ANOTHER Smart Way to Save Past-Their-Prime Fresh Herbs?

A couple years ago, Mari Levine (a managing editor at America’s Test Kitchen), wrote about a savvy way to avoid wasting past-their-prime fresh herbs (and the guilt and wasted money that goes with this pattern).

Who hasn’t opened the fridge’s crisper drawer and discovered a forgotten bag of parsley or container of thyme, that’s turned slimy and unusable? Nothing emphasizes better the importance of storing herbs correctly. It is the key to prolonging their shelf life.

We get that, and I’ve written about it in the past. Lots of pros recommend creating herb bouquets for fridge storage. You trim the stems and place the bunch in a glass of water. Then you cover the bouquet with a plastic bag to ensure a humid environment for them. But this approach requires you changing the water on a regular basis. One more thing to forget to do!

Storing correctly and tending to their storage, as hinted above, can be so easy to forget. So Mari suggests another way that’s simple and easy. She says “Don’t even give ‘em a CHANCE to go bad! Just turn them into ice cubes.”

Sturdy herbs such as rosemary, sage, and thyme work best here. You just place 2 tablespoons of chopped herbs in each well of an ice cube tray and barely cover each well with water or oil, and then freeze them.

Once the cubes are frozen, you transfer them to a zipper-lock freezer bag and keep them stored in the freezer.

Whether you use water or oil depends on how you plan to use the cubes. The pros at the Test Kitchen found that water is best for cubes that you plan to add straight to pan sauces, soups, and stews. If you’re going to use them as the first step in sautés or stir-fries, you’ll want to use oil. Oil cubes are also great defrosted and then drizzled over tacos or fluffed into rice pilaf.

This herb and liquid formula is endlessly adaptable. Mix and match different herbs or try some baby greens such as arugula or spinach. Add some lemon zest or grated ginger. Throw in a handful of chopped nuts or grated cheese for a pesto-style cube.

One final note: If you’re using plastic ice cube trays, the oil makes them a pain to clean. So if you are freezing herbs in oil, you might want to skip the tray altogether and use a freezer bag. Just transfer the mixture to a freezer bag, get out as much air as possible before sealing, and freeze the bag flat. When you need some herbs, just break off a chunk.

I’ll close with a tasty idea from one of the Test Kitchen’s specialists, Nicole Konstantinakos. She makes picada-like herb cubes (inspired by Catalan cuisine) by blending a bunch of chopped parsley, some garlic, and a splash of oil. She says to blitz until smooth. (You may need to add more oil to really get things going.) Pour or spoon the mixture into the wells of an ice cube tray. Transfer to the freezer.

Once the cubes are frozen, transfer them to a zipper-lock freezer bag and keep them stored in the freezer. Depending on how you plan to use them, defrost them first or use them straight from the bag.

    Alice Osborne
    DVO Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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