Thursday, August 4, 2011

Preserving Basil

It is the time of the year when the fresh basil is plentiful in the garden. I often plant up to 20 plants for the summer, and harvest them several times to freeze basil for the winter. This year the spring was cold and wet, something basil does not do too well with and I just have a few plants. The farmers market to the rescue ….. ! Ever since I discovered vegan pesto, I am one of their biggest basil buyers. On Tuesday, I bought a whole pound of basil for $6. A steal! After making a large batch of pesto I still had 3/4 of the basil left, and I decided to replenish my frozen basil stash. 

Dried basil is not really where it’s at, but fresh basil can be very expensive in the winter in Maine. This is a great way to preserve fresh basil and use it later for pasta sauces. There is almost no difference in taste between fresh and frozen basil.

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How to freeze basil.

Special equipment: ice cube tray, sharp knife, freezer

First, cut the basil leaves off the stems and layer about 8 leaves on top of each other and roll them up like a cigar.

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Next, take a sharp knife and start from the top of the rolled basil leaves and cut the basil roll into thin stripes or ribbons (technical term: chiffonade the basil).

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Typically, one of these small piles can be stuffed into a single ice cube tray pocket. Proceed with the basil until the ice cube tray is filled.

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Now, pour a bit of cold water into each individual ice cube tray pocket; once the water is frozen, it will preserve the basil and keep it in place. 

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Place the tray in the freezer until the water is frozen solid. At this point the ‘basil cubes’’ can be removed from the tray, and stored as individual cubes in a large ziplock back in the freezer.

A ‘basil ice cube’ can be added to a pasta sauce without thawing. The water cooks off and the basil cooks with the sauce like fresh basil. Enjoy!

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