Three Simple Ways to Save Basil

Fresh Basil

This time of year I am looking to preserve as many herbs as I can, to enjoy year round. Basil is one of my favorites. I grow, and use, a lot of it. I am doing a major harvest of basil today. Some will be frozen in olive oil, some dried, and some added to vinegar.

None of the preservation methods is difficult. Basil can be tricky to dry, though. Unlike a lot of herbs, basil does not air dry well. I have a dehydrator, but if you don’t have one, you can still dry your basil successfully. Believe it or not, you can dry basil, and other herbs, in a microwave. Directions follow.

So I am off to harvest my basil. One thing is sure- my house will smell really good today.

Freezing in Oil

To use basil in pesto sauce, dried just won’t do. You can easily freeze your basil in olive oil and have it ready whenever you want it. Just place clean basil leaves in a blender or food processor and add olive oil. It is important that you use olive oil because it freezes solid. While the machine is running pour in oil until basil is blended. I use very little oil for two reasons. It takes up less room in the freezer and I don’t need so much oil. I can add more oil when I use it, but this way if I am doing a big batch i don’t go through all my oil. Once the mixture is blended pour or spoon it into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen solid pop out the basil cubes and put in freezer bags and return to the freezer.You can also freeze chopped basil without the oil. I like it better in the oil, but I freeze other herbs by just chopping them up and freezing them.

Frozen Basil Cubes

Frozen Basil Cubes

Process basil and olive oil until smooth

Process basil and olive oil until smooth

Spoon mixture into ice cube trays and freeze

Spoon mixture into ice cube trays and freeze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Microwave Drying

If you don’t have a dehydrator you can dry herbs in your microwave. It only takes a couple of minutes per batch. Just place a handful of fresh, clean basil leaves in a linen-type kitchen towel. Fold the towel over the herbs and place in the microwave. Be sure to put a raw potato in with the herbs in the oven. If you only put the herbs in, it is like running the oven empty and can damage the microwave. Just put the potato off to the side. If you do several batches you will have a baked potato. 🙂 If you have a turntable, just cook on high for 2 minutes. Check and see if they are dry- you might need a little more time. I need about 2 1/2 minutes in my microwave. Better to put them in for 15 more seconds at a time than to over dry them. If you don’t have a turntable microwave on high for a minute. After the first minute turn the herbs 1/4 turn and cook 15 seconds, turn again and cook another 15 seconds. Repeat four times in all. You can dry other herbs in the microwave. Small leaved herbs like thyme are done even faster. Remove the herbs from the oven and allow them to cool. check if they are dry enough and return, wrapped to cook longer if needed. Store in containers in a cool place.

Microwave dried basil on the left and fresh basil on the right

Microwave dried basil on the left and fresh basil on the right

Place fresh basil on a towel and fold towel over the herbs

Place fresh basil on a towel and fold towel over the herbs

Place in microwave with a potato

Place in microwave with a potato

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All microwaves are different. Some will take longer and some even less time. Watch your herbs carefully. While I have never seen it happen I was told once that theoretically, they could catch on fire if left in too long. Urban legend perhaps, but just be careful.

 

 

Herb Vinegar

When I grow basil, I try to keep the blossoms pinched off. Better for leaf production. But by this time of year some are blooming. Rather than dumping the blossoms you can use them to flavor vinegar. Just snip off the blossoms and place them in a sterilized bottle or jar. Use several sprigs of basil flowers for every 2 cups of vinegar. Make sure the vinegar is at least 5% acidity. I like to use different vinegars for different herbs. I often use cider vinegar, red wine vinegar (for purple basil)  and white wine vinegar. Leaves can be used, too. Vinegar should be heated up to 190 degrees- or just below the boiling point.  Close up the jar and store in a cool place (50-70 degrees) for a couple of weeks. Before using  strain out the herbs and filter- I use coffee filters  or you could use cheese cloth. Store in a pretty bottle, if you have one. They can be kept for up to a year when stored in the fridge.

Basil blossoms in vinegar

Basil blossoms in vinegar

Snip off basil blossoms

Snip off basil blossoms

Place blossoms in a jar or bottle

Place blossoms in a jar or bottle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Release: