Early to mid-September is my time to harvest the basil from our garden and turn it into pesto to freeze for the winter. On an overcast, icy, windblown day, nothing cheers me up more than spaghetti with pesto, or a dollop of the good stuff slipped into some minestrone.
But pesto can turn black when you freeze it. My solution is to blanch the leaves before processing. No doubt some of the flavor is lost, but there’s still plenty to enjoy, and the thawed product looks appetizingly green.
Making pesto is a great sensual pleasure. Can any perfume compare to the ravishing scent of freshly-picked basil, still warm from the summer sun, and exuding its essential oils? It’s fresh and bright like citrus, yet simultaneously earthy and sexy, like a truffle. No wonder it is used as a top note in many fragrances.
I get a stockpot of water boiling, and have a big bucket of ice water nearby. As soon as the leaves are fully wilted, I drain them and plunge them into the ice water. Then I squeeze out the moisture and process with plenty of pine nuts, garlic and oil. If you’re freezing the pesto, they say it’s best to add cheese later, when you’re about to use it. I’ve never had a problem including the cheese, but this year I’m leaving it out for reasons of space.