3 Tips on How to Preserve Fresh Basil
For me one of the most annoying things in the kitchen is how quickly fresh herbs go bad, no matter what I do they always seem to last just 2 to 3 days… but how can you use an entire bag or bunch of fresh herbs in 3 days???
I have used different methods, wrapping them in a damp kitchen paper and keeping them in the fridge, sealing the bag after use, chopping them and keeping them in oil, and others, but nothing seem to work, they either loose their aroma and flavour or wilt anyway.
Another option is of course plant them so they keep fresh, aromatic and flavoursome for the most time, but, most herbs have one life cycle per sowing, meaning after their life cycle is over you will still need to sow them again and wait until the leaves come out and are ready for use like Coriander or Parsley, and this process can easily take even a month depending on the herb… plus if you haven’t got a garden like in my case there is so much window cill space I can use…
But as for the shop bought herbs it doesn’t help that almost all fresh herbs sold in shops and supermarket are old and sold with their decomposition process started, yes! As you heard!! How do I know this? Easy.. have you ever notice water inside the herb bag when you buy it in the supermarket? Yes? Well, water means that the herb/fruit/veg has started to decompose, meaning its fresh days are soon over, this is why herbs and veg last very little in your fridge.
Another indicator specially when you buy herbs by the bunch, i.e. not bagged is when the leafs are “wilted”, sad, dark coloured and simply lifeless.
I understand that for shops keeping fresh herbs fresh is quite a big problem because by their own nature herbs have a very short “fresh lifetime” once they have been cut, and once a shop or supermarket buys certain quantity they have to sell it for as long as possible… This is why I decided to put into practice the Italian way of preserving Basil specifically and share it with all of you so we can use it for longer rather than throw it away after 2 or 3 days..
The reason I decided to focus on the Basil rather than any other herb is because Basil is the herb that most represents the Meditation cuisine. With its unmistakable aroma is the herb that specially in Italy we cannot leave without, as it gives freshness, flavour and colour to many Mediterranean dishes and in some ways defines Italian cuisine.
So here are 3 ways to preserve this marvellous herb so defining of Italian cuisine:
Freeze the leaves
Remove all the leaves from their stems, wash well and dry them with kitchen paper. Once the leaves are very well dried place them flat and separated one from the other in aluminium paper and put them in the freezer for minimum 2 hours. Once they are frozen you can remove from the aluminium paper and place them in an air tight jar in the freezer. When need using take as many leaves as needed and add them directly onto your cooking. They last for several months in the freezer but cannot be used for salad or fresh dishes.
Preserve the leaves in salt
Remove all the leaves from their stems, wash well and dry them with kitchen paper until very very well dried. In a container with lid (preferable in a glass container) place one layer of leaves and add regular kitchen salt (no sea salt). Repeat the process several times adding one layer of leaves and one layer of salt finishing with a layer of salt. Close the container with its lid and leave it in a cool and dry place. The leaves will preserve as long as you need them for. Once some leaves are removed just replace by adding more salt.
Freeze a pesto base
When needed just remove one of the ice cube Basil herb mix and used as needed. It can easily be used to make a Pesto alla Genovese by defrosting and adding the rest of the ingredients or to add to your cooking directly from frozen.
Storing them in an ice cube containers means that the mix is always portioned out in equal portions and easy to use.
So these are my 3 tips for preserving Basil, of course, you can use these methods to preserve other herbs like Coriander, Parsley, Sage or other herbs of your preference.
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