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Preserving Your Summer Herbs

greek oregano in olive oil

I know we are all sad that summer is coming to an end. After this weekend, The Kid starts high school, I start working on TIFF and Shack will most likely start working on whatever movie he is working on until after Christmas. We will settle into a routine and it will all be fine but today, as I stood in my garden with a pair of scissors and a big bowl, harvesting my herbs, I wanted to roll up into a ball and throw a massive tantrum. I don't want to stop wearing flip flops. I don't want to wear pants or cute jackets - okay, I am kind of ready for jeans and cute jackets but that's it. I love summer and this day signifies the impending end to hot summer nights drinking wine on the porch so I hate it.

This isn't about a recipe, it's just a method of preserving your summer herbs. The obvious thing to do with the more woody herbs like rosemary or thyme is to just dry them out. Even my dog, Reno, could figure that one out but it's more fun to preserve them in a way that they maintain a bit of their freshness and my favourite ways are to freeze them in olive oil or butter. I absolutely love compound butter so I always do a bit of that to serve on grilled meat or fish but the easiest way to preserve is to chop up your fresh herbs straight from the garden and freeze them in olive oil using ice cube trays. You are left with nice, compact squares of herby olive oil that are perfect for your winter cooking. You just throw one or two in a hot pan and saute your onions and garlic in a nice bit of herby oil. These are all herbs I would use all winter and I would always use olive oil anyway.

To do the herbs, chop them pretty finely and pack them into ice cube trays, filling each little hole about 3/4 of the way full. When you have filled all of your trays, pour in the olive oil to fill each pocket just to the top. Make sure that the herbs are submerged, cover the top loosley with some plastic wrap and freeze over night. The next day, pop the oil/herb cubes out and store in a freezer bag, in the freezer.

For the basil, I chop it in a food processor with olive oil sort of like I am making pesto but I just don't add any of the other ingredients that would make it pesto. You can saute in it or you can just throw a couple of cubes into a little pot of marinara sauce or soup. You can't really dry basil so the only two ways I like to use are to freeze actual pesto or this olive oil/basil mixture.

preserved lemon herb compound butter

For the compound butter, I mix approx 2  heaping tbls chopped herbs with 1 tbls of finely chopped preserved lemon peel for every 4tbls (1/4 cup) of soft butter. If your butter doesn't taste salty enough add a little pinch of kosher salt. I did one version with the lemon and greek oregano and another with the lemon and thyme.  After you mix the herbs, lemon peel and butter all together, pack it into some ice cube trays or you can put it in the fridge until it starts to firm up and then you can roll it into a log and wrap in saran to freeze. When it's time to use it you just cut slices off of the log. I keep these pretty little silicone flower ice cube trays just for this purpose because I like my compound butter to look pretty. I let the butter freeze in the trays overnight and then pop them out and put them in a freezer bag to store in the freezer, just removing as many as I need.

Use whatever you like to freeze the butter pats.

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