Ever wondered about freezing culinary herbs such as basil? If so, I have good news for you – that’s not only possible, but quite a few people do it on a pretty regular basis. Of course you can choose to dry basil leaves, that will also allow you to keep basil for a long period of time, but if you would like to keep it fresh, freezing is the way to go.
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How to freeze basil
Let’s start by washing basil leaves under running water and then drying them thoroughly. Make sure you remove any stems and discard leaves that aren’t looking green and fresh. Now it’s time to choose one of the methods described below.
Freezing whole basil leaves
If you wish, you can basically just take prepared leaves, put them into a freezer bag and into the freezer, but the results you’ll get won’t be that great (e.g. you’ll lose some of that fresh green color). To help basil leaves make it through the freezing process in better form, many people blanches it. Blanching helps with preserving color and taste of the herb when frozen and thawed. Nevertheless, it’s optional.
Image used under Creative Commons from zoyachubby
How to blanch basil leaves? It’s quite simple. Bring a pot of water to a boil and transfer the leaves into the boiling water for about 15-20 seconds (leaves are very thin, so they don’t need much time). Immediately after that you need to cool the leaves. A pot or sink of cold water and possibly some ice cubes will do that for you. After that dry the leaves thoroughly.
Pre-freezing is optional step in the process. If you’ll decide to give it a shot, you’ll be able to scoop as many basil leaves from a freezer bag as you need at a time. That’s because the leave won’t glue with each other if there are pre-frozen. How to pre-freeze basil leaves? For starters, take a baking sheet (you can line it with parchment paper if you want to) and transfer the leaves onto it. Make sure leaves don’t touch each other. Now it’s time to put this cookie sheet into the freezer. Keep it in there until all leaves are frozen (that shouldn’t take more than a few hours). Now take the frozen leaves from the freezer, they’re ready to be packed.
If you’ve made it this far, it’s time to put the leaves into freezer bags. If you’ve pre-frozen them, it doesn’t really matter how many you’ll put in each bag because you’ll be able to easily scoop just a few leaves from the bag. If you haven’t, try to put into each bag as many leaves as you’ll need at a time or put few leaves into a smaller bag and then those smaller bags into a larger one. Before sealing the bag make sure to remove as much air from it as possible to avoid freezer burn. Label the bag and put it into the freezer.
Freezing chopped basil
As you’ve probably figured out, the first thing to do in this method is actually chopping the basil. Now take an ice-cube tray, add some water or oil into each spot and then add chopped basil. Once you’ve added this chopped herb, fill each cube with water or oil (depending on what you’ve chosen previously). Now it’s time to put the tray into the freezer. Keep it in there until ice-cubes with basil inside are ready. Once they are, take the ice-cube tray from the freezer and transfer ice-cubes into a freezer bag. Squeeze the air, seal it and put into the freezer. Done.
One thing worth remembering – if you’ve decided to freeze basil in oil, make sure you put the tray into the freezer immediately after preparation. Storing basil in oil in room (or even fridge) temperature is a botulism risk.
Other useful information on freezing basil
It’s recommended to not keep the basil in the freezer for more than half a year due to quality loss. If you plan to store it in the freezer only for a month or two, you can omit blanching. If you want to use that basil in a cooked dish, you can add it directly from the freezer, without thawing.
As you can see freezing basil isn’t that difficult and there at least two ways that can be done. I encourage you to test out both of them to figure out which one works best for your needs.