Thursday, September 27, 2007

More About Freezing Fresh Herbs: Freezing Thai Basil, Sage, Tarragon, and Mint

Thai Basil PlantsFrom Thai Basil Plants Out of Control

Frozen Thai BasilTo Frozen Thai Basil Cubes!

What would you do if you had an enormous patch of Thai Basil like this that was seriously going to seed, not to mention lots of other fabulously bushy herb plants, and you lived in Utah where winter was well on the way? I've been freezing fresh basil for many years with good results, and last year I made a wonderful discovery when I was freezing fresh thyme and fresh rosemary. So when I realized this past weekend that summer was going to end well before I ran out of fresh herbs, I decided to try some other freezing experiments.

The verdict is still out as far as the usefulness of frozen Thai Basil but all these herbs appear to have frozen with good results. Here are some tips you might like to try if it's getting cold where you are and you have a garden with herbs that you'd enjoy using during the winter.

I used the same process for tarragon, mint, and sage, except I did use my garden scissors to cut the sage from the stems, which was easy to do. Since I'd learned last year when I tried freezing thyme and rosemary that the leaves of those herbs mostly fell off the stems when they were frozen, I decided not to spend the time stripping off the tarragon and mint leaves. For each of these herbs, I cut as much as I thought would fit into a large Ziploc bag and washed it well in my large salad spinner.

Tarragon

Sage

Mint

When they were spun dry, I put the herbs into the Ziploc bags. Then I left the bags open and let them sit on the counter for several hours, until the moisture left on the leaves had evaporated. (If it's humid where you are this will take longer. If you're sharp-eyed, there is some rosemary in that photo too, but I've already written about freezing rosemary.)

Then I sealed the bags, squeezing most of the air out, and put them in the freezer. Leave them for a few days or even weeks, depending on the type of herb.

After that time, the leaves will start to fall off the stems. This is a bowl of frozen tarragon after four days in the freezer, and you can see the bare stems where the leaves have fallen off. There were only a few stubborn leaves I had to pick off.

Not a very good photo because I took it at night, but here are the jars of frozen sage and tarragon leaves I ended up with. Each is slightly smaller than a mayonnaise jar, plenty of sage and tarragon for a lot of good dishes all winter long. Put the jars back in the freezer, then take out the frozen herbs as you need them. (The mint leaves are taking a bit longer to fall off the stems so I'm leaving them in the freezer a bit longer, but the frozen mint is also working out well.)

Freezing the Thai Basil was a slightly different process. I had a huge sink full of basil, and since the basil was pretty dirty, I washed it several times in the salad spinner, then spun it dry.

Fill the food processor with basil leaves, quite full, but not so full that it won't all chop. As the basil chops, drizzle in a small amount of olive oil or vegetable oil, just enough to coat the leaves so they don't turn dark in the freezer. You might need to stir once or twice to get the top leaves chopped up.

After 30-45 seconds, here's how the basil will look when it's all been chopped and it's well coated with oil.

I didn't think I would use very much Thai Basil at a time, so I froze it in an ice cube tray, which I sprayed with non-stick spray before I put the basil in. Freeze it until the basil cubes are frozen hard, then remove and store in Ziploc bag or freezer jar with a tight fitting lid.

I put my basil into a bag which I sealed with my FoodSaver, one of my very favorite kitchen gadgets. This basil will stay good in the freezer for months and months. I did stop and consider part way through this process that Thai Basil is often eaten raw, but I found a few ideas for things where Thai Basil is added to a cooked dish that I thought might work with the frozen basil.

Thai Basil Fried Rice from Is It EDible
Thai Basil Pork from Is It EDible
Thai Style Chile Beef from Nook and Pantry
Thai Basil Hummus from 28 Cooks
Golden Gazpacho with Lemongrass from What Did You Eat
Red Hot Thai Curry with Basil from Saffron Trail
Thai Green Coconut Curry with Chicken from Kirsten's Home Cooking

Of course you figured out that this is my post for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Ulrike of Kuchenlatein this week.

If anyone has other freezing methods for herbs that they've found useful, or ideas for using frozen Thai Basil or mint, please let me know about it in the comments. Happy freezing everyone!counter customizable free hit

44 comments:

Kelly Mahoney said...

Great tips -- it's the end of the season and the potential for fresh herbs is waning! I know that you can grow them inside, but are they as flavorful?

Maria said...

Great post! What a great way to save your fresh herbs! I am sure these will come in handy in the winter.

chigiy at Gardeners Anonymous said...

This is a great post. We are lucky here because most of my herbs winter pretty well except the basil.
I have always wanted to freeze it and now I know how. Thanks.

Lydia said...

Wonderful post -- I tend to dry herbs more than freezing them as a way to preserve the harvest. But I'm definitely going to try your method. Thanks for such great instruction.

Simona said...

Your garden is a truly amazing place, Kalyn.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

My rosemary and sage are good all winter but the basil is another story. We'll have to see if Gorn will enclose the porch again this winter. My Thai basil was going wild a month ago when I left Dallas, I sure it's covered with blooms by now even if the neighbors used some.

Anh said...

Kalyn, you have a wonderful garden! Make me drool!

BTW, I tried yout grilled zucchini with parmesan last nite. Very nice. I ate them like finger food! :P

Kalyn said...

Kelly, I haven't had much luck trying to grow herbs inside. If you lived somewhere that still got strong sun all winter I think you could do it, but Utah has a lot of overcast days in the winter.

Maria, thanks. Must try your ideas with the Thai basil.

Chigiy, you *are* so lucky to have fresh herbs in the winter. Do try freezing the basil. It's great in pasta sauces and salad dressing.

Lydia, thanks. I actually haven't ever tried drying herbs, but I've sure enjoyed using the frozen ones.

Simona, thanks. Right now it has a lot of weeds! But there are still quite a few tomatoes.

Tanna, lucky you to have rosemary and sage all winter. (What am I doing here in this cold place?)

Anh, thanks. And nice hearing that you liked the zucchini with parmesan.

javagirlkt's cookin' said...

wow. sounds like a lot of work, but it will be well worth it! :)

East Meets West Kitchen said...

I freeze my homemade chicken broth in the ice cube trays, and now I learned to do it with basil too. Thanks Kayln!

joey said...

I have no garden and no winter...but I do appreciate these tips! Sometimes I buy too many herbs, or can't use everything, and it's great to know that I can feeze some of them :) In fact, I just got a bunch of Thai basil that was way to much for the recipe I was making...so thanks for the Thai Basil recipe links as well :)

katiez said...

Great idea for freezing tarragon and thyme! I've always stripped the leaves, too!
I'll remember it for next year, when, hopefully I'll have enough to make the effort worthwhile. The herbs did not like our cool summer either!

Peter M said...

Thanks for adding to your compendium of preserving techniques...I have just this weekend left before the cold weather arrives.

Rebeca said...

Thanks for the inspiration Kalyn. My herb dilemma is not the upcoming freeze, since I live in a milder climate, but the fact that I recently converted my herb garden into a grazing area for two chickens. So I've been sitting and watching my tarragon, thyme, mint, etc slowly die from chicken abuse. Never even occurred to me to freeze them, but now I will, before they are completely gone!

swirlingnotions said...

I had a surfeit of Thai basil a couple of years ago (I wish I did now!!) and made an Asian pesto with it that I froze (it froze beautifully). I'm pretty sure I included it in an article at some point, but for the life of me I can't find it. Anyway, you pretty much just blam together a bunch of Thai basil, peanuts, a pinch of sugar, a dash of fish sauce, chile paste and peanut oil in the blender and finish with a squeeze of lime. Then you can throw a dollop into a stir fry or noodle dishes or whatever. It was so good that I'm always hoping for a wildly overrun Thai basil plant, but alas, it hasn't happened again since that year.

Cheers Kalyn!

Cindy said...

I combine carrots, onions and celery (all of the traditional French aromatics), put them in the food processor to chop roughly and then freeze in ice cube trays (similar to your basil method). It works perfectly to pop one in the sauce pan when making soup or to saute. =o)

P.s., I love my foodsaver too!

Kalyn said...

Javagirlkt, not that much work, and very worth it!

EMWK, me too with the chicken stock.

Joey, good idea. I never thought of doing it with herbs from the store, and sometimes I throw them out when they go bad! (Duh!)

Katie, sorry to hear about the herbs not thriving this year.

Peter, me too!

Rebecca, yes, don't let the chickens get the herbs!

SN, love the idea of the Thai basil pesto. Too late for this time though, my Thai basil is all frozen.

Cindy, love the idea of freezing the aromatics! Perfect for winter cooking too. And it would save so much time.

Bruno said...

Thanks for the useful tips Kalyn! I may try my hand at freezing some of my herbs for the upcoming winter months.

Ulrike said...

I'd like to save some herbs in the freezer, now I now how. I have to hurry in 2 weeks my kitchen renovation begins.

Amy said...

This is a great guide for freezing herbs! I'm so envious of your gorgeous thai basil! My thai basil is gone for the year.

Anonymous said...

Kalyn, I too, have a full herb garden for the second season now...last year I had planned on researching how to freeze/store herbs for use in winter but unfortunately never got around to it. As it is a cold, rainy/flurry sort of day here in Rhode Island on Nov. 20th, I decided to spend part of my day out of work sick harvesting my herbs! Thank you for the beautifully described and documented process...here I go to work on my thyme, rosemary, sage, mint, and oregano, all that has survived up until this point in the year. Thanks again, I look forward to excellent results thanks to you! -Melissa

Bobbisox said...

Great idea about freezing the Thai basil, how did it turn out in recipes when you thawed it out? Mine self sows in this San Diego county climate, but ours are small and we ended up buying the basil at the Asian market; we keep it on the counter; in this hot house, it rooted, unbeknownst to hubby and me I was still using it. We put it out in a big pot of sterile seedling mix and kept it in shade and under mist. Voila, lots of Thai basil.

Kalyn said...

Bobbisox, the quality of the frozen basil was great, but I did notice I didn't use it nearly as much during the winter as some of the other herbs I froze. I did add it to a couple of Asian curries with good results.

Cynthia Samuels said...

Sorry to be stupid, but do you put the JARS back in the freezer? Or do something else w/them?

Kalyn said...

Cynthia, you are not stupid! Yes, you put the jars back in the freezer. I put them in the door of my freezer with a label on the lid that shows what herb it is. Happy freezing!

Kalyn said...

P.S. Cynthia, just added a line to the post to make that clear so thanks again for the question.

Anonymous said...

I recently tried preserving my basil by blanching it, processing it with a little olive oil, and dropping it by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. I froze it all and then stored my "basil cookies" in a Ziploc. The blanching worked great. My ? is.....Do I have to blanch any other herbs before freezing or preserving them?

Kalyn said...

Anonymous, I can only say what has worked for me, but I've never blanched any of my herbs before freezing.

HerbDish.com said...

Thai Basil is a good one for reduce gas in the stomach. Actually there are lots more properties of this Thai herbs and others.

Kalyn said...

I didn't know that about Thai basil, thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Kalyn, I looked at your posts for freezing herbs, but I didn't see anything about oregano. I did noticed the ice-cubes, but maybe I just didn't see it ?!? Is there any way that you can freeze them just as leaves?

Kalyn said...

Anonymous, I haven't tried freezing oregano, but since it's a "soft" herb I might do it just like I do basil. (Oregano is actually the one herb that I think is about as good dried as it is fresh, so I might not bother freezing it.)

Nellie Vin said...

Thank you , for the tip how to freeze the basil For me was turning dark in freezer, I think it great idea to mix with oil.I will use your suggestion for this year harvest.
Stay well

colbrook said...

s article mentioned freezing lemongrass, but I didn't see any mention of lemongrass in the post. Does anyone have tips on freezing lemongrass? We have 2 huge plants, but they die back in the winter, and we'd love to be able to use them all winter long.

Thanks

Kalyn said...

Colbrook, I haven't grown lemongrass so I've never tried freezing it, but I would guess it can be frozen although the texture would be softer. If you're mostly using the inner parts chopped up finely, it would probably be fine. Love to hear how it turns out if you try it (I'm thinking I might try growing some if I get a greenhouse, which I'm hoping I'll add next year.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Kalyn,
Found your blog while looking for ways to preserve my tarragon, sage, and basil. Thanks for sharing this great advice. I wash and chop my scallions into 1/4 inch pieces, let them dry naturally on a screen (I use one of those splatter screens you put over a frying pay) and then jar them up. They stay nice and green and keep all winter. For basil, I just make it all into pesto. Just found a recipe for parsley/sage pesto. Can't wait to try it.
Donna

Kalyn said...

Donna, great idea to dry the scallions. I'll have to try that next summer. Glad this was useful for you.

Mona said...

Thank you for taking the time to post what you learned. It definitely helped me.

Kalyn said...

Mona, so glad to hear it was helpful.

Suz and Don said...

Thanks for the great tips. I never thought of freezing tarragon. I have been freezing fresh dill weed, just in a small zip-lock bag. After bing frozen, it crumbles into usable pieces and taste exactly like fresh; very tasty in tuna or salmon salad.

Kalyn Denny said...

Love that idea of freezing dill; I just wish I had better luck growing it!

Pailin said...

Hi Kalyn, Thanks for your post. I'm trying to find a way to freeze holy basil, which is more delicate than Thai basil, so this might work as well. However, do you find that when you thaw the Thai basil, does it turn black when you thaw it for cooking? Thanks for the awesome posts!

Kalyn Denny said...

The Thai basil definitely gets darker from freezing. I would not say it is black, but very dark green.

Midge said...

Thank you so much! Great to be able to use the summer herbs through the winter months!

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