This month's notes: February 2016: Strawberries and blueberries each have a very brief season; don't miss them: See your state's crop availability calendar for more specific dates of upcoming crops. And see our guide to local fruit and vegetable festivals, such as strawberry festivals and blueberry festivals. Organic farms are identified in green! Also make your own ice cream - see How to make ice cream and ice cream making equipment and manuals. Please tell the farms you found them here - and ask them to update their information!!!!
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As expensive as fresh basil is in the stores, especially in the winter, pesto is in the stores, you wouldn't know that you can actually freeze the basil from your own garden and use it in the winter in cooking. It works great for any recipe that calls for fresh basil and is cooked. It's obviously not suitable to use on a salad!
The only equipment you need is a food processor, blender or chopper.
Makes about 2 cup or prepared basil leaves for freezing!
Discard any flower buds, stems or leaves that aren't in good shape. All we want are leaves; small, medium or large; as long as they are a healthy green, not brown or molding!
Just wash them in a large bowl under cold water, no soap!
If you don't have a food processor, you can use a blender, and possibly a chopper. It would be fairly tedious to do this by hand, but I'm sure it can be done that way, too.
Start by stuffing basil leaves (in small batches) into the food processor and add the olive oil and fruit fresh to help it keep moving. The olive oil and fruit fresh keeps the basil from turning dark in the freezer.
Pack the chopped basil into a Ziploc or vacuum freezer bag and remove as much air as possible. Seal the bag and flatten it (that makes it easier to store and when you need some basil, you can break off a frozen chunk without thawing the rest!)
A visitor suggests chopping it up and stuffing it into ice cube trays, then topping with water and freezing it. She suggests you can then put the frozen basil ice cubes into a large freezer bag and they are ready to use for almost any number of recipes. They stay as fresh as the day you picked them.
Pop it into the coldest shelf in your freezer!
Just use it in cooking as you would fresh chopped basil. It ought to keep in your freezer for 6 to 8 months.
Can I can pesto?
Herbs and oils are both low-acid and together could support the growth of the disease-causing Clostridium botulinum bacteria. University (Clemson, University of Georgia, etc.) food science researchers do NOT recommend canning herbs .
However, herbs and herb mixtures like pesto CAN be safely frozen! Pesto is an uncooked seasoning mixture of herbs, usually including fresh basil, and some oil. It may be frozen for long term storage. That's the recommended method to save your homemade pesto for the dark nights of winter!
Also, oils may be flavored with herbs if they are made up for fresh use, stored in the refrigerator and used within 2 to 3 days. Fresh herbs must be washed well and dried completely before storing in the oil. The very best sanitation and personal hygiene practices must be used.
Remember to ALWAYS call the farm or orchard BEFORE you go - weather, heavy picking and business conditions can always affect their hours and crops!
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