Pistou is the Provence version of pesto, made without nuts or cheese (sometimes with cheese, but usually not). Since it doesn’t have these additions, it’s much better for freezing as a way to preserve any late season basil.
Harvest all of your basil before the first frost and blend it up to make pistou for freezing. Dried basil is essentially tasteless, so it’s much better to freeze it instead of drying.
This method is easy and will give you little bursts of flavour in your recipes all winter long. Essentially, you blend basil with garlic, lemon, and olive oil, then freeze in cubes or dollops.
I love throwing one or two of these in soups, pasta sauces, and thawing them for toast or pizza. Add this to tomato vegetable soup, a winter minestrone, or just pop a cube into anything you think might benefit from a bit of zest.
- Basil: fresh, and ideally harvested immediately before use. Stems are fine to use here and encouraged.
- Lemon: juice only, but fresh lemon has the best flavour.
- Garlic: be sure to use garlic to taste, especially as different varieties may be hotter.
- Olive Oil: extra virgin is best.
- Salt and pepper
Notes and Substitutions
Since this is really meant as a recipe for gardeners, use all of the plant. I cut it off right at the base and blend the whole thing, stems and all, into a fine paste. You can use leaves only if it’s earlier in the season.
I have a guideline in my cookbook for freezing common herbs in a similar way (page 255) if you want info on other herbs.
You can adds nuts or seeds if you’d like, but I find that additions can sometimes cause the cubes to spoil sooner and taste off. This is the way my mother always did it and without cheese or nuts makes for the best result. See dairy-free pesto for a cheese-free version in a smaller amount.
If you don’t want to risk your ice cubes tasting of basil, use the parchment paper method instead. Line a tray (one that fits in your freezer) with parchment, and drop small spoonfuls of the pistou onto the paper. Freeze until solid and then transfer to a container to store.
I don’t use single-use plastic and instead store the cubes in glass canning jars in my freezer. These are ideal as they’re meant to withstand extreme temperature changes and I’ve never had one crack.
Preserve More of Summer
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Pistou for Freezing
- 150 grams fresh basil
- 10 cloves garlic to taste
- Juice of one lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Finely chop the basil and garlic in a food processor or high speed blender. Add the lemon juice and salt and pulse to combine.
- Slowly add the olive oil, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary. You don't have to use the full amount if it's blending up without it. You're going for a consistency similar to pesto.
- Spoon the mixture into a clean ice cube tray. If you don't want to use yours, just line a tray with parchment paper and freeze the pesto in dollops on there, removing and packaging once they're solid. These last several months in a sealed container in the freezer.