Fresh herbs intensifies the flavour and adds a freshness to any dish. The downside is that they can get a little expensive especially when bought during the off-season. If you grow your own herbs, you know they can really take off and produce quite a harvest. Like enough to last you the year (if used reasonably). The key is to preserve your herb harvest soon after they are picked so you can lock-in that peak flavour and freshness.
There are many ways to preserve your herbs but today we are going to turn them into a herb paste. Herb paste is so versatile – it can be used in dressings, marinades, sauces and salads. It also retains its flavour really well. You can do it any time you find yourself with extra herbs that you can’t use up before they spoil. It’s very simple to make too.
I’ve made this herb paste with basil, parsley, chives, and thyme – you name it. It works perfectly for a variety of herbs and never disappoints. You might even want to mix different herbs into one paste. The possibilities are endless (providing you have the herbs). I keep each type of herb paste labelled in separate airtight containers to enjoy throughout the year.
HOW TO MAKE HERB PASTE:
- Cut your herbs and wipe every leaf with a damp paper towel. Make sure that you remove all dirt. Using a damp cloth ensures the leaves don’t get too wet as that makes them harder to dry and work with.
- Remove the leaves from the stems and remove any blemishes. Place the good leaves in a strainer or bowl.
- Make sure the leaves are dry. If you need to, wipe with a dry paper towel or place in salad spinner depending how wet the leaves were to start.
- Put about 2 cups of dry leaves in your food processor at a time. You don’t want to over pack the food processor. You’re better off doing multiple batches so you get a consistent product.
- Add in oil. I use a canola and olive oil mix, but use the oil of your choice. For 2 cups of herb start with about 1/4 cup of oil.
- Add in oil as needed so herbs become an even paste (and don’t get stuck on the sides).
- Pour into a glass mason jar or an air tight container but leave a little room at the top for a layer of oil. This preserves the herb. If you don’t top it with a layer of oil, the paste will go moldy. and you will have to throw it out.
- Label the container/jar with the type of herb paste you made along with the month/year it was made so you can keep track of your inventory.
- Place in the fridge. You can keep a container/jar of herb paste in your fridge for up to a year.
- Every time you take herb paste out of the container/jar you need to make sure it is topped with oil.
You can also freeze the herb paste in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop out the herb cubes and place them in an air-tight, freezer-safe container or bag. The downside to this method is that ice crystals can form on the cubes and you can't specify the quantity you want the same as you can when you store your herb paste in containers/jars.
I love having fresh herbs on hand year round especially when they taste like they were just picked. If making basil paste, for example, you can mix it with garlic and Parmesan cheese for a fast pesto dinner.
Do you grow any herbs? What are your favourite herbs to have on hand? Do you have any great ideas for preserving herbs? Let us know in the comments.