Clearing out the herb bed for fall, we found ourselves inundated with basil, which can be a problem if you aren’t prepared. Fresh basil doesn’t keep very well and will typically start to turn gray after only a day or two in the fridge.
Drying is the easiest way to preserve your harvest, but it isn’t enough to hang it like you would do with most fresh herbs – you’ll need the help of an oven. To dry basil, spread the washed and dried basil leaves in a single layer on a parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet and put them in the oven for two hours @ 170 degrees. The leaves should crumble in your hands when they are done. We store our dried basil in large tea-tins in a cool, dry place.
Since it doesn’t take much dried basil to last until next fall, we use the majority of our basil harvest for pesto. The ingredients for pesto are found in most kitchens, and the process is fast and simple when you have a large food processor handy. You’ll need:
- 3 packed cups of washed and dried basil leaves
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 3 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- In a large food processor, add all ingredients except the basil and the oil.
- Gradually add the basil and pulse ingredients to make room for all of the basil.
- Slowly add the olive oil while blending. Continue blending for 15 seconds after adding all of the oil.
This recipe is for a 6 cup food processor and will have to be multiplied many times if your basil harvest is like ours! Once you have your pesto hoard established, you need to freeze it. I do not recommend canning pesto! There are many ways to conveniently freeze pesto, but my preference is to use ice-cube trays to freeze cubes of pesto and then vacuum-seal 2 cubes per bag for long-term storage in the freezer. This will keep your pesto fresh for a longer time, and as an added convenience, the recipe above fills exactly one ice-cube tray.
Basil is perhaps my favorite herb, and there is nothing quite like knowing I have a year’s supply of pesto and dried basil that I produced in my own backyard and kitchen. Now, may the Lord bless you with the same blessing!