I had a lot of Basil plants that I’ve been using in salads all summer long…if you keep pinching back the plant, and never let it start to flower, it becomes very bushy and full. Which means, more Basil! Notice how I capitalize the word: Basil. It’s like a good friend, and I cannot imagine my life without it.
The other day I heard someone say it’s going to get cold, so I harvested all of my plants to make my version of “pesto”, knowing that with just one cold night, all that lovely taste inside those leaves would be gone, and therefore wasted. I never really FEEL like doing these kinds of things, I just somehow start to move in that direction, and IT happens on it’s own. I must have it in me from my Slovenia grandma or something. Or maybe from my other grandma, Mabel Carter? Both women had gardens, sewed their family’s clothes, and both put food up for the winter months.
So I got out my Cuisinart food processor, started to pluck Basil leaves (never stems), added olive oil and a little salt, and then blended until I got the consistency that makes it pourable into clean glass jars, labeled them, and voila! A base for pesto that will last a long, long time if it’s kept covered with olive oil, and in the back of the fridge. Just let it sit for an hour or so, to make sure the olive oil comes to the top to “seal” it, which preserves it.
I had grown hundreds of pots of different types of Basil my first year that I started to garden, way back in the spring of ’94. I had never gardened before that. I was too busy with my “life”.
Then we got into a terrible car accident, and I slowed down.
And started to paint and to garden.
I didn’t know how to do either before the accident.
That first year I grew Thai Basil, I grew Purple Basil, I grew maybe 10 different types of Basil. And you know what? I only grow 2 types nowadays. The Genovese Basil and the Greek Basil. The other ones are interesting, but really, I don’t waste my energy on them, because the taste is only in those 2 I grow!
After harvesting all those different types of Basil that first year, I mixed them with garlic and pine nuts and olive oil and salt and put the mixture in sterilized glasses. Much to my horror, after a month in the fridge, they were all moldy and had to be composted – my heart almost broke in two! All that work for nothing. Well, being the type of person that has to make a big mistake the first time I do something, I’ve since been told how to do it the right way.
So here’s a very simple way of preserving Basil from Martina, my Swiss-Italian girlfriend.
Martina told me to never add the garlic and the nuts. Only do that when I am making the meal, she said. This is the way her Italian grandmother taught her and I’ve been doing it this way every single year since, which makes this year my 15th year.
1. Take a big pot and fill with water and bring to boil and then add the pasta.
2. While that’s cooking, take a big mixing bowl and spoon out some of the “Basil, Olive Oil and Salt” into it. Let it sit on the counter for a while, and then, take a paper towel and wipe the sides of the inside of the jar, removing any of the mix, and make sure it’s covered with some olive oil; not a lot.
3. Add some fresh-pressed garlic cloves and some chopped walnuts or pine nuts (or whatever nuts you have), and mix.
4. Once the pasta is “al dente”, ladle out some of the water from the pot and mix in with “Basil, Oil, & Salt”/garlic/nut mix until it’s the way you like your sauce.
5. Drain the pasta, rinse, and add to the mix and toss.
Grate lots of the best Italian Parmesan cheese you can afford, get a good bottle of red wine, put some Frank Sinatra music on, and maybe a candle or two, and savor the taste of summer, preserved!
p.s. if you want to see how other people make and preserve their pesto, Culinate, which is one of the food blogs that I subscribe to, shares their tips. Just Click This!