays instead – the plastic or silicone ones, that enable one or two cubes to be popped out at need.
And that’s pretty much it – very simple, very effective. Just chop a lump off as needed (or grab a couple of cubes), and toss in a pan over a low heat – no prep necessary, it’s already done. That, for me, as I sometimes need to cook when feeling less than wonderful, is a major bonus. And prepping food in advance allows me to maximise the benefits of my rare good days.
I do know, by the way, that you can buy frozen herbs, just as you can buy frozen veg. Trust me, this results in a far superior product. And for me, most other veg keeps for weeks in my exceptionally cold fridge, as long as they’re tightly wrapped in plastic bags – I know that’s considered bad practice, but my fridge is chilled by circulated frigid air, which has a severe dehydrating effect on unprotected veggies.