FRESH BASIL: How to Use Up All (Or At Least Some Of) That End-of-the-Season Goodness
Updated: Oct 17, 2020
Two weekends ago I noticed that our single lonely basil plant had unexpectedly exploded into this giant, lush, fragrant bush. It’s like basil on steroids, and it literally takes up half of one raised bed planter! (Hello, it’s mid-October! Where were you, basil, in August, when all our gorgeous tomatoes were ripening??). Suddenly we have more basil than we know what to do with.
So, how to preserve all this lovely bounty? I hate to waste it, and our freezer is already packed with jars of tomato sauce with basil. So here are a few other ways I'm going to use it.
Best Ways to Preserve Fresh Basil:
1. Pesto, obviously
It’s easy and uses a fair amount of basil; you can make it in quantity and freeze it; it’s a nice holiday or hostess gift. I’ve often used this recipe from Simply Recipes https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/fresh_basil_pesto/.
2. Julienned, covered with olive oil and frozen into half-pint jars/small ice cube trays.
Add to soups, stews, beans, crostata, pasta or sauces. Just scoop a small spoonful from the jar and stir into your dish. It's also nice as a garnish on a finished dish. If using ice-cube trays, pop the frozen cubes out and store in a ziplock bag. This is a good way to preserve the fresh taste and color of the herb.
3. Basil Vinegar
Fill a sterilized jar about half full of basil leaves—the more leaves, the stronger the flavor, and the less time needed to steep. Use a wooden spoon to gently bruise the leaves to release the flavorful oils. Pour white wine over, submerging the herb. Cover with a tight lid or plastic wrap and let steep in a dark cupboard for 1-2 weeks. Taste occasionally until it reaches your desired flavor. Strain and decant into another sterilized, lidded jar. You can add a fresh stem of basil for decoration. The herbed vinegar will last for up to 6 months.
-Use in vinaigrettes, on salads, cocktails
-Wash basil and pat dry before using in any of these recipes.
-You can also add dried chiles, and peeled garlic cloves with the basil.
-I like to use white wine or rice vinegar for the smoother flavor, but red wine vinegar, raw apple cider vinegar or plain white vinegar are all fine.
-Some recipes suggest using hot vinegar—that works, too.
-Avoid using metal utensils or lids—they can react with the vinegar.
4. Basil Infused Vodka or Basil Infused Gin
Infusing vodka or gin with basil is virtually the same process as making Basil Vinegar (or for that matter, Cucumber-Dill Infused Vodka (see my recipe for this at https://www.asweetsavorylife.com/post/cucumber-dill-infused-vodka-and-cocktails-to-make-with-it. Just substitute vodka or gin for the vinegar, refrigerate, and begin checking it after two or three days. When the flavor is perfect, strain and decant. Keep refrigerated.
-You can even add some dried chiles and garlic for a different flavor. Imagine how tasty a Bloody Mary made with Basil, Chili and Garlic Infused Vodka would be!!
-Alternatively, infuse vodka with basil and strawberries for a sweeter flavor.
-We tried a Gin Basil Smash made with Basil Infused Gin, using this recipe from The Kitchen Magpie (https://www.thekitchenmagpie.com/how-to-make-a-gin-basil-smash/). It was delicious, but beware: it calls for 4 ounces of gin per cocktail! I would serve this as two drinks.
5. Cut and give massive amounts to friends!