Monday, May 18, 2015
I always have more fresh basil than I can use from my little pots on the deck. Every year I think "I need to find a way that works to preserve this basil"! Yet, I never do. Either bugs or the first cold snap gets them and I start over the next Spring. Drying has never garnered a happy result and none of the other "saver" systems seem to work for me.
This year, I bought some plastic ice cube trays from the dollar store and tried the "freeze in olive oil" method I'd heard of in the past.
The unfortunate thing was the ice cube trays were hard plastic. When I banged them to get the olive oil and basil ice cubes out - the trays cracked and broke. I was able to get the cubes out with a sharp knife along the edge - but lesson learned. If you want to try this, get some soft plastic ice cube trays that bend so you may twist and pop out the end product...otherwise, you will be throwing away the ice cube trays!
I did these a few weeks ago and didn't take pictures, but it was a really easy process. I harvested all of the basil that had new growth starting - my plants looked bare, except for the baby leaves, but they have already filled out again (per the photo at the top) and it will be time to harvest again very soon. I'm always pinching them back so they don't flower and seed as well.
Once I had my "harvest" - which was the amount of a loosely packed freezer size Ziploc bag - I brought them in and rough chopped on the cutting board. I equally divided the chopped basil between each ice cube compartment and added olive oil to fill just below the edge of the compartment. I placed the ice cube tray on a small baking sheet and popped it into the freezer and left it over night.
The next day I took them out and began the previously mentioned debacle of getting them out of the ice cube tray. I did realize that the longer I messed with them, the more the warmth of my hands began to melt the olive oil, which allowed some to slide right out. They did eventually all come out, but then I had leaky olive oil cubes. I refroze on the baking sheet for about thirty minutes to take care of the warmed olive oil and then quickly transferred them to the quart-sized Ziploc freezer bag for storage.
I'm so pleased with the outcome. I'm using a couple of these for the first time as I make a new Marinara Sauce recipe. I'll post the link as soon as I finish writing the post! For now - this was a viable way to preserve my Spring and Summer basil harvest. I envision popping these cubes into various food preparations calling for both olive oil and basil! Love having an option beyond dried basil in my food supplies! (I also think you can do pesto this way - but I haven't tried it...YET!)
Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!