summer’s leftovers – salt preserved basil

Last night I cooked Spaghetti Bolognese and I used some of our own produce to do so. A massive spring onion – nice strong flavour but a little woody at the base due to age – and fresh parsley were thrown in. I have used all my jars of tomatoes and pasta sauce which I made from last summer’s crop, so I had to use supermarket tomatoes.

Since no Spaghetti Bolognese is complete withough delicious basil, and I have no fresh basil available (due to it only just being spring), I used the last of a jar of salt preserved basil. As you can see from the photo above, salt preserved basil looks a little different to the fresh basil.

But here’s the thing – dried basil tends to lose its flavour. This one, while it loses some of the flavour, still tastes like basil. I can’t vouch for the science of it, but here’s my best guess: Drying basil lets out all the essential oils – and that’s what carries the flavour. Salting basil draws only the water out of the leaf, leaving the oils. This means a few big jars of salted basil can give you tasty (although no so attractive) basil supplies for the winter months, as there is no moisture in which bacteria can grow. If anyone is concerned about how food safe this is, please conduct your own research before embarking, as I am by no means an expert on the subject. I am happy with my thoughts on the matter and consider the risk well worth the almost fresh taste of basil in winter.

I wouldn’t use it in a pesto – thats why I crushed basil at the end of summer and froze it at various stages of becoming pesto to see which stage is the best to freeze it at (turns out parmesan cheese doesn’t go so well in the freezer).

To salt basil, it’s as simple as putting a layer of salt in the base of washed and dried glass jar, then layering your clean and dry basil – with no two pieces touching – between layers of salt. Pop a lid on it and keep it in your pantry – or a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. Over the next few days the salt will draw the moisture out of the leaves. As you chip out the salt later to get the leaves, put it into a shallow bowl or dish and let it dry out – it can then be reused and will not carry any basil flavour. I made up one jar using rock salt, and the rest were using normal salt. While the rock salt looks pretty awesome, it can be a bit difficult/annoying to have to chip out lumps of salt to get your basil out. I’d advise personal discretion be used with that one!

In using the basil, there is usually a bit of salt clinging to the leaves as you bring them out. There’s two choices here – if it’s a recipe that requires salt, throw in the leaves with the salt attached and reduce or omit the salt itself. If you don’t want the salt, it’s a simple matter to brush it off or wash the leaves.

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