Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow. Other then perhaps parsley, I remember giving my mom a parsley plant I grew in grade 4 science class and I swear that thing flourished on the kitchen windowsill for at least 6 years in a margarine container. We start our herbs in the greenhouse and then move them into the garden once they are established. When basil is transplanted in the garden it grows like a weed. We have plants with 5 off shoots all producing leaves and flowers. Our garden rows are about 50 feet in length and 2/3rds of a row is all basil so I have my work cut out for me to preserve it!!
Today’s project was making pesto. I absolutely love pesto but hate spending the money on it at the store. I am on a huge canning rampage at the moment so naturally I looked into canning my jars of pesto to preserve. After doing some internet research it looks like the general hypothesis is that the ingredients in pesto have to low of an acidity to safely can in a water bath. The most common ways to preserve are freezing, making a jar at a time and leaving in the fridge or canning using pressure. I opted for freezing in little 8oz jam jars. A lot of people freeze in ice cube trays but for me those are much to small of portions and require more work.
I looked at a couple different recipes and created my own from there. I really liked Jamie Oliver’s idea to toast the pine nuts. I didn’t add salt or pepper to my recipe because of my little girls but I believe a smoked sea salt would be quite an amazing addition to this recipe. I have mentioned before I am a garlic lover so I added lots but if you are not a huge garlic person and only adding for flavour I would half what I used. You could also get away with an extra 2 Cups or so of basil but since it was nearing supper and I didn’t want to go back to the garden I stuck with what I had on hand. I used a mixture of basil including purple basil which toned down the colour of my pesto quite a lot.
8 cups fresh basil, packed down
2 cups pine nuts toasted
16 cloves garlic
Smoked sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Aprox 2 cups olive oil. Add after mixing all the other ingredients together and get it to the constancy that you want!
1/2 cup grated Parmesan per 8oz jar added after thawing not before freezing.
** This recipe made 5 (8oz) jars. I filled to below the lid rings to make sure they was room for expansion when freezing.
I washed my jars and lids to get started. Then soaked my fresh basil in cold water with a bit of salt in it to kill any critters, the salt is also supposed to help lift anything stuck to the produce off. I then used a salad tosser to dry the basil leaves and it worked better then I thought it would, with hardly any leaves going through the slits. I used a tiny chopper my Mother in Law had so I did everything individually but you could throw it all into a large processor and dice at once. Like I suggested before I would add your olive oil after till you achieve the constancy you are going for. When freezing the pesto to preserve it is suggested that you add your grated Parmesan cheese after as it doesn’t freeze well. I suggest mixing in a 1/2 cup Parmesan per 8oz jar but it really is very good without.
While my leaves were soaking I crushed and pealed my garlic cloves and toasted my pine nuts. Then I processed and combined.
I divided my pesto between 5 (8oz) jars and popped 4 jars into the freezer. We used half of the 5th jar for super and it was delicious!! Both my girls and L loved it and of course it was so tasty I ate way more than I should have. I added some olive oil to the top of the left over jar to help keep it preserved and put it in the fridge for next time!