How to Store Fresh Rosemary
Rosemary is one of the more robust herbs. It has needle-like leaves which are sturdy in the wild, thriving even in relatively arid areas. When these leaves are then transferred to the kitchen for using in roasts and stews, they may not thrive as easily. Whether we have been foraging for some wild rosemary or we simply bought too much to use in one go, we might be looking for ways to keep our rosemary for use in the future. This doesn't always mean keeping it fresh, but it does mean keeping those beautiful aromatics sealed in for as long as possible. oneHOWTO looks at different ways of how to store fresh rosemary, helping you to decide the method which is best for you.
Keeping rosemary in the refrigerator
The first place we want to keep our rosemary fresh is in the fridge. But we don't just want to shove it in the back and forget about it. The best way to keep rosemary is to keep it dry, but this isn't always easy to do in a refrigerator. Essentially, you want to harness the cooling action of the fridge to slow the herb's wastage. At the same time, you need to keep it safe from mold-encouraging moisture.
Here are the steps you need to take:
- Wash the rosemary well with cold water. If you want to keep the rosemary fresh for as long as possible, you don't want to be keeping any bacteria alive along with it.
- Dry the rosemary as best as possible. You can use a salad spinner, but the most effective way is to take a couple of pieces of kitchen paper and lay them out flat. Place the rosemary sprigs on the paper towel, making sure none is sticking out over the edge. Fold the paper towel over and press down firmly until they are dry.
- Take a fresh freezer bag and put the sprigs of rosemary inside. Seal up the zip-lock bag and place in the salad crisper or set in the one of the door spaces.
- Keep rosemary fresh for two weeks, but take a look at it after this time. As long as there is no mold and it hasn't start to turn rotten, it should still be good to eat.
The fresher the rosemary the better. You don't want excess moisture to ruin the rosemary, but there needs to be enough in the herb itself to keep it hydrated. If you think the rosemary is too dry, then you can very lightly dampen a piece of folded up paper towel and put it in the bag with the rosemary sprigs. It shouldn't matter whether or not you want to know how to store rosemary in the winter or any other season. The refrigerator method will work any time of year.
Freezing the rosemary
Freezing rosemary is a great way to keep the sprigs fresh for a long time. You can freeze the rosemary for the best part of the year and still have a fragrant herb at the end of it. Unlike coriander or basil which have soft leaves, rosemary should be able to maintain its integrity for longer. If you want to freeze your rosemary for freshness, follow these steps:
- Wash the rosemary in cool fresh water.
- Dry the rosemary either in a salad spinner or between folded over pieces of kitchen towel as in the method described above.
- Take a baking tray and set the rosemary springs on top of it. Place the tray in a freezer and let them freeze for 45 minutes to an hour, turning over once during this time.
- Once the rosemary is frozen, carefully take each piece and set into a freezer bag. Seal the bag and store for up to a year.
You need to be careful when picking up the frozen rosemary otherwise you might shatter the now brittle needles. This method of freezing on a tray allows the individual sprigs of rosemary to be kept separate, rather than freezing together in a bunch. You can then use the sprigs individually without damaging the others in the bag.
Drying the rosemary for storage
If you go into the supermarket you will see that you can easily buy dried rosemary from the herbs and spices rack. It is a great way to keep them for longer. One major advantage of drying your own fresh rosemary is that you can guarantee it is actually rosemary. Some research has suggested that the dried herbs on supermarket shelves can sometimes have cheaper alternatives mixed into the dried herb mixture to save money. Drying rosemary at home means you know exactly what your using when it comes to making your dinner as tasty as possible.
The first method of drying rosemary is air drying and it goes like this:
- Take two or three sprigs of rosemary and tie them together at the base with either twine or a rubber band.
- Find a dry area of the kitchen where there is no chance of contamination, but preferably in direct sunlight. Hang the sprigs in this area and this is how the drying process starts.
- The length of drying depends on the climate condition of your kitchen, so you will simply have to keep checking on them until the leaves are dry and brittle. If you can crush them up into a powder, they are dry.
If you want to dry rosemary in the winter, air drying can be very difficult. Moisture in the air and a lack of sunlight slows down the process. A better way to dry rosemary will be to do so in the oven:
- For oven drying fresh rosemary, wash the sprigs and lay them out on a dry baking tray.
- Preheat the oven on the lowest setting possible. When at temperature, place the baking tray in the center of the oven.
- This low temperature should be enough to dry out the fresh rosemary in about an hour with turning over halfway through. However, this depends on how much moisture is in the rosemary and the quality of your oven. If they are not completely dry and brittle, leave them in a little longer.
You can also dry your rosemary sprigs with the help of a food dehydrator. Simply follow the instructions and use for the rosemary. As a general guide, you will probably be able to dry them in an hour at a temperature setting of 90 ºC/190 ºF.
Other ways of storing fresh rosemary
There are a few other ways of storing fresh rosemary to keep it going for longer, but they are a little more unconventional. These include:
- Rosemary salt: this is done by taking a handful of coarse sea salt and then adding a couple of sprigs worth of chopped fresh rosemary. Ensure the rosemary is completely dry before doing this. Either in a mortar and pestle or food processor, blend until the salt and rosemary are well mingled.
- Rosemary oil: simply put a few sprigs of rosemary in a bottle of olive oil and let it infuse. Give it at least two weeks before using. The oil will now have the same usage, but will be combined with a beautiful floral rosemary aroma.
- Rosemary chimichurri: chimichurri is an Argentinian salsa which is used for roasting and barbecue meats (although you can use it for vegetarian dishes just as deliciously). Place 4 sprigs worth of rosemary leaves in a food processor and add: 1/4 cup of olive or vegetable oil, 1.5 clove garlic, 3 tbs white vinegar, 1 small dried chile or non-spicy pepper, salt and pepper. Blitz together and store in an air tight container.
If you don't need to eat anymore rosemary, its beautiful aroma can be used for other purposes. Our article on how to make rosemary soap might be one you're interested in.
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