Pesto for storage

12 Feb

The basil took a while to get started this year but we’re definitely in the swing of it now. Today I had to trim my plants because they had gone mental, so it was time to make some pesto for storing into winter.

Pesto stores for a little while in the fridge if you cover it in olive oil, but this isn’t going to get you through to next summer. The jars you buy in the supermarket are pressure-preserved, so the pesto has had the life cooked out of it before you even open the jar. It isn’t suitable for water-bath bottling because it isn’t a high-acid food.

So freezing it is!

There is much debate over whether pesto should be frozen with or without the parmesan cheese, or even whether it should be frozen at all. Undoubtably, pesto that you have made fresh before serving is going to be superior to anything defrosted, but if the choice is between home-made and frozen, store-bought or no pesto at all, I know what I’ll be choosing.

As I’m constantly nattering on about, Little D has a milk allergy so this solved the cheese debate for me. I made the pesto without the parmesan, and I’ll add it upon defrosting. I can make his portion with soy-based parmesan substitute, and it also gives me the flexibility to use it in other dishes, like a coconut-milk based pesto ‘curry’ that the kids really enjoy.

My basil offcuts amounted to 8 firmly packed cups of washed, trimmed basil leaves. I started with Linda’s recipe, but found that I didn’t have quite enough pine nuts, so I just cut that back. It seemed to work. I omitted the parmesan cheese:

  • 260 grams of lightly toasted pine nuts
  • a cup, packed of basil
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • salt to taste
  • Olive oil to blend

I found that I had to toast the pine nuts in batches because 260 grams of organic pine nuts are really expensive. I know it’s easy to burn pine nuts when you are toasting them, and I didn’t want to send $30 of pine nuts literally up in smoke!

All the ingredients went into the blender (I really need a food processor!) until smooth and combined.

I packed one jar with the pesto and covered with a layer of olive oil. I put that in the fridge for use over the next 2 weeks.  The remainder I froze in ice cube trays covered in plastic wrap. Once frozen, I’ll pop them out into a zip lock bag and vacuum seal. It’s really easy to defrost 1 or 2 cubes at a time and add the freshly-grated parmesan cheese.

My 8 cups of leaves made 1 (sacla-sized 190gram jar) of pesto for the fridge and 2 1/2 ice cube trays for the freezer. It will stretch further than normal because it gets bulked up with the cheese.

I may have to make another batch in the autumn, but I think this will get us a good way through the year.

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7 Responses to “Pesto for storage”

  1. Barbara Good February 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    Great idea, pity my basil has been so pathetic this year, if only I’d thought of this last year. I’ll also remember this method when I’m making parsley pesto.

    The whole frozen herb debate is rather interesting I think. Most people say the only way to preserve herbs is by drying or freezing in butter. Drying some herbs is tricky and often the flavour is lost anyway and I’d never use loads of herb butter to make that method practical for excess. I have taken to cutting up herbs and freezing them as they are in ziplocked bags with the air expelled. They lose their colour, but if you just want to add flavour to a casserole, curry etc I think it’s not a bad way to go. It beats throwing out limb herbs that you didn’t get a chance to use or allowing it all to go to waste in the garden. I have had the most success with coriander in terms of the flavour staying quite strong – though I always add a bit more than I would with fresh herbs.

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney February 13, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

      I got a dehydrator for Christmas (just a cheap Aldi one). I’m pretty sure they had them on sale for $40. I plan to dry my oregano that way. Liz says oregano dries really well.

  2. Maggie Walters February 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    the ice cubes are a fabulous idea! it’s a real challenge when we are trying to store up our larder as to how it should be done …. and i love a fresh pesto …. so this is great. i wonder …. would that then apply for all leafy greens? e.g., spinach? hmmmmmm …..

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney February 13, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

      Spinach freezes really well Maggie. You need to blanch it first, but then refresh in cold water, squeeze it out and bag it up. Definitely not the same as fresh, but works well in cannelloni, etc – anything you can (funnily enough) use frozen spinach in 🙂

  3. Liz February 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    I have always just frozen the leaves and then made pesto with my thawed leaves in the past. This time I will give your way a try.

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney February 13, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

      I’m interested in your thoughts. You seem to have a much better palate than I do, and I’d like to hear from someone with authority whether freezing affects the flavour much.

  4. Lilian February 14, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    I’m with Barbara. I LOVE pesto but the basil plant and I just don’t seem to get along… mine just wither up and die.

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