Friday, August 19, 2011

Basil Tests

Last summer I preserved basil three ways and brought a plant indoors when the weather cooled. By January the indoor plant was suffering – most likely because I keep my home thermostat set at 66 degrees. I taste-tested the basil with cubed Nantucket Bakery’s multi-grain bread to see which way I will want to preserve basil in the future. Below are the results.

1. I blanched the basil, chopped it, and put it into ice cube trays. Then, I covered it with olive oil. There tended to be more oil than basil in this version. I did not like the texture or flavor of this; it tended to taste too much like bitter olive oil.

2. I froze the whole leaf basil as is. I froze the leaves on trays and then transferred them to bags. For the test, I added it to olive oil to make it equal to the others. I liked the flavor and texture.

3. I chopped the basil raw and froze it in ice cube trays with olive oil. The flavor was good, but I did not like the texture.

4. This basil was from the plant that I transferred indoors for the winter. The leaves were getting smaller and thinner as time went on, and the plant did not last long after my early January taste test where I added some olive oil to chopped leaves. This version won the taste test which is easy to understand.

I have decided that I will again bring a plant indoors this fall for as long as it will tolerate the conditions. And, I will freeze some whole, raw leaves to use through the winter. Basil pesto also freezes well in ice cube trays and is delicious tossed on angel hair pasta with corn and roasted red peppers that I freeze during the summer. Below is the recipe that I use for a large batch of pesto to freeze.

Pesto to freeze:
In an electric blender, process 1-2/3 cups walnuts, 10 cloves of garlic, 1-2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2-1/2 cups parmesan, and 8 ounces of basil leaves. Spoon into ice cube trays and freeze. Pop them out and store in a bag or plastic container.

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