Weeknight food preservation: Put up food for winter without canning


I love making big batches of pesto to store in the freezer, but when I have several pounds of basil (or mint, dill, cilantro, parsley, arugula, etc.) that need to be dealt with immediately, I use this short-cut.

1. Wash and dry: Rinse and dry 2 cups of your herb of choice.

2. Puree with olive oil: Combine the herb with a pinch of salt and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a food processor. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the food processor container as necessary.

3. Store: Spoon the herb mixture into a plastic freezer bag or container and store in the freezer.

When you’re ready to make pesto, defrost the herb mixture. Toast 2 tablespoons of nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, cashews, etc.) and chop 1/2 clove of garlic. Combine the herb mixture with the nuts, garlic, and 1/4 cup more of olive oil in a food processor and process. Grate 1/2 cup of hard cheese (Parmesan, pecorino Romano, etc.) or omit for a vegan version. Stir in the cheese by hand and serve. (Makes about 1 cup of pesto.)

Up Next: Preserving greens

  1. Martha Marshall

    A friend told me that she pops them in the freezer whole and unpeeled. Then when they’re thawed the skins slide right off! I haven’t tried it yet but plan to.

    I’ve been canning like a madwoman this summer. It’s fun to see all the colors and shapes in those jars.


    1. Rachel Shulman

      I’ll have to try that tomato trick and see if it works! I suspect it might work better for slicing tomatoes than sauce tomatoes…

  2. Heather

    Canning is great, but I agree – it takes a lot of time!! We just finished making a massive batch of pesto that was put in jars, but is heading for the freezer. Great idea on the tomatoes, those are up next! Thanks for the post!

    1. Rachel Shulman

      I really like these shortcuts because I can put away smaller quantities of food bit by bit during the week. Freezing makes sense when you have a pound of basil that’s starting to turn a little black on the edges or some tomatoes that you know you aren’t going to get to in time. Taking 20 minutes to put up excess food as it becomes available really adds up over the course of the summer – you’ll be thankful come wintertime that you did!

      Canning makes more sense to me when all of a sudden I have 20 pounds of extra tomatoes and I have the weekend off – then I’ll make a day of it.

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