The UK is looking rather wintery! If you care a keen gardener, hopefully you organised protecting herbs in winter a few months ago and applied fleeces to tender plants. Those living in harsh weather areas should consider taking further steps for protecting herbs in winter, including lifting them from the ground and transferring to pots which can be kept in a warmer and more sheltered spot. If you’re concerned about how your herbs will survive the winter, there are ways to preserve the leaves to make the available all through the winter season.
Preserving herbs by freezing
Freezing is a great way to preserve leafy herbs. Basil, chives, coriander, mint and parsley are all great candidates for freezing as they hold their flavour and colour well after picking. If you plan to freeze herbs, don’t pick them until the last minute to ensure they’re as fresh as possible.
Start by rinsing the leaves gently and then there are two main freezing methods. You can pack the herbs carefully into plastic bags and freeze them – like this you can use them directly from the freezer and they will crumble easily into your food without having to be defrosted.
Alternatively you can use ice cube trays – lay your clean, chopped herbs in the ice cube tray and top up the compartments with water before freezing. When you want to use the herbs, simply pop out as many ice cubes as you need and add directly to your cooking.
Preserving herbs in vinegar or oil
Another way of preserving herbs is to make flavoured vinegars and oils.
Basil and rosemary work wonderfully in vinegar as salad dressing. You will need to wash the herbs gently, then crush them to allow the flavour to release. Push the herbs into a clean, sterilised bottle and fill up with warm wine or cider vinegar. Seal and allow to infuse in a cool, dark spot for a couple of weeks. Strain the vinegar through a clean muslin cloth to remove the herb debris then pour into another clean, sterilised bottle and seal.
Basil, bay leaves, dill, tarragon and thyme also work well in flavoured oils. Prepare the herbs in the same way but fill the bottles with a mild olive oil. Leave to infuse for a couple of weeks, shaking the bottle regularly to help the flavour develop. Strain the herbs out of the oil then pour into fresh, clean bottles. You can add fresh herbs at this point as decoration and to help create a more intense flavour.