Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pesto Making and Freezing

I had never even heard of pesto until maybe 7 or 8 years ago. I had been growing herbs for a few years and started looking into different ways to use and preserve what I was growing. Someone gave me my first taste of pesto, spread on a piece of homemade bread, and I was hooked. I started looking into ways of preserving it and found this idea, and I do this every year now.
We have frost warnings for tonight so I cut all of my basil, here is about a third of what I grew this year. Yes, it's a lot!

First you strip the leaves from the stems

I make my pesto by sight and taste and really don't follow a recipe. But if you need some measurements, I found a recipe that is probably close to what I do:

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts (I use walnuts, much more inexpensive!)
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

If you want to freeze your pesto, don't add the cheese until you thaw it out and it is ready to serve.

Place reasonable amounts of the basil into your food processor, in other words don't cram it full. Add olive oil, garlic cloves, cheese (if not freezing the pesto),salt and pepper and process until smooth. Add the nuts after you obtain the consistency of pesto that you want, then process until the nuts are ground well but not so small that you don't notice them. If you put them in with all the other ingredients at first they will get ground too much.

Now here is a trick for freezing pesto in manageable amounts. Remove pesto from food processor and spread into ice-cube trays

Place trays in freezer until it is frozen well, then break pesto out of trays

Now you can place the cubes in freezer bags

I put some of my cubes in freezer bags, but also placed some in vacuum bags. These are for a longer storage time, I want it fresh in February!

I make this by sight and taste, slowly adding ingredients until I like how it looks and how it tastes to me. It is really good on a homemade French or Italian bread. It is also fantastic when mixed with pasta. I cooked enough pasta for 3 people the other day, added about a tablespoon of the pesto to it and that was all. It was fantastic and well received here at home.

Try growing a larger patch of basil next year. You will have fresh basil from midsummer on, and pesto for the winter!

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