Homesteading for the Inept Part 2: Freezing Herbs


Last year, I lamented the waste of my basil and other herbs that we planted in our beta-test patch of “OMG can we actually grow food-like things?!”in the  front lawn flower garden of our former house. See, the basil and cilantro etc was sooooo abundant that I figured it would never end. So “Grasshopper and the Ant” of me. (If you don’t get this reference, Google it. I didn’t make it up!)   And when the first teensy, weensy cold-ish snap hit, they all got ruined.  From buoyant to beat in one day.  

Fast forward to our current house, where we had such a great crop of basil, garlic chives, and onion chives, (yes, the last two are completely different in flavor and look) in our urban organic microfarm (aka dirt patch in a tiny city garden) that I didn’t want to repeat my waste mistake! I decided to take a stab at applying my Fake Fast-Freezing principles to save the summer flavors of my harvest. 

After researching,  I determined that there were three ways of doing this to save my herbs for use in winter:

1.  Chopped up in an oil and frozen 

2. Chopped up in water and frozen 

3. Chopped up and frozen loose

Now, #3 Chopped Up and Loose is easy:  you chop up your herbs, spread them on a parchment sheet, freeze them, and put them in an airtight container or ziplock bag.   The texture will be mush when you use them, but the flavor will be there. Fine. I will use this for my onion chives, which are hollow and tubular. (But not grody to the max. 1980s Valley girl reference…I crack myself up!)

#2 Chopped Up and In Water is easy too. You chop up your herbs and put them in ice cube trays with a little bit of water so they don’t dehydrate and freezer burn.  I will use this for my garlic chives, which are kind of thick and flat-leaved.  Perfect.  They probably won’t be that affected by the freezer and may look ok when I use them. 

#1. Chopped up and frozen in oil.  Hmmmm….this would indicate that I want to use oil everytime I cook something with this herb. Usually basil and olive oil are besties. Looks like a great opportunity for the basil! 

FREEZING FRESH BASIL IN OIL 
Ingredients:

Basil

High-Quality olive oil 

EQUIPMENT

–  salad spinner 

– a blender of some sort

– a spoon

–  ice cube trays

INSTRUCTIONS


1. Wash your basil leaves in a salad spinner. (This may have to be done more than once depending on how much dirt keeps appearing in the spinner water). Leave the stems out.   


2. Put your basil leaves in the blender. For each once cup of basil leaves, you will use 1 tbsp of quality oil.  I used a cloudy, extra-virgin olive oil hand-pressed from a farmer in Italy.  Not because I’m a foodie, but because my husband’s best friend’s uncle was said farmer and he came to visit my husband’s friend.  And brought his olive oil.  Which my husband’s friend shared with us.  


3.  Purée the fresh basil leaves and olive oil mixture. You will have to scrape down the sides of the blender several times. 


4. Spoon the puréed mixture shallowly into ice cube trays.  Why do I say “shallowly”? Did you look at the huge amount of basil that turned into the tiny amount purée?  Yowza! That’s ultra-concentrated! You’re looking to enhance your sauces and meals with fresh basil flavor, not overpower them). 


5. Place the ice cube trays in the freezer. They’ll be frozen in 2 hours.  


6.  Slide the li’l frozen pucks into a Ziploc bag and put away in the freezer for later use.  

There.  Done. You now have fresh-captured pucks of instant olive oil/basil infusions for the upcoming sad winter months ahead.  Use to upscale your Alfredo sauce or whatever you want.  

A good rule of thumb for oil-freezing herbs is to use herbs that you’d normally use with oil in your recipe anyways. That way it will always work, and you may even save a step. Which is never a bad idea. 

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