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Sep 15, 2008 08:32 AM

More questions about freezing basil

I've got my best-ever crop of basil, and I hate to see it go unused. I’ve read several posts about methods of freezing basil, and thought I’d give it a try. I rinsed then dried the leaves, then pulsed them in the food processor with a small amount of olive oil until I had something close to a puree. I froze the puree in sections of an ice cube tray, removed the frozen cubes, wrapped each in a small piece of wax paper, and put them into a zip-loc freezer bag. The only thing I wasn't happy about was how dark the puree was -- almost black, in fact.

Granted, if I put a cube or two into a pasta sauce, the color won't matter. Still, I wonder if there's a way to avoid the darkening of the basil. For example, if I blanched the leaves briefly, then shocked them in ice water and dried them before processing, would that make a difference? Is there something else I can do or add that will keep the basil a brighter green?

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  1. I haven't tried either of these but I have read these two solutions and they are logical.
    One was to use vitamin C in the mix in the blender/processor. I have used that in canning and it worked.
    The other was to put the oil in the blender/processor early. The theory is that if the leaves are coated before they are cut, the oil will cover the cuts and therefore no blackening. That was a tip for making pesto.
    Hope one of them works for you.

    2 Replies
    1. re: The Old Gal

      Vitamin C in what form and how much?

      1. re: CindyJ

        Sorry, I got lost.
        Chiarello just uses Vit C tablets like you get on the vitamin shelf. Pounds them to powder and he didn't say how much per how much basil

    2. Not sure on the frozen end - BUT, Ina Garten said to pour olive oil on top of the container you're storing it in to prevent blackening. LIke your making an oil slick!
      Anyone done that?

      2 Replies
      1. re: stellamystar

        I puree with olive oil (not a lot, but maybe more than OP), then QUICKLY put into a zip-lock bag, push out the air and seal. I use a quart size bag, and then fold into quarters, which makes it easy to pull out what I need. I have stuff in the freezer from last year that is still green (and bummed that my basil plants this year aren't as bountiful as I would like).

        1. re: stellamystar

          I've done that with small jars of pesto. I pour a thin film of olive oil on top of the pesto, cover it with saran wrap that touches the surface, cover and refrigerate.

        2. I think the blackening of basil is the result of oxidation. When the leaves are cut and the plant cells are broken and 'juices' are exposed to air - it turns black. Adding more oil and closing the containers quickly will help but like you said - you'll be putting the processed basil into something and any bright green colour would be lost.

          1. I've seen Michael Chiarello do the blanching thing to preserve the green color. He also has used a vitamin C tablet ground up. I can't remember if he was freezing the pesto though or just keeping it in the fridge for a day or overnight.

            I'm so jealous of your bumper crop!

            1 Reply
            1. re: nemo

              Funny thing about my basil crop this year. The only kind of gardening I do is container gardening. In years past, I'd plant my basil in a large container and set it out below my deck in a spot that gets the most sun. It would always start to grow really well, and then bugs would get to it. This year, when the bugs started to attack, I moved the container up onto the deck. Less sun, but no bugs. Guess what...? The basil not only thrived, it grew like crazy! The more I cut it, the more it grew. I gave bunches to anyone who wanted it. So now, with the bug problem solved, the only "problem" I'm left with is what to do with the bounty.

            2. I grow large amounts of basil and parsley. At the end of the season I make small batches of pesto, some basil, some parsley. I then pour the pesto into ice cube trays, lay a little plastic wrap over the surface, and freeze them. Once frozen I plop them out and put them into a freezer quality zip lock bag. I use them over the winter months for pesto/pasta dishes. Works great.

              1 Reply
              1. re: winencheesepa

                About two weeks ago, I harvested my basil and did a bit of experimenting. Each batch was doled out into ice cube trays and frozen, and the cubes were re-packed in freezer ziploc bags. In small batches I tried each of the following: (1) blanch in plain water, shock in ice water, spin-dry, chop in food processor; (2) blanch in water to which I'd added a small amount of lemon juice, shock in ice water, spin-dry, chop in food processor; (3) blanch in plain water, shock in ice water, spin-dry, chop in food processor with olive oil. I'll add that a few weeks before I did a batch where I didn't blanch, but rinsed the basil leaves and chopped with oil in the FP. THAT batch came out looking dark and VERY unappetizing. The results -- Method #2 held its color the best and I liked the consistency and texture of the leaves that had not been processed with oil.

                I'm sure any of these could be used for cooking sauces, but Method #2 can also be used in salad dressing and other recipes where the basil is noticeable.