In part 1 of preserving herbs I showed how I mainly preserve herbs, fresh, in apple cider vinegar. I so enjoy reaching in the fridge and adding a splash of infused herbal vinegar to something, or a bit of the fresh herb. Basil is a different animal. The best way to preserve basil is in olive oil such as in pesto , but if you are going to preserve it fresh for a long time, you need to freeze it.
I guess I need to stress at this point that only olive oil should be used, ever. Olive oil is an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial oil, but the science of why other processed oils such as canola, safflower… or any other oils (besides coconut) should never be eaten is explained in the Oiling of America links of part one..
I did not want to freeze the basil this time because I wanted just the infused basil olive oil. Basil freezes quickly in the garden when temperatures drop and so I had to act fast a few weeks ago to harvest. Well, not that fast because I only had one puny plant, but there was a hard frost coming that night.
Actually the frost had bitten it that morning, but it was still ok to preserve.
When you infuse herbs into oil, for a balm or salve, or just to preserve long term, you need to completely dehydrate the herb. I dried some spicy meadow mint and poured olive oil on top to make mint oil for dressings.
Many people slowly heat the dried herbs and oil at this point, but I don’t like to heat oil. I just put the jar in a dark pantry for several weeks, up to a year.
But basil loses its flavor when you dry it, so you have to compromise a bit when making heavenly basil oil. If the leaves were not dirty, I probably would not have washed them, but with all the rain we have been having, I had to wash them.
The leaves must be surface dry before putting them in oil and since they had a bit of frostbite, they were wilting and I wanted to hurry. I decided to quickly dry them off in the food dehydrator on the lowest heat setting, just to get the water off the leaves.
When I began to smell the fragrance of basil I turned off the dehydrator, not wanting to lose any of the essential oils to the air.
Since there is still moisture in the basil leaves I layered then in jars and sprinkled some real sea salt between the layers.
Fill the jars to the top and then pour in olive oil.
Let the jars sit in a dark pantry for a month and then strain out the basil from the infused oil. I will place the basil in a thin layer in a ziplock bag at this point, suck out all the air and freeze. This way when I need a little green basil flavor I can just break off a piece of frozen basil.
The heavenly basil oil will be a treat drizzled on top of something to bring the fragrance of summer into the dead of winter.