Monday, May 2, 2011

Freezing Herbs

Herbs do comfort the wearied [brain] with fragrant smells which yield a certain [kind] of nourishment. ~William Coles

I finally created my own herb garden last year that had just a few herbs that I usually cook with.  They have come back beautifully this spring.  It is important to keep these trimmed so they stay beautiful and useful in my cooking.  So when necessary, I freeze them.  Here is the easiest method I have found:

Rinse parsley in a colander.  Blanch parsley for only a few seconds in boiling water.

Place each sprig of parsley on towels to air cool.  Remove the stems, chop if you wish, or leave in whole leaves to chop later. 

To make separating herbs easier when they're frozen, lay the dried herbs out in a single layer on wax paper.  

Roll or fold the paper so that there is a layer of paper separating each layer of herbs. 

Then pack, paper and all, in freezer bags.  To use, break off as much as you need, and chop, if you didn't earlier.  Use frozen.  They may also be thawed in refrigerator, where they will keep in good shape for a week.

You can also freeze individual portions as ice cubes.  Herb ice cubes are particularly good if you make a lot of soups and stews--just pop one or two cubes in as your dish is cooking.  To make herb ice cubes, merely prepare your herbs by removing the stems and chopping, and then pack them into ice cube trays, and cover with water, and pop into the freezer.  When frozen, remove the cubes from the trays and store in freezer bags.  If you use boiling water, you're not only covering them to protect them from exposure to air, you're also blanching them at the same time.  (From Stocking Up III, The All-New Edition of America's Classic Preserving Guide, by Carol Hupping and the staff of the Rodale Food Center.)

This can be done with basil, cilantro, chives, tarragon, and mint as well.  Here are some delicious recipes using fresh (or frozen) Mint:

Mint Chicken
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into bite-size pieces
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. chopped fresh mint leaves
In a medium bowl, mix together the chicken pieces and garlic.  toss with the flour just to coat, and shake off excess.  Heat the margarine in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken pieces; cook and stir until browned.  Add the mint leaves and lemon juice, cover and steam for about 5 minutes, just until the chicken is cooked through.  Do not over cook the chicken or it will be tough.

Clover Mint Tea
Gather peppermint leaves and clover flowers in the early morning.  Spread them on separate plates or paper towels and dry at room temperature.  When dry, crumble the mint and in separate jars...and follow the recipe below.
4 t. dried red clover blossoms
2 t. dried peppermint leaves
4 c. boiling water
wildflower honey
4 cinnamon sticks
Crush the clover and mint leaves; place in a teapot.  Pour water over leaves and steep, covered, 10 minutes.  Strain and serve hot or iced with honey and a cinnamon stick for stirring.  Yield:  4 servings.

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