Pesto has got to be one of my favourite foods and I love to add it to pasta and turn it into dips. See my recipe for ricotta and pesto dip here. This year I decided to grow my own Sweet Basil with great results.
When growing sweet basil, to get a good plant that produces lots of leaves, you need to prevent it from flowering. Every time you see a flower forming just pinch then off and this will force the plant to bush out and give you a much better harvest of leaves.
The problem for me is that I have been away promoting my new book, Sugar Free Home Preserving, and when I did get back to the farm, all my Sweet Basil had flowered and I now had loads of flowers to pinch off and dispose of. That seemed like such a waste to me so I wanted to make use of them if I could.
The flowers can be used just like the leaves in foods, so the first thing I did was fill a few trays of my dehydrator.
I filled two x 250ml jars with the dried flowers that I can now add to soups and stews and any tomato based dishes.
I had plenty of flowers left and I wanted to try something different; Sweet Basil infused olive oil. So I grabbed an empty 500ml jar and some extra virgin olive oil. Washing the jar in hot, soapy water and rinse well. Dry before adding the flowers and then top up with the oil. Be sure that the flowers are completely covered by the oil as any flowers above the oil will go mouldy.
Seal the jar and place ti in a warm spot in your kitchen. Stir once a week. After a month, strain the oil through a coffee filters or fine sieve and discard the flowers.
Store in a sterile bottle. If you want to you can place a few fresh leaves in the bottle for decoration. Be sure to label the bottle with the type of oil and keep it in the pantry, out of direct sunlight.
This aromatic oil has an intense flavour that is ideal for cooking but to be honest, my favourite thing to do with it is to use it as a dipping oil with some home made crusty bread.
To your good health. Valerie