Aug 7, 2013

Preserving Basil 3 Ways: Freezing, Dehydrating, and Salting

Most herbs are very easy to preserve. Just pop them into a freezer bag and you're done. Not so with basil. If you try to freeze it without special prep, it will turn black and mushy. Ick. With that in mind, here three ways to successfully preserve basil.

Tip: You can save a lot of money by growing your own basil - but not unless you're willing to harvest it! The more your harvest basil, the more the plant will grow. When harvesting, be sure to cut the stems off just above a set of leaves.

1. Freeze. To prevent basil from turning into black mush, it must be frozen with olive oil. To do this, pop the leaves into a food processor. Chop. Add a drizzle of olive oil and pulse until the leaves are thoroughly coated but not drenched. Spoon the mixture to empty ice cube trays and place in the freezer. Once hard, transfer to freezer bags. One average-sized "basil cube" is equal to about 2 tablespoons of fresh basil. Or, instead of using ice cube trays, just transfer the prepared basil to freezer bags or containers.

Tip: If you don't have a food processor, simply chop the leaves fine and drizzle with oil, mixing well.

2. Dehydrate. Remove the leaves from the stems and place them in a dehydrator set at 95 degrees F. When completely dry, allow the leaves to cool, then place them in an air tight container.

If you don't have a dehydrator, you can dry basil in the warming drawer of your oven, or in the oven itself. In either case, place the leaves on a wire rack placed inside a rimmed baking sheet. Set the warming drawer or oven as close to 95 degrees F. as possible. Place the leaves in the oven/warming drawer until completely dry. Cool, then store in an air tight container.

3. Salt. This is old school, and I've never tried it until recently. Pour about a 1/4 inch of salt onto the bottom of a glass jar with a well fitting lid. Place a layer of fresh basil leaves on top. Repeat layers until the jar is full or you're out of room. Be sure the last layer is salt. Store in the refrigerator; the leaves are said to stay fresh for about 6 months. (UPDATE 11-5/13: So far, I've successfully stored the leaves for about 3 months.) To use, just brush off the salt. (You can reuse the salt, too; it won't taste like basil.)

Tip: Use a wide-mouthed jar, so it's easier to lay the leaves in a single layer. You'll need at least 1 lb. of salt for a quart jar.

1 comment:

  1. This year I planted a lot of basil and have harvested it often. I am eating pesto all summer and freezing it too. I plan to use my frozen pesto on top of chicken, mixed in with vegetables and even learned a new recipe to cook corn on the cob in the crock pot with pesto. Yumm!!! Love basil!