Once the gardens start producing, it can be a challenge to keep up. My dehydrator is going pretty much full-time, drying herbs, flowers, and veggies for use all winter long. Some herbs, such as basil, don't dry very well, so I make plenty of pesto to freeze. While I love pesto, I don't want my basil options to be so fixed all winter, so freezing more simple combinations means that I not only have plenty of pesto, but also have plenty of options for soup, stew, stir fry, rice and more, all fall/winter/spring. Freezing basil to preserve for winter is easy. I like to make herb pastes, which keep their fresh vibrant flavors and aromas and are super quick and easy to prepare. My husband thinks I missed an opportunity to name this recipe "Frozen Basil Bunnies" - but it isn't just basil that this works for, it is great for any fresh herbs. Although I agree that Fresh Herb Paste isn't *quite* as memorable as Frozen Basil Bunnies. Say that fast 10 times.
Basil is my first frozen paste because it is the herb that needs freezing the most, and I grow a LOT of it. It is so simple. Take 4 cups of freshly picked, packed basil leaves. Put them in the food processor with about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil and about 1/2 tsp of fresh sea salt. I don't want to add too much salt so I have room for seasoning in recipes, but a little helps keep the vivid color and flavor. Whiz the basil/olive oil/salt in the food processor until fully blended. You may need to scrape the bowl down with a spatula in the middle of it to get all of the leaves. Depending on your type of basil and how packed it is when measuring, it will need as little as 1/4 cup of olive oil. The measurement is flexible just like the recipe. Add just enough oil to get it to fully whiz in the food processor! If you want fresh paste, voila, you are done. Put it into a canning jar in your fridge and use over the next week or so. You can also freeze it for longer storage. The recipe is per 4 cups of herbs because that fits into a food processor, but it whizzes down into a smaller amount, so you can keep going in batches to make as much as you like. I did 5 batches of basil paste and still have more left. Lots. O. Basil.
To freeze, take your paste and spoon it into ice cube trays or silicon molds and put into the freezer until frozen solid, and then pop the cubes into a freezer baggie until you need them. I like freezing in about 1/4 cup quantities as that makes it easier to only defrost what you need, rather than thawing out an entire jar. I like silicon molds because I can do bigger than an ice cube amounts. Mine are all in bunny shapes because while I have personally selected all of my herbs-only molds for my lotion bars and body bars, all of our food use silicon molds have been selected by my 11 year old, who only buys cute animal shapes. ;) So we have a whole bunch of basil bunnies in the freezer.
Fresh Herb Paste
Freezing is a quick and easy way to preserve herbs for winter!
Measure 4 cups of packed fresh herbs (remove stems).
You can do this with mixed herbs as well, of course. I made several batches that included parsley, sage, basil, rosemary, thyme, and cilantro. It is the same recipe, just vary your herbs based on your supply! Try different combos - just be sure to label!
I love growing a lot of herbs, and I love preserving them too. Since our growing season in Wisconsin is fairly short, finding many different ways to preserve things so we feel like we have a wonderful variety the rest of the year is key.
Looking for other ways to preserve your herbs? Try my veggie bouillon recipe - I love making a lot of this in the summer to use all winter long. SUCH an amazing flavor!
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.