In the months of July and August when the sun is at its brightest and temperatures are at their highest, most varieties of basil grow like wildfire. For cooks who find themselves unable to use all this aromatic bounty before it goes to seed, all (your basil) is not lost. There are multiple ways to preserve basil so that you can enjoy its fragrant essence all year round.
Frozen Basil Brittle
Freezing basil brittle is a quick and easy way to preserve the freshness, aroma and color of your basil without totally losing the essence of the herb. Pick four to six cups of basil leaves and wash them thoroughly. Remove any darkened or damaged leaves and discard. Roughly chop the leaves into small pieces, but not so finely that you lose the sense of “leaf.” Place in a deep bowl, and with your fingers, massage in enough extra virgin olive oil to coat. Spread the coated leaves evenly onto a baking sheet and flash freeze. Once frozen, break the brittle into pieces and store in an air tight freezer container.
Nothing is quite as easy as this basil vinegar infusion. Simply pick, trim and thoroughly clean a bunch of basil (about six nice stems). Place it in a glass jar with tight-fitting lid. Cover with white wine vinegar and store in a cool, dark location. The vinegar will be ready to use in just two weeks and will keep for up to a year.
Pesto Ice Cubes
Preparing and freezing pesto is a great way to preserve basil. Just whip up your favorite pesto recipe and transfer into the sections of an ice cube tray. Once frozen, pop them out and store them in an air tight freezer container. When ready to use, simply thaw the appropriate number of cubes for your recipe.
Making basil-infused oil is another favorite way to preserve your summer’s bounty of basil. After your leaves have been cleaned and dried, add them to a food processor with your olive oil. Pulse until thoroughly mixed and then strain out all the solids. It is advisable to store your basil oil in the refrigerator to avoid spoilage, and do not add garlic due to the risk of botulism.
Probably the most familiar method of preserving basil is by drying it. The trick here is to dry and store the leaves whole to help preserve the flavors. Cut your basil with ample stems attached. Wash it thoroughly and remove any damaged leaves. Pat it dry and bundle it by tightly tying the stems together. Hang it out of the sun in a dry, well ventilated area for about four weeks. Carefully remove the leaves from the stems and store whole until ready for use.