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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Basil Oil in 6 Easy Steps

Every summer I make big batches of basil oil, which is similar to pesto but better because it's fresher, lighter, more fragrant and in an odd way, healthier.  The basil oil that I make yields two products (the gorgeous oil and the basil paste), lasts for nearly a year if you freeze it in small batches and you can still make pesto out of it whenever you need it.  I was looking through my recipe archives on the blog and realize that while I talk about basil oil and make it every year, I don't think I've posted a recipe for it on this blog, until now.

Here in six easy steps is your key to making use of all the fragrant basil that is in abundance in gardens and farmers markets.  The recipe is more about the technique so exact amounts aren't necessary.  I picked as much basil as I could out of my garden without completely stripping my basil plant of all of its leaves.  I estimate I used about a half pound of basil leaves and a full liter of light olive oil.  The oil you use shouldn't be expensive or extra virgin.  I'll tell you a secret about flavored oils - they are usually the cheapest, poorest quality oils, as the flavoring agents are what you are tasting.  I'm not advocating buying a crap olive oil, but don't stress and spend the big bucks on a fancy schmancy imported Extra Virgin, organic and or limited pressed olive oil.  Buy a decent bottle of light olive oil from your supermarket.  You can even use canola oil or an olive oil blend though I prefer the flavor of plain light olive oil since I will be using the oil for cooking and the basil by-product in pesto.  If you are going to make this, make a large batch and freeze it in small containers or in ice cube compartments.   In the bleak mid-winter, you'll thank me for having it on hand as a reminder of the glory days of summer.  The recipe is written to make a liter of basil oil.

Basil Oil Ingredients:
  • 1/2 Pound of Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 1 Liter of Light Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Salt
  • 4 Quart Sauce Pot or larger filled with cold water

Directions:
1. PICK THE and CLEAN THE BASIL LEAVES: 
Remove the stems and clean the basil in cool water.  










2. BOIL WATER AND BLANCH THE BASIL LEAVES& THEN SHOCK THEM TO COOL
Bring a large pot of water to boil; when the water comes to a rolling boil, add in 2 tablespoons of salt. Working in batches, add the cleaned basil leaves to the pot of boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds; Remove the blanched basil leaves and immediately shock in cold water.

3. STRAIN THE BLANCHED BASIL AND PUT INTO A FOOD PROCESSOR: 
Strain the blanched and cooled basil leaves and wring dry of excess water.  Don't worry about "man-handling" the basil leaves, they can take the abuse at this point.  Besides, they'll be pulverized in your food processor or blender, turning into a darkened paste in a few moments!  Add all the basil leaves to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  If you are using a blender, work in batches and fill the blender half full with the basil leaves, tamp down a bit and then add a handful more of the blanched basil.

 
4. PROCESS THE BASIL WITH THE OIL:
With your food processor or blender off, pour in half of the olive oil.  Then put the lid on the food processor or blender tightly.  Pulse to blend and get the oil and basil moving in the work bowl.  For a food processor - pour in the remaining olive oil through the food processor's top.  If using a blender, turn the machine off, add in more basil and olive oil and pulse again.  Pulse or blend until the mixture is thoroughly incorporated and the basil is completely pulverized.  


5. PUT THE MIXTURE INTO A CONTAINER AND REFRIGERATE: 
When all the basil and olive oil is used and the mixture is completely pureed, carefully pour the mixture into a large, clean glass or plastic container.  Seal with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate up to 3 days to allow the basil's flavor to fully incorporate into the olive oil and turn it the most beautiful chartreuse shade of green.


6. STRAIN THE BASIL FROM THE OLIVE OIL TO MAKE YOUR OIL and PESTO PRODUCTS: 
After the olive oil has steeped for a few days (up to a week), take the container out of the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature and return to a liquid state.  Strain the basil "sludge/paste" out of the oil using a fine mesh strainer.  For a pure, sediment free basil oil, strain it several times through as fine mesh strainer (or use a coffee filter) as you have on hand.  Save the basil paste to use in a pesto base, adding cheese, pine nuts, garlic and salt and pepper.  The basil paste can also be used to flavor sauces, tomato sauces, soups, vegetables, potatoes, salad dressings or other dishes when a pop of intense basil flavor is needed.  Use the basil oil as you would regular olive oil; salad dressings, to saute foods; as a drizzling oil; for dipping bread; to flavor mashed/smashed or boiled potatoes.  Refrigerated, both the basil and the oil will keep for a few weeks in tightly covered containers.  For best storage, freeze the oil and the basil paste in small batches. Frozen, both products will keep for up to 9 months.

UPDATE @ 9/12/11: Here's what it will look like after several days of "steeping" and settling in the refrigerator:
The basil puree will settle to the bottom and the luscious green basil oil will be on top.  At this point, allow the oil to come to room temperature for easier pouring.  Strain the oil through a fine mess strainer inter a clean container and reserve both the oil and basil puree separately.  I filled and froze an entire ice cube tray with the basil.  I have about 3/4 of this container filled with the oil - about 3 to 4 cups of basil oil.

2 comments:

  1. Genius! i have a basil plant in my shower- not really a lb of it but i can probably improvise.

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  2. Thanks! The idea to making this into a flavored oil and then straining it to yeild the oil and the basil "sludge" isn't original but it's become mine! When improvising, use at least 1/2 more oil than you have basil - so that you get a liquid product and not a pesto/paste product. The oil should be very loose and the basil puree will fall to the bottom of your container. It really does taste better after a few days. It has to be refrigerated though, for food safety.

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