Winter is coming… and I have a problem
I guess I can count myself lucky that I live in southern Quebec. Here I am in the second day of November, and the temperature is still a balmy 7 degrees outside. (44 Fahrenheit for the Americans out there.) Rosemary is a hardy herb that does not survive the harsh winters we have up here in igloo-land. What’s a chef-writer to do?
I watched my garden patch as the days of November slowly approached, sneaking up on me like the mornings that greet you without sunlight, worried about the branches of rosemary awesomeness. Bringing the plant inside has never worked for me. It seems the shock is always too much for the fragile evergreen to bear. I’d have to endure the mutterings of my dearest lamenting about “another plant” inside the house.
Sure, drying the herb is an option – but I have never been satisfied with the results. The oils lose their potency over time, and all of the awesomeness that is rosemary is just … gone. If you want to see what I mean, go buy a jar of rosemary leaves. Open the bottle; there’s no distinct floral, pine scent to seduce your nostrils. Your mouth won’t water, expecting to be tantalized with promising combinations like lemons bursting with its acidic tones, or the earthy aroma of potatoes, roasted garlic, and the fruity, heady smell of a extra-virgin olive oil.
No, you’ll be greeted with a reaction-evoking smell – factory dust. Or, perhaps you are lucky – you’ll smell the same smells I was greeted when I first raided my mother-in-law’s spice rack – nothing.
I’ve read about people that chop up their herbs and freeze them in ice trays. That’s certainly a way to go if you are making a pesto, or a puree. With rosemary, though, the French have a saying, “ça va pas marcher.” (That won’t work. When you hack up rosemary, the oils inside are volatile and oxidize quickly. That’s why the works turn into a mess that looks like you are chopping through twigs, bark and mud on the cutting board. It’s hard enough getting a picky family to eat something new, want to try something that looks like it was accidentally dragged through your back lawn?
Then, as luck had it, I found a post over at Kalyn’s Kitchen on how she freezes rosemary, written in 2006. What struck me most about the method is her picture of rosemary after a year of freezing. That is something I can totally get into!
I am trying out this method, and I will let you all know how it goes. Anyone who knows me, knows that rosemary is my favorite herb. If this method turns out to be the bomb, then my thanks go out to Kalyn for introducing me to it.
- Cut the rosemary branches right down to the roots. The roots will be going into compost anyway.
- Cut the rosemary into six inch sprigs. Any longer than that and they wouldn’t fit into the freezing bag.
- Place into a freezer bag with a zip-top (you know the brand,) and packed them in as nicely as I could.
- Close the zipper until an inch is still open; gently force the air out of the bag.
- Close the zipper all the way and fold the remaining plastic over to make a nice package.
- Place in freezer for 1 to 2 weeks, or until needles are frozen completely.
- Pull out bag from the freezer, strip all needles from the branches. (I like to keep the branches for soups and stews – why waste all that is good from the plant?)
- Put needles into a glass jar, cover, and keep frozen until you need them.