November 3, 2011 § 4 Comments
We have 22 containers of pesto preserved in the frosty depths of our freezer. Even though I’m a pesto-eating champ (case in point: for snack-time I eat dollops of pesto on carrots; I pour an extra quarter-cup on top of my already-seasoned pasta), I’ve run out of Tupperware.
Instead of processing my most recent harvest into a sauce, I dried it. That way I’ll have basil-flavor handy for dishes where pesto is unwarranted (do those exist?) or when the green goddess shmear runs out.
Home-dried basil is a zillion times more potent and scrumptious than its cardboard-flavored cousin on the spice rack in the supermarket. What’s more, when you dry it yourself, you make bank. (CHA-ching!) To illustrate: We have multiple basil plants in our garden. On average, one plant will yield three to four harvests of 9-12 cups of basil leaves. I harvested all of what you see above & below from one plant. Two weeks later I had over a pint of dried leaves. This week I’ve used my dried basil in two soups and a frittata and the taste is to-live-for-good. Here’s how easy it is:
STEP 1. Snip-snip: When harvesting basil for pesto, for cooking or drying, cut back the whole plant, stems included. Giving your basil plant a big haircut will allow the plant to regrow stems, preventing them from hardening and turning woody.
STEP 2. Clean as a Whistle: Gently wash each stem in a sink basin full of water to remove any dirt or dust. Give each stem a little shake and let them air dry on the counter top for several hours.
STEP 3. Twisty-tie Time: When the leaves and stems have dried, group stems into bundles and turn upside down. Use a twisty-tie (or hemp or strong string) to tie the stems together at the base. I usually tie four or five stems in each group. Be mindful not to group too many stems together; there should be some breathing room between each stem so that all the leaves can properly dry out.
STEP 4. Forget about ‘em: Clip each bundle to a drying rack (like below) or use a string and tie each bundle to a hanger. Place in a cool, dry place for a couple of weeks.