Oregano is one of the world’s most popular herbs. Like most fresh herbs, oregano’s shelf life will be relatively short unless you take steps to preserve it. Because of how quickly fresh oregano spoils and because its flavor can be strong, the most popular way to preserve this herb is to dry it; however, freezing is another good option that is often overlooked. Here are some tips on how to freeze oregano.
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Select the freshest available oregano for freezing. The different varieties freeze well and are resistant to becoming mushy after thawing the way some other herbs might. There’s not much point in freezing dried oregano since it won’t add much to the shelf life, and it may clump when thawing.
If you are using oregano from your garden, start the process of preparing it for freezing immediately after you harvest it. You should snip the sprigs off after the morning dew evaporates, but before the plant is exposed to the full heat of the sun. Picking oregano leaves that are still wet from the dew can result in the herb losing some of its flavor, which is not ideal.
Wash the sprigs and then let them dry
Strip the leaves from the oregano sprigs and place them in resealable freezer bags, from which you have removed as much air as possible. Removing the air is important for preventing freezer burn. You can try using a straw to suck out the last of the air and create a vacuum before sealing the bag. Usually, rolling the bag to squeeze out the air is enough.
Freezer burn is another way that your oregano can lose flavor. It is usually caused by the oregano being improperly wrapped and coming into contact with air. The air dehydrates and oxidizes the herb. Any food that is stored for long enough can eventually become freezer burned, no matter how well you wrap it.
Alternatively, freeze fresh oregano leaves in ice cube trays
Chop the leaves or purée them before packing them into the compartments of an ice cube tray. Next, pour water over them or cooking oil. You can use any cooking oil, but olive oil is considered the best since it is a natural fit for many dishes that require oregano. Butter is a third option that will have similar benefits. Pour the water, oil, or butter over the oregano and place the trays in the freezer. When the cubes are solid — this should take about three hours — pop them out and store them in a resealable freezer bag. Simply add in the cubes to taste when your dish needs oregano.
Using frozen oregano
Use frozen oregano within a year of placing it in the freezer. It will still be safe to use for a long time after that, but it will be at its best within the first year.
Frozen oregano works best in wet applications like soups, stews and sauces. In most applications, just add the frozen oregano without thawing it. The effect will be almost the same as using the fresh herb. If you do let your frozen oregano thaw out, it won’t be as mushy or discolored as softer herbs like basil or mint.
Oregano will still most likely have a shorter shelf life due to the effects of the freezing process. The partial breakdown of the leaves by ice crystals will offer more opportunity for bacteria to cause spoilage, especially if you keep your thawed oregano at room temperature.