Basil is one of the more versatile herbs and it’s easy to grow. The big problem is that fresh basil does not last very long and is not available year-round in many places. In order to get around this, there are a number of tricks that you can use to preserve your basil.
Make basil ice cubes
One of basil’s characteristics is the fact that it does not withstand long cooking times as well as other herbs like thyme and oregano. As a result, you will want to incorporate it closer to the end of the cooking time. One of the best ways to store it in order to facilitate easy addition to a dish is to make basil cubes.
As your dish approaches the end of its cooking time, you can simply pop out a basil cube and toss it in without having to thaw it first. Make basil cubes by chopping the leaves finely by hand or in a food processor. Add enough olive oil or water to coat the leaves until what you have is a paste. Try for a ratio of one part oil or water to four parts basil. Place the paste into an ice cube tray and freeze thoroughly before transferring to freezer bags.
Blanch and freeze
The enzymes that cause vegetation to decay are on basil leaves and will cause them to break down even in the freezer. Blanching helps to get rid of them while also ensuring that the herb keeps its bright green color.
Blanch your basil by dipping the leaves into boiling water until they wilt and then placing them in ice water immediately. The result that the leaves cool quickly without too much flavor being lost because of the heat. Dry the leaves and place them in freezer bags and then into the freezer. Try to keep the leaves flat to make it easier to remove what you need.
Use the cut-flower method
You can store basil in a container of water in your refrigerator just like cut flowers in a vase. Simply snip off the dead ends of the stems since these cannot absorb water, then place the bunch upright in a glass jar or similar container. Cover the leaves and the mouth of the container with a plastic bag and place in your refrigerator. This method can keep your basil looking green and fresh for a week or longer.
Roll up in paper towels
You can use paper towels to keep your basil fresh while also conserving space in your refrigerator. Wash your basil leaves in a colander or salad spinner. Place the leaves on damp paper towels and roll them up. Place the rolls into a zip lock bag. You can then store your basil in your refrigerator as you would spinach or other salad greens.
Dry the herb
Drying your basil solves the problem of the herb’s short shelf life and its inability to keep its flavor when cooked for long periods. While dried basil does not have the brightness and intensity of the fresh herb, it is still effective for many applications. Note that because the leaves contain a lot of water, it is important to dry them quickly to keep mold from developing.
There are three effective ways to dry basil leaves:
The easiest method is simply to air dry them. Bind the stems together to make a bunch and place the bunch in a paper bag. Cut holes in the bag with a knife for ventilation and hang in a dark room.
The next way is to use a food dehydrator. Set your dehydrator to the setting that the manufacturer has indicated for herbs. This will typically be about 90 degrees. Dry the basil until the leaves are brittle. Both the leaves and the stems should break without bending.
The third method is to use a microwave. Place the leaves on paper towels and microwave in 60-second increments. Check every sixty seconds to remove dry leaves to keep them from burning.