I love all fresh herbs but basil is my favorite! I use it in more recipes than any other herb. Plus it is so easy to grow. I cut and use it throughout the year, but when the temperatures start to drop, it is time to harvest all that is left. Basil is an annual herb so it does not come back the next year. You need to replant it every spring. And since it is sensitive to the cold, you need to harvest your basil plants before the first frost. But what do you do with all that basil at the end of the growing season? Here are several ways to preserve basil so you can use it all year long!
Ways to Preserve Basil
Collect your basil and bring inside. Make sure to wash it well with cold water and lay it on a paper towel to dry or use a salad spinner. I had so much basil I ended up doing this in batches. Now you can choose from these three different methods to preserve your basil!
Probably the most popular method to store your basil over the winter is to dry it. Herbs you have dried yourself are stronger in flavor than what you can buy in the grocery store. The difference is shocking! You can go about drying your herbs a few different ways. A dehydrator is a great way to dry the herbs. Lay them on the racks and adjust the temperature to the herb setting (about 100 degrees). My dehydrator is usually full of fruit in the fall so I like to gather a few stems and tie them together using twine or string. I simple hang them up in a cool dry place until they are completely dried out. I feel like that is the easiest way.
I have heard you can also dry them in your oven on the lowest heat setting with the door left slightly open. I have never personally tried that since it seems like it could potentially dry to fast and cook too much. The dry basil leaves can be stored in a mason jar or other airtight container. Store basil in a dark cool place out of the sun.
In the past, drying was the only way I used to preserve basil, but I never ended up using all of the dried basil since there was so much of it. In recent years I have started doing these next preservation methods in addition to drying.
Dried basil is yummy but it doesn't taste the same as fresh basil and I still found myself buying fresh basil at the store in the winter for certain recipes. But freezing basil helps keep that fresh taste! You can't simply freeze basil on its own however. You will need to add olive oil.
You can add the leaves to ice cube trays or small silicone molds and then pour enough olive oil in to cover the leaves. Then simply pop into the freezer! Once frozen, you can remove the basil cubes or disks from the tray and store in a freezer bag or containers in the freezer.
My favorite way to freeze basil is to make up some pesto and freeze the pesto. Add the fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil in the food processor and blend. Once the pesto is made, I add it to my silicone molds and freeze. If you don't have molds, you can also place it on parchment paper. I do it this way because a lot of my recipes call for basil pesto as a garnish verses a sauce. But if I want it over pasta as a sauce, I can just use more of them.
You can also just add it to a plastic bag or freezer-safe container. It freezes beautifully and when thawed, it tasted like you just made it! It even retains that beautiful bright green color. Enjoy that fresh flavor during the winter months!
This is something new I just learned about last year. Herb flavored salt! To make this yummy seasoning, add equal parts basil and salt to a food processor and blend until it looks like, well, green salt! I prefer Redmond Real salt but you can use your preferred brand and type.
Since the fresh leaves have a high moisture content, you will need to dry it out before storing. Pour it onto a parchment line baking sheet and bake at 170 degrees fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Let it completely cool down and ensure it is all the way dry before adding it to your storage container of choice. It would be yummy in homemade tomato soup, sprinkled on avocado toast, or used to season pretty much any Italian recipe. I want to make rosemary salt next!
If you don't currently grow any herbs, I would suggest trying to grow basil! You don't even have to start it from seed. You can buy small plants at nurseries and they grow well in large containers. Make sure they get full sun. Cooking with fresh herbs will change your cooking life! I have a whole post about growing herbs you can check out. Herb gardens are a great addition to your yard or patio.
If you do grow basil, what is your favorite way to preserve it? Let me know in the comments :)
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