Preserving Pesto

harvesthunt(6)July 1, 2007

I finally got around to cutting back the basil today, and ended up making 3 double recipes of pesto!

What is the best way of preserving it? I tried looking it up and everything suggests not canning it because the olive oil could go rancid. But there's no way I can eat this much.

Can I safely freeze it? (I believe the ball jars are freezer safe, right?)

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I froze mine last year in small glass canning jars with the plastic storage lids. Came out very well. Some recipes say not to freeze with the parm cheese in it, but mine turned out ok.


    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 7:08PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I've frozen with and without the cheese. While some say not to freeze with cheese, I didn't perceive any big difference. Without cheese does take up less freezer space and also makes for a more versatile mixture, to be used as pesto base, to add to soups, stir in for a compound butter, whatever.

A quick "big-batch" way to do it is to line a pan (I use an 8x8) with saran, hanging excess over the edge, and pour in the pesto. Put in freezer until solid. Then pull out of the pan by the saran and cut the block into convenient cubes, using a knife or pizza wheel.

I try for seasoning blocks about 1 tablespoon in size and Pesto blocks about 1/4 cup in size. Then wrap and bag up in ziplocs or vacuum seal. Takes up much less space in the freezer.

Another option for small amounts is to freeze in an ice-cube tray and pop out. But I've found the pan method is quicker and cleaning is much simpler.


    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 9:47PM
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Thank you!

6 - 8oz jars are now happily ensconsed in my freezer. (Plus one in the fridge, and one gifted to mom.)

And we've still got at least two more months of basil picking! Yipes!!! Need more jars!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 9:36AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Dont forget the cheese, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil. For the cheese, its a mix of Parmesiano Reggiano, and a good quality Romano, freshly grated...

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 8:59PM
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And of course, toasting the pine nuts adds considerably to the flavor. (I did mine on a cookie sheet at 325 for about 5 minutes, shaking them halfway through.) I used an extra clove of garlic per double batch for some extra flavor, but not overpowering. The parm and romano were grated about 10 minutes before they were all mixed together. And of course, high quality evoo.... YUM!!! Had some at dinner last night and can't hardly wait for leftovers at lunch!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 11:21AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Another cheese that goes well is the Asuago (sp.) or italian table cheese.. Anyone remember Mama Leones resturant in NY on Broadway? There, were big chunks of that cheese on every table.. For pine nuts, you will find many sources are expensive. Bj's and Costco sell big bags very cheaply.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 12:12PM
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Please let me share how I freeze my pesto. I read once about doing it in ice cube trays, but it proved difficult to remove them from the trays once frozen. So now I make up my batches of pesto and I take my ice cream scoop and scoop scoops onto a cookie sheet. Put the sheet in the freezer. Once they are firm remove them from the tray and put in a ziploc bag and the bag goes in the freezer. Then you use the tray to freeze the next batch. I did two gallon bags last year and they lasted through Feb when we ate them all. This way you can also defrost as much or as little as you need and you don't have jars taking up all of your freezer space!
I hope this helps!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 5:01PM
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woodenzoo(z6 OH)

uptomyeyeballs, I like that idea!
Think I'll give it a try this year!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 11:41PM
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iacche(z6 Eastern PA)

I freeze pesto in small single-serving yogurt cups (fill them up to whatever quantity you need per meal). When they're frozen, I transfer them to those cheap little sandwich bags and twist-tie them shut, then I can fit 9 or 10 in a gallon-sized ziplock bag, which saves space in the freezer.

It doesn't take too long to bag them up. I usually have a bowl of warm water and put a yogurt cup of frozen pesto in the water for only a few seconds. The pesto pots right out into the bag with no sign whatsoever of meltage.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 11:29AM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)

I use muffin tins to freeze mine. Then I pop out the pesto "pucks" and put them in ziplocks like iacche.

I only have a small amount of basil this year --- some regular, some thai --- that I use for fresh cooking, so will have to purchase some for putting up pesto. It seems to be impossible to put up enough --- no matter how much I do, we run out by the time basil season comes back around.



    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 12:08PM
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I use the ice cube tray method. when I transfer from the ice cube trays to ziplock baggies, I dip the tray in warm water for about 15 seconds and they pop right out. Your ice cube trays are permanently green, but I can live with that.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 7:25PM
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I do my basil in a Pistou style (French version of pesto) which is just basil, garlic, salt and pepper preserved in olive oil. I keep it in the fridge and if you are careful to pack the oil properly it keeps for many, many months; up to a year. You do have to top off with olive oil sometimes when you get in the jar. I make mind pretty mild and almost all basil so it's good for a quick bread topping, must as you'd use butter.

Although honestly I use more dried basil than a basil condiment, because I put it in almost everything tomato-y and many bean dishes and soups. Properly done and stored, dried basil is a pretty good substitute in cooked dishes. (Way better than buying a basil spice jar.)

Zabby, grow your basil inside for another batch. It does fine in a pot if you have sunny window for when to gets too cold.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 8:30PM
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hi-i've been reading all your comments on how to preserve
pesto---can someone tell me their process as to how to
make it-and what and how much ingredients to use ---do you boil it down then put in jars---or is it processed
cold??---i've never made it and would like to put up a few jars
for use in the winter to preserve in the freezer or in the fridge...i have tons of basil right now and would love
to put it to use....thanks cheri

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 10:01PM
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Here is my basic pesto recipe

* 3 cups chopped fresh basil (I don't chop it before I put it in the processor...whats the point?)
* 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
* 1/2 cup pine nuts
* 1/8 cup Brazil nuts( I don't usually use this combo if nuts because pine nuts are expensive. I usually use walnuts and often add any other tree nut or even sunflower seeds in.)
* 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 2 tablespoons minced garlic(I use a lot more garlic than this and I don't measure, but often 5-10 cloves depending on the size of the clove)
* 1/2 teaspoon chili powder


1. Place the basil in a blender. Pour in about 1 tablespoon of the oil, and blend basil into a paste. Gradually add pine nuts, Brazil nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, chili powder, and remaining oil. Continue to blend until smooth.

Oh so yummy!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 7:47PM
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I just did mine this weekend. I put all but cheese and froze in ice cube ( ice tubes). I popped out and then put into two ziplocs and will add cheese then.

click on view show button to see mine

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 9:53PM
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tried to edit my above post...could not..let me try this:

Ice tube tray sprayed with pamish stuff

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 12:04AM
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I am wondering why my frozen pesto is so dark? Any suggestions to make it more fresh looking? Also has anyone frozen whole leaves in water? Thanks

    Bookmark   September 6, 2007 at 1:27PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Oxidation turns pesto dark, so keeping out air is critical.

I vacuum-seal frozen squares in small packets but floating a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto in the container will also help.


    Bookmark   September 6, 2007 at 1:53PM
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I found these very large silicone ice cube trays at Ikea. They work perfectly for freezing pesto. Each little section is the size of 2 or 3 regular ice cubes. I lightly spray the interior with oil...freeze...pop out into freezer bags.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2007 at 4:40PM
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jessewo(5 PA)

I have a variation on the freezer bag freezing method. I glop some of the pesto into a quart size freezer bag, press it flat, expelling as much air as possible & freezing the bags flat. Once they are frozen flat, I stack them in the hanging baskets in my chest freezer-kind of like file folders! They don't take up a lot of room, you can package different sauces & such this way & flip through them easily to find what you're looking for. If you freeze them in small quantities per bag (say, 1/2" thick) you can easily break pieces off as needed & you don't have to thaw the whole bag. To thaw the whole bag, toss it into some warm water for a couple of minutes. This prevents most of the air from coming into contact with the pesto, & minimizes freezer burn. Give it a try!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 7:39PM
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I use jeesew's method, although I do it in sandwich sized bags as once you open a bag to use some, I can never really get as good a seal as when first I filled them...if I don't use Pesto for a while, I don't lose as much to freezer burn.

I make the pesto in the bags quite thin...about 1/4 of an inch. That way, you can defrost a whole bag, or just break off a teaspoon or so to use as a fresh flavor in a quick vinaigrette for two or flavoring for an omelet or soup.

I use this method for tomato paste as well. I'm sure we've all made dishes that needed a tablespoon or so of tomato paste and had the rest of the can left over. Tomato paste freezes quite well, and being able to break off a bit to enrich a soup or a sauce is a boon to improvisational cooking.

Another very pleasant way to use extra basil up at the end of the season is to make a basil infused olive oil or vinegar. I prefer to make the basil olive oil and sundried tomato vinegar...the green olive oil and red vinegar make nice Christmas gifts in pretty bottles.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 2:32AM
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We do a whole lot of pesto each year. Use a food processor, add a squirt of lemon juice to preserve and keep the bright green color. Freeze in muffin tins; placing a sheet of saran wrap over the tin, fill the tins with pesto allowing it to push down the plastic into the cup, and freeze. When frozen you just pop them out and you hardly have any clean up. We store them (4) four pucks to a 1-quart Ziploc bag and write the date on the bag.
One puck is about right for my wife and I for a small batch of gnocchi, or thaw a puck for sandwich spread. We always add cheese to the batch as it tastes the same as if you add it later. Do you want to spice it up a notch? Add a little fresh oregano. Greek Oregano if you want it "peppery". Do you want a gourmet touch? Use Macadamia nuts instead of pine nuts!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 3:29AM
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I want to sent several batches of pesto to people in Germany. Can I can it and will it loose its 'yumminess'?

    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 10:40AM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

You cannot safely can pesto in any manner. Canning will put you at a risk for botulism.
It must be frozen.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 1:10PM
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I have found that blanching basil leaves for a few seconds in boiling water followed by an ice bath helps to preserve the bright green color of pesto. It will blacken even then but is retarded by the blanching.
Keeping the surface covered with olive oil is also a must when storing in the refrigerator. After each use, I re-level the top of the contents in the jar and pour a little fresh olive oil over the exposed top. If you are using good olive oil (recommended), it will augment the flavor of the pesto in any case.
Jim in So Calif

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 8:53AM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)

n jacquier,

You really can't can pesto---things based on oil are among the least safe to can.

I can't think of any good way to send it to Germany, alas. The only way I know of preserving it is refrigerating or freezing.

Your German friends will have to come visit to have your pesto!


    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 5:29PM
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david52 Zone 6

A word here as well on freezing pesto - we have done it in qt containers, however, when we thaw a container, use some, and leave the rest in the fridge for a bit, it sprouts interesting stuff in only a few days. My resident pesto hounds were devastated when we recently had to throw the last of it out.

Best to freeze and thaw it in meal sized portions, as others above have stated.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 9:44AM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)

Good advice, David52.

I put it into a muffin tin. I have an old, fairly shallow one that holds about 1/3 of a cup in each spot, which is just about perfect for a meal in my household (I add the parmesan and a little butter when I thaw it, so what I freeze is pretty concentrated---just basil & a little parsley, olive oil, garlic, & salt).

It freezes in a few hours, then I pop out the "pesto pucks" and wrap each one tightly in aluminum foil & put them all into a Ziploc bag. (This is the point at which my DH starts singing "Pesto, pesto puck" to the tune of "Disco duck," but that is an optional part of the procedure.....)


    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 1:38PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

This is probably the only situation where silicone pans are an advantage. Unfortunately, my older metal pans were all expropriated by my DH for molding sinkers.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 3:37PM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)



It's true I find this old aluminum muffin pan SO useful for freezing in portions. I do chicken stock in it, too, and Ruth Ann's tomato-basil butter.

Unlike modern pans, it doesn't have a lot of extra handle at the edges, so it doesn't take up too much room in the freezer---it fits nicely on the little shelf where the ice cube trays usually go. And it's easily bent a little to help "pop out" the frozen goodies.

If they don't come out at first try, a quick dip into a shallow pan of warm water does the trick. (This works even with a bigger, modern muffin pan, though not as instantaneously.)

annoyed that her siblings insisted on Presidents' Choice brand easy-carve turkeys for our holiday meal, so she hardly has any bones to make turkey stock, grumble grumble....

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 11:33AM
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I process only the basil with just enough olive oil to allow the food processor to work. Then I freeze it in plastic ice cube trays and pop it out into ziploc bags. If I want pesto at a later time, I can soften enough cubes and blend with the garlic, pine nuts, cheese, etc. just before serving. For soup and other things, I really don't need the other ingredients. I regularly soften a cube and mix it in when I'm scrambling eggs for an omelet, or pop a few in a pot of soup just before it is done. Most things say to avoid freezing garlic, and for most of the other things I would just rather use them fresh. The only thing that doesn't have that flexibility is the basil itself, that needs to be processed right away before it gets to flowering. So only process the basil. My recommondation...

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 12:57PM
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