4 Ways to Preserve Basil For the Winter Months {The Mountain Kitchen Tips

4 Ways to Preserve Basil For the Winter Months {The Mountain Kitchen Tips

Today I’m gonna share with you 4 ways to preserve basil for the winter months.

We are supposed to get our first frost of the season this week! If you haven’t already had a frost, hurry up and get those tender plants outside inside or say good-bye! I am actually planning to dig up my basil plant, pot it and bring it inside for the winter. I seem to have a very green thumb when it comes to this fresh herb, so I hope I can keep it alive in the basement in front of the glass doors where it will get lots of sunlight.

pouring salt on basil

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. For the past few weeks, I have been testing out ways to preserve basil. My goal was to come up with a way to preserve it almost as fresh as I had picked it off the plant on a warm summer day. Digging up the basil plant is a little dramatic, but there are several methods of preserving basil, but I think these 4 methods are the easiest and most effective ways to preserve basil for the winter months.

4 Ways to Preserve Basil For the Winter Months:

1. Blanch and Freeze:

Frozen basil can be used exactly the same way as you would with fresh leaves.

Step 1: Rinse the basil off under cold water and shake excess water off into the sink.

pot of boiling water with basil leaf

Step 2: Remove the basil leaves from the stem and blanch them in boiling water for 2 seconds.

Step 3: Transfer the leaves to an ice bath.

basil leaf in ice water

Step 4: Dry completely on top of paper towels.

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Step 5: Store in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container. Place the leaves in a single layer onto wax or parchment paper, then layer the sheets of leaves, before placing them into the container or bag.

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Note: As you can see from the photo above, the leaves discolor somewhat and tend to shrink as they freeze, so keep in mind to use slightly less than if you were cooking with fresh basil.

2. Tear and Freeze:

Frozen basil can be used exactly the same way as you would with fresh leaves.

Step 1: Rinse the basil off under cold water and shake excess water off into the sink.

Step 2: Remove the basil leaves from the stem. For smaller leaves, place 3 to 4 whole leaves into a cube of the ice tray. For larger leaves, tear each leaf into bite-size bits as you would if you were garnishing your plate. Place them into a cube of the ice tray.

Step 3: Fill the ice tray with water, using your finger to push down and submerge each cube.

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Step 4: Freeze until solid. Crack the cubes out to the tray and place them into a freezer bag or freezer-safe container.

Step 5: Defrost the cube by placing it in a sieve over a glass. For a faster method place the cube over the sieve and run water over it until melted (DO NOT USE HOT WATER). Place the defrosted leaves onto a paper towel and blot to remove excess moisture.

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Note: This method is the closest to fresh that I experimented with. However, there is a little forethought and planning to take into consideration to thaw the leaves from the ice.

3. Dry the leaves:

If you like cooking with dried basil, you won’t have to buy any from the store anymore. There are a few different methods, but I like the oven drying method the most because it’s so easy and I believe it is much safer because you don’t have to worry about mold.

Step 1: Remove the basil leaves from the stem, then wash and dry completely, by placing them in a single layer on top of paper towels.

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Step 2: Set your oven to the lowest temperature (mine was 170 degrees F). Place the basil leaves on a baking sheet, then place it in the preheated oven.

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the leaves are crumbly and sound crispy when pinched.

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Step 3: Remove the basil from the oven and cool.

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Crumble the leaves by hand or gently crush them with a mortar and pestle. Store the crumbled leaves inside an airtight container.

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com
Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com
Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Note: It takes a 4 or 5 sheet pans full of leaves to fill a spice jar, but it is worth the effort. The smell of this dried basil is 50% stronger in smell than the store-bought stuff. That just shows you how much fresher homemade basil leaves can be.

4. Store them in salt:

For many moons, salt has been a common method of food storage and preservation.

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Step 1: Pour a ¼-inch of salt into the bottom on a glass pint jar.

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Step 2: Add a layer of basil leaves.

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Step 3: Repeat until the jar is full. Seal the jar with a lid and store in the fridge.

Basil is a very tender herb and once picked, basil wilts at an alarming rate. Learn 4 ways to preserve basil to enjoy for the winter months. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Note: Honestly, I just made a jar of these this weekend to use up over winter months. I will keep you posted on how these do. Basil stored in salt should last for about 6-9 months. The salt will not take on a basil flavor, but so you can still use it as you normally would once all the leaves are gone.

David and I just don’t care for pesto, so that was not an option, nor did I want to waste a bunch of expensive olive oil.

Have you ever preserved basil? What’s your preferred method?

Learn more about spice storage HERE.

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The Mountain Kitchen

Hi, my name is Debbie, Author and Photographer at The Mountain Kitchen, a blog that shares delicious homemade recipes using clean food ingredients, and stories about mountain life.
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