Friday, July 23, 2010

Food Day Friday: drying basil

I make a batch of pesto about every 5 to 6 days. that's a lot. especially considering we don't even eat pesto every week. So, I needed a new way to store it for later use. Coincidentally, our store bought dried basil reserves are low (we used dried basil for soups and salad dressings) so I decided to skip the pesto batch and dry the basil instead.

First, and this is completely unrelated to drying basil, if you ever see flowers on your basil plants, pick them off. The plant will start transferring all its energy to the flower and will stop producing leaves. thus no more basil.

Ok, on to my actual process.

these are my basil plants before I harvested. I used a kitchen knife and cut them low right above a set of leaves. (to be a little clearer: look at the picture above. See where the flowers are sprouting closest to my finger? I would cut that stem right above where the flower would be. well, I wouldn't leave the flowers ... this is just an example to show you where to cut)
This is also how big the plants get right before I harvest for pesto, but when I do that I just pull the leaves off, not whole stems.

And this is after. cut low.
btw, 9 days after this cut, I harvested the regular amount for a batch of pesto. it grows back really fast as long as you cut in the right place.

I decided to use the same method of drying that I used to dry roses - Hang them upside down in a cool dry place. With roses I put them in my closet. With basil, I decided the laundry room would be a smarter choice.
Notice, the laundry room is also where I hang diapers to dry on days that they don't go outside.

This is the basil 10 days later, right before I took it down. The only thing you really have to worry about during the drying process is moisture. If it's too humid, you run the risk of mold on your basil. and then it's ruined. But, in an air conditioned house away from a humidifier, this shouldn't be an issue.
Also, if a clothes closet is your only option for a place to dry your basil, it won't be a big deal. The drying basil wasn't fragrant at all.

After I got it all down, I put it on a cookie sheet and just pulled all the leaves off the stems, crumpling the leaves as I went. I thought about storing the basil in a glass jar, but ended up going with a ziploc bag labeled with the date. (notice the date? I've got a backlogged of scheduled Food Day Friday posts!)
I have the bag stored in the cabinet where we keep all the spices and such.

1 comment:

Erin Caden Rogers said...

Love this. We also use a lot of dried basil in the winter months. My mom always used it in her pot roast, I do the same!