For week 2 of Preserve the Bounty, Jenny challenged us to preserve some of our summer produce in oil or another fat.
I’ve put together various combinations of garden-fresh herbs, calendula (marigold) flowers, sun-dried tomatoes, and chile peppers in olive oil before, and I really enjoyed the results. Allowing these foods to steep in a jar with olive oil keeps the marinated food(s) from spoiling and it gives the oil additional flavor. And despite reading about the possibility of botulism when preserving raw garlic in olive oil, I’ve done that, too (and I’m still here). I generally make very small batches of infused olive oils and I keep them in the refrigerator, just to be safe.
This time, I chose to make a very simple preparation of basil preserved in olive oil.
You’ll want to start with a very clean and dry jar(s). Rinse your basil leaves very well, and then allow them to dry completely. It is important that there is no moisture on the basil…moisture can lead to mold formation (yuck). The amount of basil you’ll need will depend on the size of your jar. Again, I use very small jars and keep them in the refrigerator, so that they don’t spoil before I have a chance to use them up.
Pack your clean, dry basil leaves into your jar of choice. I mean it- really pack them in (I stuck a few borage flowers in, too, because I’ve got so many, and because they are so pretty). Sprinkle a little sea salt over the basil, if you like, and feel free to add in a fresh or dried chile pepper or two for a spicy kick. Now pour in some olive oil, so that all of the leaves are covered (this is very important…make sure all of the basil is below the top of the olive oil, or again, you may end up with mold).
Cap your jar tightly and place in the refrigerator (I’ve read that you can keep it at room temperature, but I just feel better with it in cold storage). Over time, your basil leaves may darken somewhat, but no worries…they are still edible. Feel free to use the basil in recipes or as a garnish, and you can use the oil to dress raw or cooked greens and other vegetables, or drizzle it over finished pasta or grain dishes, mix into eggs, etc.
Whenever you spoon some of the oil out, add more so that the basil in the jar always remains covered. It should keep for at least a couple of months in the refrigerator, possibly until long after basil season has passed, but make sure to discard it if it turns “funky” at all.