I love to add fresh basil to meals and make basil tea, but wondered how to preserve its strong, fresh flavor in the winter. Drying basil in the dehydrator or oven destroys some of the flavor, oils, and color, and freezing isn’t a perfect solution because blanching beforehand strips the herbs of some of their valuable nutrition. There are two solutions that I found that enable basil to shine in winter prepared food.
First, the answer to enjoying basil as a tea, in vinegar making, and on meat rubs is to dry the leaves in a microwave. Years ago my Dad was delighted with the way his purchased infared heater heated just the solid objects around it rather than heating the air in the whole room. In a similar manner, microwaves also work with electromagnetic radiation, thereby heating the water content in the food and causing the water to evaporate. The oven or dehydrator in contrast warms or cooks the whole surface area of the food. We own and enjoy a double infared oven that we will use to compare the results of drying our basil in it versus the microwave. The inspiration for our future basil trials came from Chef J. Kenji Lopez-Alt on a blog post he wrote.
Another answer to the basil question was found in a book we purchased, “Fermented Vegetables, Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables and Herbs” by Christopher and Kirsten Shockey. (We buy most of our recipe books on the Kindle format and the Kindle Touch works great as a cooking/baking companion.)
When I read the directions of fermenting Basil leaves, I had a question and emailed Kirsten for some clarity. She was prompt and thorough in answering my concerns and gave me a link to another article of hers citing a related process.
Below are the easy steps I took to ferment the Basil. The use of the french-made Le Parfait jar and accessories were my own invention! It will keep for a year refrigerated!
UPDATE: It is January 28, 2017 which is more than a year after this Basil ferment was made and it is beautiful! It tastes great, smells heavenly, and looks gorgeous. However, knowing that whatever I do in the kitchen needs to be voted in by the other members of my family, I’m afraid that fermented herbs did not get a winning vote. There are two other herb preservation methods we will be trying.
- Herbes Salees , the salted refrigerator method that holds the flavor for well over a year and can be easily incorporated into the preparation of almost any dish, and
- Microwave and/or Infared oven method of drying the herbs. Our attention in this method will be focused on whether our thick leafed rosemary, thyme, and oregano will preserve in the same manner as the more delicate leaves of our basil and mint.