There is nothing more pleasant than walking through an aromatic herb garden. Herbs are vibrant and colorful; some are sweet and some are savory, and they’re all flavorful and fragrant. September is an excellent time to preserve fresh herbs either grown in your own garden or sourced at your local farmers’ market, as they’re thriving this time of year and are at their peak flavor and freshness.
I typically dry a variety of fresh herbs in a food dehydrator each fall. Once dried, I mix different combinations of herbs together in Mason jars. But drying is only one way to preserve herbs – some of my other favorite options are infusing extra virgin olive oil and vinegars with herbs like oregano, rosemary or basil, as well as making herb-infused butters with fresh parsley, sage, rosemary or dill.
Crystal Stevens is a farmer at La Vista CSA Farm on the bluffs of the Mississippi River in Godfrey, Illinois, where she farms with her husband, Eric. They have two children. Crystal is an advocate of integrating creativity into sustainability through writing, art, photojournalism and seed-to-table cooking. Find more of her work at growingcreatinginspiring.blogspot.com, which she created to launch her forthcoming book, Grow Create Inspire.
Herb-Infused Olive Oil
Yields | 12 ounces |
- 12 oz extra virgin olive oil
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme (or oregano, rosemary or basil)
| Preparation | Fill a clean Mason jar with oil. Gently place herbs, one sprig at a time, in oil. Be sure herbs are submerged. Seal Mason jar lid tightly, label with name of herb and date and allow to steep for at least 1 week before using. Hardy herbs such as rosemary and thyme may stay in the jars. Remove leafy herbs such as basil after 1 week of steeping. Use within 6 months of jarring.
For every one stick of butter, use two tablespoons of fresh herbs.
Yields | 8 ounces |
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 4 Tbsp minced fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary or dill)
| Preparation | In a saucepan over medium-low heat, soften butter and add herbs. Pour butter and herbs into a large glass mixing bowl and whisk until herbs and butter are combined.
Label small jars with name and date and pour in mixture. Stir as butter cools. Once butter has cooled, refrigerate. If you desire whipped butter, simply whip melted herb butter in a food processor and store in jars in the refrigerator. If you prefer a butter roll, wait for the butter to harden just a bit and then place the butter in a piece of plastic wrap. Sculpt butter into a roll and place in refrigerator. Butter rolls allow you to cut nice slices that are perfect to serve with dinner rolls, whereas butter stored in jars is more convenient to use when cooking.
Extra fresh herbs can be frozen and saved for future use. Drop them into soups, stocks, stews or sauces.
Yields | 1 ice tray of frozen herbs |
- 12 Tbsp minced fresh herbs (for each ice tray)
- cold water
| Preparation | Firmly pack the reserves of an ice cube tray with herbs (roughly 1 Tbsp herbs per space) and top with cold water. Freeze overnight. Place frozen herb cubes in labeled freezer bags. Reserve for future use.