It's always so sad to see Summer come to an end!! Our produce garden has been put to bed for the winter, the crops have been harvested, garden debris has been removed and compost and mulched leaves have been spread on the beds.
The herb garden adjacent to the barn has also lost it's summer luster. The annual herbs grown every year for our CSA members and the chefs who prepare meals at the farm met their demise early this year with a mid-October frost. I missed the chance to protect them from the cold, so the beds of basil came to a very sad end.
Every year CSA members ask about preserving basil and I haven't had any good answers for them. I ran across an article today on Pinterest from Kalyn's Kitchen (kalynskitchen.com) and thought I'd share it on the blog this evening.
"If you are a gardener, Kalyn suggests trimming the basil plants to within a few inches. This can be done several times a season. Traditionally, I have only removed the flowers from the basil and left it regrow but Kalyn is suggesting a much more vigorous pruning, making sure to leave a couple small leaves on each stem so that the plant can get its food. Everywhere you cut the stem, two new stems will be produced.
"Pinch off all the basil leaves, discard the stems, and wash the leaves very well in a salad spinner. Spin them as dry as you possibly can. If you don't have a salad spinner, wash the basil leaves in the sink and dry them well with paper towels. Put a few of handfuls of basil into the food processor, using the steel blade. The food processor bowl should be full, but not tightly packed.
Pulse the food processor with one hand and drizzle olive oil into the feed tube with the other hand, just pulsing until the basil is coarsely chopped. Make sure that all the basil is coated with oil too, which keeps it from getting dark in the freezer. Kalyn suggests adding about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil for each batch in the food processor when making coarsely chopped basil for pasta sauce, soup, or stew during the winter. When making basil puree to add to basil vinaigrette she suggests adding more oil and chop the basil much more finely.
Basil can then be frozen in plastic containers with tight lids or in quart-size plastic bags. Regardless of the size of the container, a good trick is to measure the amount of basil in the containers before you first use them. That way, when you pull one out of the freezer for a recipe, you'll know how much it is. If you choose to use plastic bags, smash the basil down flat and press all the air out of the bag. This makes it easy to fit the bags into a crowded freezer. When it's time to use some basil, just break off a piece and put the rest back into the freezer.
So when the cold winds of winter start blowing, with a little advance preparation, those sweet tastes of summer can be at your finger tips and used throughout the year.
Credit: photos and text Kalyn's Kitchen www.kalynskitchen.com
Beech Springs Farm is a small family farm near Gettysburg, PA. The farm is open to the public by appointment only.
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