Herb gardeners everywhere know the joys and benefits of freezing basil. It is one of the most wonderfully tasty and aromatic of herbs, and very easy to grow, thriving most effortlessly in warm regions. Plants are grown by the dozens or the hundreds and are too valuable to toss back into the compost bin, so if they cannot be eaten fresh, they best preserved in the freezer. There are a few tried-and-true methods for doing this.
Harvest and Cleaning of the Leaves
All methods involve pinching off the leaves and leaving the stems behind, as they do nothing to enhance the flavor or the texture. Some people insist on blanching the leaves in boiling water for approximately fifteen seconds before plunging them into a big bowl of ice water. Others (who are undoubtedly concerned about the potential loss of vital oils) simply wash them gently but thoroughly in water (preferably filtered) and dry them on paper towels, mixing them around occasionally until they are thoroughly dry.
Again, there are varied methods for chopping the leaves, depending on what one plans to do with them (soups accommodate larger pieces, whereas vinaigrettes need smaller pieces, and pesto sauces need a texture closer to a paste). Finely chopping them in a food processor is most common, and versatile. Fill the processor with leaves. Many people add a few tablespoons of olive oil, which compliments essentially everything that the basil would be intended for. Some people use a bit of water instead, but oil is the preferred choice for maintaining flavor within the leaves themselves, and though it can look cloudier, the richness is wonderful.
There are three primary options for storage when freezing fresh basil: firm plastic containers, plastic bags, and ice cube trays. Choose according to freezer design or intended use. Cubes are very convenient if one measures one tablespoon of basil per cube. Firm plastic containers can be fully packed and (keeping in mind the capacity of each) can be added to large pots of stew or converted to pesto sauce without further measure. Plastic bags are a bit messier, and a bit sloppier in appearance, but they work.
Whichever method is chosen, the benefits of freezing basil are worth every bit of time and effort. The process is simple, and the reward is a fresh taste to which dried herbs cannot be compared. Herb gardeners everywhere can attest to this.