Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hanging on to the last of the basil

Every summer I set out to grow a ton of basil. Coming-out-of-your-ears basil. Can't-keep-up basil. Why-on-earth-did-I-plant-so-much basil.

Some years, it does well. The best year was when I had 6 plants set in a homemade Earthbox on a very sunny patio. Between the constant moisture, abundant sunshine and just-right planetary alignment, that year had us in pesto for 24 months, give or take.

The next year, life factors intervened and the baking sun of a new home on a hilltop dessicated my plants before they ever had the chance to take off.

This year, good intentions but then being 9.999 months pregnant during the world's longest heatwave meant my basil plants were gloriously ready to be sheared back in June... but never got sheared back... and so my hopes for massive bushes of basil fizzled like my skin in the Escondido sun.

But I got some. SOME. And I won't tell you about how I kept cheating by planting more even though it was way too hot and I couldn't get myself out there to water them enough. But still, my love of basil persisted and I was determined to try and preserve it into the fall, winter... and maybe even spring?... until I could plant more basil, yet again.

So I hopped on the Internet and found a few articles about how basil can be preserved in the refrigerator almost indefinitely if stacked with salt and olive oil. And not only do you get perfectly preserved basil leaves that can be singly dropped into dishes all winter long, but you get beautifully basil-scented oil, too.

This isn't much of a recipe, and I certainly didn't come up with it, but the crux of it is simple.

Wash and dry your precious, precious basil. Gently. GENTLY. And it'll take more than you think to fill even a very small jar.

Then you just layer it in your jar with salt in between layers.

Top off with olive oil (it's going to take quite a lot) making sure to fill all the air bubbles, then tuck away in the fridge.

I have yet to see how well this turns out, but am hopeful we'll have basil flavor to take us through the (relatively) dreary days of winter.

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