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Freezing Greens

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rcooper asks via Twitter:

@thefoodgeek Can you freeze cilantro? I have a ton from @horseandbuggyp, but don’t use it that often… via TweetDeck in reply to thefoodgeek

First of all, I recommend reading the article I wrote about preserving greens in the refrigerator and rejuvenating them. That’s all very useful advice that could save you some trouble. Still, if your schedule is anything like mine, sometimes you just can’t use it all in a week or so. So you can explore other options.

Yes, you can freeze it. I’ve heard two different methods. The first is to rinse and dry the cilantro, spread it out on a cookie sheet, and freeze that way. The second, which I like better, is to rinse, remove the leaves, chop fine, put into an ice cube tray, and cover with a bit of water or oil. You’ll get a different flavor from the water vs. the oil, because of which compounds are preserved by each medium.

What I don’t see in most of the explanations, but which is a common step, is to blanch the herbs by briefly dipping them in boiling water with a bit of baking soda in, then shocking the greens in cold or ice water to stop the cooking. This will brighten up the greens (because alkaline solutions are good for greens and because the slight cooking will whisk away the oxidization on the leaves), halts various metabolic processes that the greens may still be going through, and gets them ready for their next stage of life. This works really well with basil, for example. Blanch, shock, chop, put into an ice cube tray, add a bit of oil, and freeze.

Of course, you don’t have to freeze the concoction. You could (and jcunwired tweeted this as I was writing it, so I’ll include it here):

@rcooper you can make pesto from it, just leave out cheese until thawed (if you want cheese). Its yummy. @thefoodgeek via TweetDeck in reply to rcooper

Indeed, you could make a pesto from it. Same basic method: blanch, shock, add oil, and puree with some shredded cheese and possibly some nuts if you’re into that sort of thing. Works with all kinds of leafy greens from herbs to spinach to just about anything that can be blanched and goes with cheese. I use parmesan reggiano, for preference, but any hard grated cheese should work, depending on your tastes.

And the great thing about pesto, aside from its lovely flavor, is that it requires a huge bushel of leaves, so it’s unlikely that even a good week at the CSA will leave you with leftovers after that. Other than the leftover pesto which, I’ve found, is usually eaten pretty quickly.


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  • KateCooks | 07/06/2010

    My suggestion for smaller amounts of fresh herbs is to make and freeze herb butters. Chop some herbs and mix them into softened butter, then use plastic wrap to form the butter into the shape of fat cigars. Freeze overnight, then vacuum-seal or wrap tightly in heavy foil. Slice "coins" of the frozen butter to enhance vegetables and entrees. Use mint butter on peas or carrots, dill butter on fish, chive butter on steak, etc.

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