How to Freeze Fresh Basil
Why Freeze Basil
A few months ago my husband came back from our neighbors with three small twigs of a local type of basil. He pushed them in the ground, and we waited. After losing all their leaves and turning brown, we thought they had died. Until one day, a new green leaf appeared. Now, from that precarious start, the basil has taken over at least half of a six-foot raised bed.
We are now coming up to our wet season here in the tropics, and I am not certain what will happen to this plant. Although our temperature year round is a constant, we get heavy rains. Because of this, I have decided to cut some of the basil leaves and freeze them just in case I can't use the fresh.
Now that you know why I want to freeze it, let me show you how I did this.
How to Cut Basil Leaves
I have a pair of good kitchen scissors that I use, but depending on the thickness of the stalks of your basil plant, you may opt to use secateurs. I take an aggressive approach when I cut back plants and the basil is no different. Because my basil had started to flower, I used this time to cut off some flowers at the same time. The flowers I just discarded in the flower bed to rot down. I was cutting off the stem as I wanted the wider leaves that were below the flowers. I was cutting and pinching this basil plant for about 15 minutes and after removing a colander packed full, you couldn't even tell I had been cutting the plant. It is still so bushy!
Hands down, my kitchen scissors are my most valued kitchen tool. Notice I didn't say gadget because they are a tool. Not only do I use them to cut my basil, but also raw or cooked chicken. I feel I have more control with these than using a knife or a cleaver which just send chicken bits flying.
Trimming up meat, and removing sinew and gristle on beef is more precise with these.
I am still surprised by how often I reach for these shears where before I would have opted for a knife.
I am such a fan, I have started giving these as gifts to people I know.
Removing the Leaves
Once inside the house, I began to pull the leaves off the stems. The easiest way I found to do that was by holding the smallest end and running my fingers down the stem. This is the opposite way to how the plant grows and the leaves come off quickly. I didn't worry about a few stragglers left on the stem because if I need more, there's a lot left in the garden.
I continued doing this until they were all removed. I would like to mention, if you plan on using this for when you have guests, you may want to be more thorough than I was. You'll see why in a second.
Removing the stem took away less volume than I thought and I still had a colander full. Now was the time to wash the leaves. For this, you can either leave them in a colander, as I did or if you have a salad spinner you could use that.
Here on our farm, we don't use chemical sprays on our plants but if you do, make sure you wash your basil thoroughly. Shake off as much water as possible.
Using a Food Processor to Chop Basil
For the chopping, I used a food processor but you could use a blender or even chopped it by hand. Whatever works best for you.
Because basil leaves are soft, I used the lowest speed until the leaves on top had been pulled down towards the blade and been chopped. Then I turned it a few notches higher. I didn't want a puree, just chopped smaller. If you prefer to have a smooth mixture, continue until your mixture reaches the consistency you prefer.
I returned the chopped leaves back to the bowl so I could add some oil. This could be done either in the food processor or as I did, return the leaves to a bowl and then add the oil. You'll want to use about 1 Tablespoon for each cup of chopped leaves. Obviously, olive oil is the best choice but if you don't have that, use what you have. Think of the types of dishes you plan to use the basil in as a guide. If you will be normally using your basil in rich Italian tomato-based sauces or a pesto, then olive oil would be an excellent choice. I used 2 Tablespoons one was olive oil and the other was soy.
Once you have mixed it thoroughly you can begin to fill your ice cube trays. My trays are small, so I used a teaspoon. Pack it down so that when it freezes together you have a cube shape.
Depending on your freezer you may need to make modifications to this. I have a smallish freezer compartment and it doesn't always freeze solid. What could happen is that your basil may fall apart and not come out as a cube. This can still be put into a resealable bag and used as needed. If you want a cube shape you can top off each ice cube tray with water. So you will have a basil ice cube. If you opt to do this, allow for the small amount of water which will accompany your basil in your recipe.
As you can see in the image, I have frozen two trays, one with a little water and one without. The loose frozen basil will give me more control over how much I am using.
Bagging Your Basil
Now that you have your basil frozen, you should take it out of the trays to store it in freezer bags. The benefit of doing that is it's protected from absorbing smells from other items in your freezer. Resealable bags are your best option.
Your frozen basil will be good for up to a 1 year.
Although the color and the taste aren't the same as using fresh basil from your garden, it's an economical way of adding flavor to your meals.
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Mary Wickison