Thursday, August 24, 2006

How to Freeze Fresh Herbs: Rosemary and Thyme

This post is about how I freeze rosemary and thyme from my garden to use in the winter.

Even though it's still quite warm in Utah, I can feel the nights getting a bit cooler, and I know it's not that long until the garden goodness has to either be preserved or lost. I hate losing anything that comes from my garden, and try to freeze as much as possible.   Since I have lots and lots of herbs, a few years ago I started to experiment with freezing them to see if I could preserve the flavor enough to make it worthwhile to use the herbs in the winter. I'm no expert, but I've learned a few tricks.

If you're going to try freezing herbs, first it helps to understand the difference between soft herbs and hard herbs. A while ago Helen from Beyond Salmon wrote an excellent post on preserving and using herbs in which she explained this quite well. Basically soft herbs are things like basil, cilantro, parsley, oregano, and mint which are either eaten raw or added only for a few minutes of cooking. I've written earlier about how to freeze fresh basil, and I suspect that many of the other soft herbs can be frozen that way also, although basil combines especially well with the olive oil.

Hard herbs are things like rosemary, thyme, savory, and sage which are suitable for long cooking times. The two things from this list that I've had great luck freezing are rosemary and thyme. I actually discovered how to do this somewhat by accident when I cut the branches off my rosemary and thyme bushes one fall and didn't have time to pick the leaves off. I washed the herbs, then put the stems into a ziploc bag and put it in the freezer, not sure what would happen.

I was delightfully surprised when the frozen leaves fell off the stems, and even happier when I tried using some of the frozen rosemary and thyme leaves and discovered they were nearly as good as fresh. Try this if you have rosemary and thyme in your garden and live where there's a cold winter, and I think you'll like the result.

Cut some rosemary branches.

Cut some thyme branches.
Herbs should be washed in cold water and
either spun dry or blotted dry with paper towels.

Put rosemary in small Ziploc bag.

Use a separate Ziploc bag for the thyme.
Let thyme and rosemary stay in the freezer for several weeks.


After a few weeks, take ziploc bag out of the freezer and use a rolling pin to roll over the bag containing the herbs. You should see a significant amount of leaves come loose from the stems. If some leaves don't come off, you can remove the loose leaves and freeze the others a bit longer, or pick the rest off by hand.

This rosemary has been frozen for nearly a year
and is still green and very fragrant.

Thyme is a bit more fragile than rosemary, but this thyme is
still great after nearly a year in the freezer.

After I've separated the leaves from the stems, I like to store my
frozen herbs in canning jars which have a lid that seals well.
This keeps moisture away from the herbs.
(The jars go back in the freezer.)


That's how easy it is to preserve the rosemary and thyme from your garden to use in wonderful soups and stews all winter long. Use the frozen leaves in any recipe calling for fresh rosemary or thyme. For recipes created using dried thyme or rosemary, use about twice as much of the frozen herbs as you would the dried version.


More Tips for Freezing Things from the Garden:

My Favorite Tips for Freezing Garden Tomatoes, Fresh Herbs, and Vegetables 
More About Freezing Fresh Herbs: Freezing Thai Basil, Sage, Tarragon, and Mint
How to Freeze Fresh Basil



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59 comments:

  1. My rosemary is fine all winter but the thyme dies back. I'll try this with my thyme! Thanks.

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  2. Do you put the jars back in the freezer then? I'm definitely going to do this. My friend Sharon also brings her pot of rosemary inside for the winter ... works great.

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  3. How awesome. I didn't know you could freeze it.

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  4. Hi kalyn,
    Thanks for sharing these tips of storing herbs in freezer.
    Hereafter wards i can store without seeing blackspots.

    Vineela

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  5. Kalyn,
    That's a great tip. Perhaps espacially for those of us who have to buy fresh herbs and end up throwing so much away.

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  6. Tanna, you're welcome.

    Alanna, yes, put the jars back in the freezer.

    Garrett, works great.

    Vinella, they freeze very well.

    Kevin, yes, even better if you're buying herbs and end up wasting them.

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  7. Your rosemary and thyme look very good, I must say. Our winters are mild here, so I normally only freeze basil--in olive oil.

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  8. Great tips Kalyn. I'll try this with my thyme. The rosemary keeps well right in the ground over our rather mild winters.

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  9. Great tips Kayln! I'm sure we will be needing this when winter comes around since we don't have the luxury of warm times like we did in Phoenix!

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  10. Kalyn,
    a little thing makes a big difference!... I used to put my rosemary in (double) ziplock bags, still can't stop the moisture going in. Will store them in canning jars now, thanks Kalyn. Btw, I have a lot of fresh oregano (just start planting it this year), shall I freeze or air dry them?

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  11. Sher and Christine, you're lucky to live where it doesn't get that cold. (Have I mentioned recently how much I hate winter?)

    Joe, you're in for a cold winter where you are now. Good luck. Hope it's not too bad.

    Gattina, I haven't tried freezing oregano. Let me know if you try it. I'd consider it a "soft" herb so I might freeze it in olive oil or make it into pesto. However, I think the dried oregano is pretty good too.

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  12. Such a good idea--I've got rosemary and 2 kinds of thyme--have to get busy.

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  13. Hi Kalyn,

    This is such a great idea. I've only frozen kafir lime leaves before, but now I'll try it with other stirdy herbs.

    Thanks for the tip :)

    Cheers,
    -Helen

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  14. What a fabulous informative article. Great tips!

    When Steve and I honeymooned in Italy we stayed at an old Tuscan farmhouse B & B. A rosemary plant stood outside the kitchen door - it was over six feet tall! I had severe rosemary envy.

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  15. And if you want to have fresh herbs for sweet purposes in the future, try this:
    http://eggbeater.typepad.com/shuna/2006/06/candied_herbs.html

    I love all your how to photos. They speak volumes!

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  16. Kayln,
    In the place I live the humidity is always low...I dried a bunch of oregano last month, looked good... but before I decided on how to storge it (crushed? then put in bag? or jar? or in fridge?...), my husband thought that was a garbage and threw it away by mistake... grrr!

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  17. Lucette, if you live where it's cold, you''ll love having the frozen ones.

    Helen, I freeze Kaffir lime leaves too, forgot to mention that!!

    Karina, I know what you mean about rosemary envy. I have that when I go to California.

    Shuna, great tip.

    Gattina, sorry to hear about the overly tidy husband.!

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  18. Can you freeze butter that is made with fresh herbs? What herbs would make the best butter?

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  19. Amy there's no reason you couldn't freeze butter with fresh herbs, but it's not something I've tried so I don't know what combinations to recommend. I do know that herb butter recipes can be found though, so you might try googling "herb butter" and see what you find. Maybe someone who's done it will comment here too.

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  20. Hi Kalyn, thanks for this great article.

    Im now freezing many types of fresh herbs, and my cooking has found a new leash of life.

    Im also freezing peeled garlic cloves, sliced ginger, and best of of, whole chilli peppers. This is great for me because now the only perishables I need to worry about are the main meat and veg.

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  21. Hi Kalyn,

    Do you wash the rosemary before you freeze it? I'm getting rosemary from the store.

    When I freeze my soft herbs, I definitely wash it first before putting it in the food processor with a bit of water (no oil) and transferring it to the freezer.

    Thanks!

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  22. M, yes I definitely wash the herbs. I use a small salad spinner and spin them as dry as I can before freezing. If you don't have a salad spinner, I would blog dry with paper towels. Thanks for noticing, and I will edit the post to add that information.

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  23. You would "blog dry with paper towels?" :P That's adorable, Kalyn!

    Thanks for clearing up my confusion. This is a very inspired use for a salad spinner. :)

    I just recently discovered yummy rosemary, and it will be great to have some around for crockpot recipes, roasted veges, and Italian dishes. Thanks so much for the advice!

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  24. Oops, that was obviously a Freudian slip. I would blot dry with paper towels!

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  25. Thanks Kalyn, I hadn't thought about freezing herbs until I looked it up on the web, your blog was my most favoutite, and made the most sense, so thanks for that :-)

    Anna

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  26. Thank you Kalyn for this super and helpful blog!

    I just told my family: "I now know how to freeze thyme. Now top that!" ;)

    hahaha

    Seriously, thanks so much.

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  27. carole with an "e" in NYCOctober 26, 2008 at 11:41 AM

    It is October in NYC and my city garden still has beautiful sage, rosemary, thyme and basil. After spending the last two hours surfing the net, I found you. Thanks so much for posting this information. I look forward to enjoying all my herbs all this winter thanks to you.

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  28. Carole, how great to hear that you'll be enjoying your herbs all winter! I love having a freezer full of them myself!

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  29. Just came across your wonderful instructions on how to freeze thyme. Thanks!

    Can you keep the frozen thyme in ziploc bags (I make sure to squeeze out the air) or do they need to be transferred to jars after a few weeks?

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  30. Debbie, I've kept some herbs in ziploc bags (when I had a lot!) and they did okay, but I do think they keep a little better in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

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  31. Wow, thanks for your herb preserving posts. It looks so easy. :) And your pictures are great.

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  32. I wanted to follow up on this post. I wash and dry my rosemary and then put it in snack size ziplocs (labeled) and freeze. I just leave them like that until I'm ready to use them and then use my fingers to pick of the rosemary. I don't own a rolling pin or have freezer space in my annoying side-by-side fridge/freezer for jars. This method works great and the rosemary is still very fragrant.

    I also save the "stalks" of the rosemary to put into chicken stock. I figure it helps me reuse/recycle something I'd toss and adds to the flavor. Yum!

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  33. ~M Thanks for letting us know the rosemary stays good in bags as well as jars. Also, love your tip for using the rosemary stalks, just brilliant!

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  34. This is a fantastic tip. I'm going to give it a try with some cilantro.

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  35. Dallas, haven't tried freezing cilantro, which is considered a "soft" herb. You might use the directions for freezing basil since it's also a "soft" herb.

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  36. Old thread but found through Google. I just tried this with loads of rosemary and thyme. Hope it works out.

    Thanks

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  37. Noah, I've been doing it a few years now and always had good luck.

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  38. Kalyn, thanks for such an informative site! I will be freezing my basil and rosemary. I will attempt the "dry" freezing method for basil, though. Love your tips on freezing rosemary :)

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  39. You're welcome. I'd love to hear how the "dry" freezing works on basil. I worry that it will turn black.

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  40. Great tips, Kalyn. I've been doing some freezer cooking for a while now because it saves me a lot of time. Although I've been meaning to freeze some greens, I haven't been able to preserve their freshness as I mean it to.

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  41. Carol, I've tried freezing swiss chard and kale and can't say I've been thrilled with the results either.

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  42. I just found your blog this morning. I just cut back my rosemary before transplanting it to move inside for the winter and was wondering what would happen if I froze the sprigs. As usual my first stop was google. I will try freezing what I cut. Thanks for the ideas.

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  43. Mary, hope you enjoy the frozen rosemary!

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  44. How do you freeze them in your canning jars? When I put canning jars in the freezer they break???

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  45. I freeze the herbs in bags and then transfer them to jar to store in the freezer. Not sure why the jars would break - my entire freezer is full of nuts, flours, and various types of herbs and seasonings, all frozen in jars. I've never had one break.

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  46. Thank you for this! I'm going to freeze my abundant rosemary & thyme today!

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  47. Stacy you're welcome! So glad it was helpful for you.

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  48. I just wanted to add to the chorus about how awesome this is! I think I'll even use the frozen thyme in the summer because I hate having to pull off the leaves. (I'll still use fresh when I can get away with using sprigs though.)

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  49. So glad you like the idea. I do find the frozen herbs are useful all year round!

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  50. I am going to try this with some fresh thyme I have.:-) Thank you so much for sharing!
    Wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas!:-)

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  51. Great post! I've pinned it and shared it on Facebook, but I can't seem to successfully subscribe to your blog via e-mail. :( And I WANT to!

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  52. Cindy, did you try entering your e-mail after you click the link that says "subscribe by e-mail" and it didn't work? If so send me an e-mail (under Contact) and I will forward it to the company that manages the e-mail subscriptions.

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  53. I have tried freezing rosemary just like you did - kind of lazy and just threw them in a bag in the freezer! I love that you put your herbs in glass jars! Have you tried freezing chives?

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  54. I haven't tried freezing chives. Let me know how it works if you try it!

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  55. This is an oldie but goodie. My friend Googleed me up your site. I had a ton of rosemary and nothing to immediately use it in so I needed help. Thanks for this!

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  56. Katy, so glad it was useful for you. I still do this every year!

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  57. Thanks for the info on freezing herbs.

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  58. Just so I'm clear, when you rinse the herbs then they're still kind of damp when you put them in the freezer, right? You're just blotting them and not actually letting them set out on the counter to 100% dry before putting them in the bags and freezing?
    Thanks!

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  59. They should be pretty dry when you put them in the freezer, but they don't need to be 100% bone dry.

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