“Karen- reading your most recent post on freezing swiss chard…how would I freeze fresh basil to keep for use in the winter months. I live in Pennsylvania and winter months are a drab!
I don’t know. Stop bothering me.
Of course I couldn’t leave it at that because I know how Lori feels. I’ve tried preserving basil before, always with disastrous results. If you freeze it, it goes black, if you dry it … well it’s dried basil. Not fresh basil.
So I headed over to my trusty Facebook page where (unlike Twitter) I always get a response, and posed the question. How do you preserve fresh basil? Also … do you think I should kiss Anderson Cooper on the nose if I should ever meet him.
I got a LOT of responses, most of which suggested shaking hands instead.
As far as the basil goes, chopping up the basil, putting it in ice cube trays then filling the trays with either olive oil or water and freezing was the #1 suggestion. Then when you need basil is frozen, just pop them out of the ice cube trays, put them in a baggie. When you need fresh basil, just grab a cube and add them to your concoction.
I have done this before, and it does taste like fresh basil, but there’s something slightly grotesque about it. The basil still goes really dark, looks completely unappetizing and not at all like something Anderson Cooper would approve of.
One reader however, had a suggestion that really intrigued me. It’s based on the French way of preserving herbs, which is to dry them in salt. You take a container (the wider the better) and lay down a single layer of basil (or whatever herb). Then you cover the herb with a layer of Kosher or Sea Salt. Single layer your herb, and layer with salt. Repeat until your container is full or your herbs are gone. Refrigerate.
Karen Klein-Schaffer told me she takes it one step further by filling the container with olive oil at the end.
Since my basil plants were on their last, spindly legs, I took them out, removed all the leaves and gave the last two methods a try. I wanted to get it done quickly enough that you could salvage your basil plants and try the method this year.
No one posted a picture of the after though. Maybe because after just 5 days the fresh basil looks like this …
I have no doubt it tastes like fresh basil, but I still wasn’t getting the FRESH basil leaves I wanted. Leaves for topping pizzas after they’ve cooked. Leaves for Caprese salad. Leaves for regular old salad.
This little experiment has led to two conclusions.
One. If you want fresh basil for the winter, buy a countertop basil plant, keep it alive as long as you possibly can and when it dies throw it out and buy another one.
Two. I’m definitely gonna go with the kiss on the nose.