Preserving Herbs; Using summer’s herbs in winter, Summer Basmati Pilaf

Herbs are, at least for me, a crucial component of summer’s bounty.

I start using fresh herbs as soon as the chives show signs of growth in the spring and don’t stop until I’ve picked the last sage leaf before frost.

In my herb garden I have parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, tarragon, chives, garlic chives, marjoram, oregano, chervil, and 5 kinds of basil.

My basil was starting to flower before I cut it back this morning….

Except the cinnamon basil. I just plant that for the flowers

Herb_garden

In my potager I have dill – it’s a bit big for the herb garden….

Dill_potager

And I have a huge laurel (culinary bay) tree on the side of the house

This is the time of year to think about preserving your herbs for winter use.  Most of them will benefit from a serious cutting back – allowing them to grow fresh leaves for more summer use, before flowering.

And you wouldn’t want to just throw all those cutting on the compost pile, now would you?

The traditional way of preserving herbs is drying:

Tie clean herbs in bunches and hang upside down in a cool, dry place with plenty of air circulation, and, if possible, without dust. When leaves are dry rub off stems and store in bags, jars or tins. They will keep up to a year.

I have done this in years past but, other than sage and bay, I don’t any longer.  The main reason is, living in a house being restored is not conducive to a dust-free place to dry them.

Have you ever tried to dust bunches of very dry herbs?

Mon mari built a mesh drying tray for me that I use for the sage and bay, the only 2 herbs I still dry.

Dill

Plus the dill seed, of course.  That is picked already quite dry.

Herbs

I just rub the seeds of the heads and spread it out on paper towels for a week or so to be thoroughly dry before putting it in food bags for storage.

I’m doing the sage leaves a few at a time this year.  My plants are new and small so I can’t harvest a lot of leaves at once.  As you can see in the photo, last week’s are almost dry.  On the tray with the dill seeds are the sage leaves I cut today.

For the rest of my herbs, I prefer freezing. It preserves the fresher, summer flavors that I like and it’s less work:

Finely chop the herbs and put into ice cube trays. Cover with chicken stock or water and freeze. When frozen pop out and put in a freezer bag labeled with herb name.
Some herbs can also be frozen whole: Sage, tarragon, chives, thyme. Basil will discolor but the flavor is fine. Freeze on a try, then put into freezer bags.
Frozen herbs will keep 8 – 12 months.

These are chives, ready for the freezer.

Chives

I also do basil in olive oil: put
lots of fresh basil in the blender, pour in as much olive oil as needed
to puree and put into the trays for freezing.  This is a good base for
pesto – add the cheese and nuts before using (it freezes better without
them).

I love the ease of using ‘herb cubes’:  just drop a cube or 2 into rice as it cooks, or sauces, or soups, or braises, or stews – anything that is cooked that you would use fresh or dried for. They have the taste of fresh with the ease of dried.

Put a little summer into your winter….. Freeze a few herbs.

But, while you still have them fresh, make this Basmati Pilaf.

Basmati Rice Summer Pilaf

Basmati Rice Summer Pilaf

1/2 Basmati rice
1 tsp butter
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 avocado cut into small cubes
10 yellow cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 tbs fresh snipped basil
1 tbs fresh snipped purple basil
1 tbs fruity olive oil
1 tbs white Balsamic vinegar

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and sauté, stirring for 2 – 3 minutes. Add stock, cover and cook rice for 15 minutes. When done fluff with a fork and put into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir gently.

8 thoughts on “Preserving Herbs; Using summer’s herbs in winter, Summer Basmati Pilaf”

  1. So much success. I love it. I did not have success in growing basil. We had a very cool spring and summer. Next year I will try again.

  2. Katie – your herbs are beautiful! And genius – I never thought of freezing them in chicken stock – my chives, rosemary, basil, thyme is just waiting! So far I have 1 batch of pesto that I have frozen, but now I can hardly wait to freeze the other herbs. Thanks for the tip, Ina

  3. I’ve been making batches of infused vinegars and oils! Thanks for reminding me to freeze my chives!

  4. What a clever idea – the ice cubes with herbs frozen in! I’m going to do that with my thyme and oregano, as both need cutting back just now. Thanks!

  5. A very nice compendium of preservation options. I have only tried the ice cube one for pesto. Will definitely follow your lead and freeze some chives. Thanks!

  6. Nirmala, I thought I had lost all of my basil about a month ago – but, thankfully, it came back!
    Ina, the pesto is next on my list – yeasterday I did basil and tarragon. – thanks for the link – I’ll be over….
    Pam, I forgot about making vinegars…. next cuttings
    Zoomie, it’s just so easy to grab a cube and toss in…
    Val, after a slow start it’s doing well. In Andorra I only had a patio garden – can be frustrating.
    Simona, chives stay such a pretty color when frozen, so many others (basil) turn brownish

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