If you have a small garden where you plant veggies and herbs, you should be familiar with Basil. Basil is a great herb that is favored in cooked dishes and recipes. The flavor Basil adds to dishes is highly sought after in Italian and Mediterranean cuisines.
When cultivated in a controlled environment that is free from bugs or disease, Basil will keep on until the frost kills it. So, how do you preserve the herb to be enjoyed in winter soups and dishes?
Can you freeze Basil? Yes, you can. Freezing Basil prolongs the life span for about two months. The freezing action doesn’t affect the taste and flavor like drying might do but, basil tends to darken as it freezes.
However, the steps that I will explain in the latter part of this article will show you how to keep your Basil leaves fresh and green as you freeze them.
Pesto is famed for its versatility and has become a great way to imbue the flavors that herbs offer to baked goods and everyday goodies like sandwiches. It’s a great way of keeping Basil for preservation. But for those who like to experience the flavor basil brings without any additives, here’s how to freeze basil.
How to Freeze Basil
There are several ways you can freeze Basil leaves. We are going to extensively discuss each one to provide you with options, and for completeness.
- Freezing Unblanched Basil
- Freezing Blanched Basil
- Freezing Basil into Cubes
Freezing Unblanched Basil
This method requires no special equipment to be carried out. All we are doing is freezing the leaves as they are. No additives, no special processing.
Step 1: Washing and Picking the Basil Leaves
It is very important to wash or rinse any food item that we want to eat or preserve. So the first step is to wash our Basil leaves. Be careful not to squeeze the leaves as you wash them under running water, drain the leaves with a colander and leave them to air dry. You can fast track this process by drying them with a paper towel.
Step 2: Pre-freezing
Separate the leaves from their stems and discard them. The stems are of no value to you at this point. Pre-freezing the Basil leaves ensures that they do not stick together as they freeze. Making them easier to be used after freezing.
Get a baking sheet lined with wax paper and lay the dry basil leaves individually on the sheet. Leave some space in between them. Place the tray into the freezer to freeze for 12 to 24 hours.
Step 3: Storage
Immediately you bring the frozen basil leaves out of the freezer, begin to bag them. Basil leaves are thin and begin to thaw if you let them sit for too long.
Pack the leaves into airtight freezer bags, label the bags stating the contents and date of the freeze.
Freezing Blanched Basil
The blanching process is what keeps your basil leaves from darkening as it freezes. Basil leaves that we’re blanched will keep that bright green color as they freeze.
After washing and separating the basil leaves from the stems, put a pan of water on the stove to boil. Likewise, prepare an ice bath too. Get a colander that will fit into the boiling pan of water. You need this so that the basil leaves can be quickly removed from the hot bath.
Put the leaves in the colander and dip them into the hot bath for 5 to 10 seconds. Immediately remove the leaves from the hot bath and transfer them into the cold bath to stop the cooking process.
Blanching slows down enzymatic processes in the basil leaves and stops them from ripening. This is what keeps the leaves from darkening as they freeze.
Let the basil leaves cool in the ice bath, drain them, and air dry. Pack the now dry basil leaves into Ziploc bags or airtight freezer bags.
Expel the air in the bags by pressing them flat before sealing. Label the bags before placing them into the freezer to freeze.
Freezing Basil into Cubes
Freezing Basil into cubes is another experience entirely. This allows your basil to be easily added to soups or cooked dishes.
Wash your leaves and separate them from the stems. Get some ice cube trays and put the leaves into each pocket. Fill the half-filled pockets of the ice cube trays with water, olive oil, or Broth. Leave about an inch of headspace in the pockets, because liquids expand as they freeze.
Put the trays into the freezer till it freezes solid. Transfer the cubes into airtight freezer bags. Label them before putting them into the freezer to freeze long term.
How to Defrost Frozen Basil
Frozen basil can be used in dishes without defrosting. You can throw in frozen blanched or unblanched basil leaves into your pot of stew or soup. Basil is a soft herb, so add it when you have just a little bit of cooking time left.
If you need to defrost frozen basil leaves. You can leave them in a strainer to thaw. Basil leaves don’t take too much time thawing.
How to Recognize Spoiled Basil
Basil that has gone bad will be discolored, soft, limp, and slimy. It would have an off smell and odd appearance. As the Basil starts going bad, the leaves will start going soft first before going limp then the leaves start going black.
Dried Basil can also go bad, as it loses its natural oils, the color of the dried Basil will change to dark brown.