Basil is not going to keep fresh for long, generally a few days after being harvested and it is an annual plant that will not grow in freezing temperatures outdoors. There options to have your own fresh basil in your home with a terrarium. But most do not have one and want basil throughout the year. Although preserved basil is not the same as the having them fresh, here are some helpful steps that can be taken for later use of herb.
Blanching is easy, not very time consuming and worth the effort. This process alone does not preserve basil, but will eliminate some of the enzymes that cause discoloration and the plant to decompose. Bring water to a boil and add the basil for only a few seconds. Keeping the basil in boiling water longer will cause it to lose its flavor and wilt. Once taken out of the boiling water at the first sign of wilting, transfer the leaves to cold water as soon as possible or the plant will continue to cook with while still hot. Now you are ready to preserve it in several ways.
Simply placing the basil in the freezer alone will not work. This is because basil will still wilt while frozen. One common method is to place the basil in ice trays with olive oil. The purpose of utilizing ice trays is to avoid ending up with one big frozen block. With the use of ice trays, you can use as little as you need by just popping them out of the tray one at a time. Using a food processor, add oil along with the basil, many prefer to use extra virgin olive oil. Then, pour the contents in ice trays and place in the freezer. The same can be done with water instead of olive oil if preferred. Once frozen, you can simply drop the cubes in whatever you’re cooking as needed. Since so many dishes use olive oil, specially when basil in involved, the oil should not be a problem otherwise freezing in water may be better.
The Old Fashioned Way of Using Sea Salt
Remove the stems then wash the basil carefully as they tend to bruise and turn black easily. Look for a container that can be sealed, regardless of whether it is glass or plastic as it will make no difference to the quality of the herb and preservation. Cover the bottom of the container with sea salt, then place a single layer of basil leaves on top of the salt. Do not place any leaves on top of each other. Cover the layer of the leaves with another layer of salt and continue the same steps until the container is full or needed and place in the refrigerator. This method should help extending the life of the basil up to a few months.
Drying basil will basically give the same as other dried spices. It is not as tasty as having the fresh plant itself, but can still be a great addition to any recipe. Rinse basil in cold water gently to wash off dirt and debris as well as chemicals. Keep stems in tact as you will need them later to hang. Once rinsed, place the basil on paper towels and pad the leaves dry. Once dried with paper towels, group leaves in clusters or bunches and string them together. Once all of the basil is strung together you are ready to hang them. Hang the leaves from its stems upside down for about a couple of weeks. If the leaves are not dry, brown and do not easily crumble, keep them drying for another week checking frequently. Many choose the kitchen since this is where food usually belongs, but it is not necessarily the best in all cases, specially if it is often humid. You can chose any room that will offer good ventilation such as one with a large window with sunlight. Once this process is successfully complete, you can store in jars for later use.
Make The Recipe
Pesto is a good example of a recipe that will save your basil. You can’t just take the basil and put it in the freezer, but many of the sauces such as marinara and pesto can be frozen and taste great afterward. Soups with basil are similar in staying flavorful for long periods in the freezer also. Salad dressing and herb butter, in this case it’s basil butter, is another form of a food that you can introduce basil to and will keep it fresh for long periods.