Don’t Let a Single Tasty Leaf Go to Waste!
Basil is arguably one of the most flavorful culinary herbs. Not only is it a great garnish to many meals, but it is super easy to grow each year too. Many people consider it to be an essential herb in their summer garden.
With its ease of use and access, growing bundles of basil and preserving them is one of the smartest ways to use basil all season long. But do you know exactly how to preserve basil?
Luckily you can get its fresh taste long after the growing season ends. There are many ways to preserve this delectable herb. Today, I am going to show you how to preserve basil using 4 of my favorite methods. The best part? You have everything you need right at home to try out these 4 methods.
Before you plan out how to preserve basil, you will first need to harvest it. Like all herbs, the best time to harvest basil is in the morning. During the early hours, the essential oils of the herb are the strongest.
Wait until the morning dew has dried and before the heat of the afternoon sun has set in to begin harvesting your bundles. If you want to use just a couple of leaves, then it really doesn’t matter when you harvest it.
Before you start the preservation process, you will need to make sure that the basil leaves have been cleaned thoroughly. The previous night, spend a minute and give the plant a good hosing off.
Pay close attention to loosening dirt and any insects that might be lurking on the leaves. After hosing, leave your basil to dry. The next morning, your plants will be dry, dust and bug-free, and ready for home preservation.
Make Basil Infused Olive Oil
- 1 cup extra virgin oil (premium quality)
- ¼ cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves, stems removed
- 2 garlic cloves, blanched (optional)
- 1 tsp dried basil (optional)
- red pepper flakes (optional)
Wash the basil and let it dry. Make sure that there isn’t any water left on it (pat it dry if necessary) so that you won’t introduce any moisture into the oil which might reduce its shelf life. Place the basil and extra virgin olive oil into a double boil and slowly warm the oil for 30 to 60 minutes on the lowest temperature setting.
Do not let the oil to heat up. You are not supposed to cook the basil. You just want the olive oil to be slowly infused with the goodness in the basil. The longer you keep the infused oil on the stove the stronger its flavor will be.
Allow everything to cool and strain the basil. Put the basil oil in an amber glass bottle and store for one year. If you like you can add one teaspoon of dried basil to the oil, 2 garlic cloves (blanched), and pepper flakes to taste for decoration and extra flavor. It is critical for the storage container to be made of glass as you don’t want the toxic chemicals in plastic to leech into your heavenly delicious herb infused oil.
Pro tip: You may leave the add-ons out (the garlic, red pepper flakes, and dried basil) and focus on choosing a premium quality extra virgin olive oil brand and freshly picked basil. The quality of these two basic ingredients has the strongest say when it comes to the quality of the end result.
The Mediterranean cuisine, from which this herb oil was inspired, relies on few and very simple ingredients that also happen to be very fresh and of high quality. Experienced chefs can confirm that the key to a tasty and filling dish is the outstanding quality of the ingredients.
Related: How to Make an Herb Infused Oil
Make Basil & Olive Oil Cubes
Once you have harvested your basil leaves and they are washed and dry, you can begin preserving them using the freezing method. When you preserve them in the freezer, your basil leaves will remain fresh even when you cook with.
To start the freezing preservation process, you will need to cut the leaves into small, yet rough pieces. Once chopped, place the basil into ice cube trays. I usually like to place about one tablespoon of fresh leaves in each section. You can add as much as you like, but it is best to portion it out in relation to how much basil you usually cook with.
Next, you will want to pack the chopped basil down as best you can. Then, pour Extra Virgin Olive oil over the leaves. Place the whole tray into the freezer for a few hours. Once your cubes have solidified, remove them and place them into a freezer safe container for storage. Storing them this way will allow you to pick out the basil cubes as you need them when you cook.
When it comes to the easiest way of how to preserve basil, freezing basil cubes is certainly the easiest way to go. This is a wonderful way to have fresh basil all year round for your cooking needs. I personally find this method to be so convenient. Just the other day, I used a few cubes to sauté zucchini, onions, and tomatoes for dinner. As expected, it came out perfectly!
Preserve Basil by Salt Drying
Another one of the best ways of how to preserve basil is by salt drying.
You can use regular table salt, but I personally prefer using sea salt. Susan Belsinger, in her basil article at Herb Society, recommends layering sea salt and basil leaves in a glass pint jar with a plastic lid and storing it in the refrigerator. This method will allow your basil leaves to stay fresh and last until the next harvest season.
The process is super simple. You will want to start with a clean, dry container. Mason jars can work perfectly for this. Next, place an inch of salt in the bottom of the jar. Alternate layering clean, dry, whole basil leaves and salt until the jar is full. The salt will draw out moisture from the leaves and take on the flavor of the herb you are using.
When you are ready to use the basil, you will simply take leaves out as you need them. Be sure to brush off the salt first so that you do not over salt your dish.
The leaves are not the only thing you can use with this method. Because the salt has drawn out the moisture from the leaves, you can use the salt as well. Use the salt to season everything from soups, sauces, and even sprinkle it over vegetables.
You can even take this method a step further and make a blended herbal salt. Simply place the seasoned salt and leaves and place them in a food processor. Grind them until you have a seasoned salt mixture to use in your dishes.
The leaves will last, preserved in salt, for several months – so this is best used as an end of season extender.
Preserve Basil by Dehydrating
This last method is another one of my favorite ways of how to preserve basil. Dehydrating is a great way to extend your harvest. But because basil leaves are tender, you must get them into the dehydrator quickly in order to minimize wilt.
To dehydrate your basil, you will want to begin by cleaning and drying your leaves. You should not chop or disassemble the plants either, dehydrated them whole. When you are laying the leaves, they can be touching each other on the trays.
You will want to use a temperature of between 95°F and 115°F to dehydrate. You will know that they are ready with the leaves are completely dry and crumbly to the touch. The temperature may need to be increased to 125°F on humid days.
Store your dehydrated basil out of direct sunlight. It is best to place the leaves in plastic or glass jars in the pantry. To retain as much of the flavor as possible, keep the leaves whole until you are ready to use them for cooking. Remember that dried herbs have a more intense flavor, so use 1/3 less dried herbs than fresh herbs in your recipe.
Final Thoughts on How to Preserve Basil
Learning how to preserve basil really can be as simple as growing it. If you are unsure where to start, then try out these 4 simple ways to preserve basil after the harvest. Whether you make basil & olive oil cubes or basil oil for quick saute, salt dried basil, or place the leaves in a dehydrator for safekeeping, you can be assured of the taste of fresh basil for months to come.
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