3 Ways to Preserve Basil
An Abundance of Basil –
Have you ever bought a bundle of fresh basil for a recipe or garnish and been left with a profusion of the aromatic green leaves? Have you ever grown basil and learned that the more you pick the more it grows? If you have, then you know that this amazing herb gives itself so abundantly it can sometimes leave us wondering what to do with it.
I’m going to give you some ways to preserve your basil so you can use the delightful herb any time you need it. I’m also sharing a cocktail and a grilling marinade recipe for more ways to use beloved basil.
Pesto is my all time favorite way to preserve fresh basil. It is basically a fresh green puree of basil, olive oil, salt and garlic. There are many versions of pesto that include pine nuts, walnuts and parmesan cheese, but I consider these optional. So if you don’t have the nuts and cheese you can still preserve your basil as a simple pesto without them. I hope you experiment though with other ingredients too!
Pesto will store in the refrigerator for about a week if you keep it covered well. So, putting plastic or waxed paper right on top of it will keep it from darkening (which it does quickly when exposed to air). But the best thing to do for keeping it the longest is to freeze it. After you make your pesto, put it into ice-cube trays and freeze it. When it’s completely frozen you can put the cubes in a freezer bag or container and have pesto when you need it. Note: parmesan cheese doesn’t freeze well in the pesto, so if you go that route, add it after you thaw the pesto. Frozen cubes will last in the freezer for about 6 months.
Now you can throw a cube or two into soup, or stew, or thaw your cubes and toss it into pasta. One of my favorites is to blend a thawed cube into some softened butter for an amazing spread on french bread. There is no end to the things you can do with it and I would love to hear your favorites in the comments!
Makes about 3/4 cup pesto
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup Optional toasted pine nuts (may use walnuts or pecans)
- 1/4 cup Optional freshly grated parmesan, romano or pecorino cheese If you plan to freeze the pesto do not add cheese until after thawing
In food processor or blender, add basil, nuts, cheese, salt, garlic and a small amount of oil. Blend until finely chopped. With machine running, drizzle in the remaining olive oil in a slow steady stream to emulsify.
To store: Place pesto in an airtight container with plastic wrap pressed against the surface so it doesn't oxidize and turn brown. Refrigerate, up to a week. Freeze up to 6 months (thaw before using).
2. Dried Basil
If you like having basil year round to sprinkle into soups, stews or any recipe you want to add a little more flavor, then drying it is a good way to go. This will keep it longer than other methods for year round use, but does not add the fresh green color that pesto does. But when the pesto is all used up you will be so glad you dried some of your precious harvest!
It’s super easy to do and you don’t have to have a dehydrator or special equipment. First, pick in the morning after the dew has dried, or if you bought your bouquet of basil, let it air dry on a towel before tying up. Tie the stems in bundles. Use a paper bag about the size of your bundle and cut a few holes into it for air circulation. Insert the bundle into the bag and tie the top of the bag around the top of the bundle. Hang in a warm, dry place until it is dried and crunchy. Some of the leaves may fall into the bag, so be careful when opening. Remove dried leaves from stems and crush to the size you want for your dried herb.
Store in airtight container away from heat and sunlight. Dried basil can last a couple of years, but be sure and check it it occasionally for fresh scent and taste.
3. Infused oil
Infusing oil with this aromatic herb is a great way to keep the wonderful flavor on hand. The oil is a great way to add flavor to salad dressings. Drizzle it over vegetables to liven them up, or toss veggies in oil before roasting. It’s terribly delicious when drizzled on a hot baguette! But my favorite is to splash a little on a poached egg. The nice thing about herb infused oil is that it’s so simple to make!
Just pack fresh basil that is completely dry into a jar, crushing it down with a wooden spoon as you go. Cover it with olive oil, avocado oil or whatever is your favorite. Let it sit in a sunny window for 2 weeks then strain out the basil through cheesecloth and funnel into a pretty bottle. Store the finished oil in a cool, dark place where it can last up to 6 months.
More Basil Recipes
A different take on the classic mint mojito, basil makes this a cooling summer cocktail.
- 1/4 organic lime (washed)
- 12 leaves fresh garden basil
- 1 tbsp organic cane sugar
- 1-2 shotglass white rum
- Club soda or seltzer water
In shaker or heavy mug, muddle lime, basil and sugar. Add rum and stir to dissolve sugar. Pour over ice in glass. Top with club soda or seltzer water. Give it a stir. Enjoy!
This is a recipe for a great chicken marinade that can be used for grilling chicken.
- 3 limes, juiced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger root, grated
- 6 tbsp soy sauce
- 2-3 full stems fresh basil
- 3 tbsp olive oil
Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend thoroughly. Pour over chicken breasts and marinate for 2 hours to overnight.
Grill chicken your favorite way, occasionally brushing with sauce left in pan.
If you don’t already have your own favorite ways to use basil, I hope some of these become winners for your bounty of summer basil!
For one more way to save your favorite herbal flavors, check out my post about how to make herbal infused honey!
And if you are interested in some great reasons to use this herb you can go here for a list of the medicinal properties of basil.