Sunday, August 9, 2009

Frozen Basil, Two Ways

As someone who has never even been able to raise a healthy houseplant, I continue to be very proud of my first successful attempt at gardening, however small. And, after a big harvest for pesto a few weeks ago, my six not-so-little basils are going stronger than ever. This weekend they were already in need of another round of picking, and given that we already had a huge bag of basil from our farm share, I decided it was time to try my hand at freezing a batch for the winter.

Google "freezing basil" and you will find a wealth of options and recommendations, many of which conflict: freezing whole leaves is fine, freezing whole leaves produces black, useless husks; freeze basil in oil, freeze basil in water; freeze it in a sheet, freeze it in cubes. Each writer was as adamant in her views as the next, so I finally decided to conduct my own comparison trial.

After pulsing half of the basil in the food processor, I generously filled an ice cube tray with the chopped leaves and poured water over each one. Result: success! The cubes, which popped easily out of the tray, are full of vibrant green basil that looks as fresh as when it was picked. (Click on the picture to get a bigger, better view!)

Next, I blended the other half of the basil (about 2 cups) in the food processor with about a quarter cup of olive oil. The result was a denser mixture that filled about half as many cubes as the first batch. While not quite as pretty (the frozen oil takes on a yellowish hue) or as crisp (the cubes are a little crumbly) as the cubes of basil and water, I'm optimistic that these little nuggets will do well in pasta sauce or salad dressing a few months from now. Of course, it's hard to say which method is really the best until that time, but for now I am enjoying that fact that I have a bag full of summer flavor in my freezer, just waiting to brighten up a cold, snowy day.

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