I always grow a ton of basil, primarily for using fresh. However, last year I put up (in the freezer) about 15 pint jars of homemade pesto, and we were very glad to have them, mostly for school lunches (my kids take thermoses to school 2-3 times a week to have a break from sandwich-like foods; neither one will buy school lunches). But the quality of the frozen pesto wasn't nearly as good as fresh - we ate it and we liked it, but after having the first fresh pesto of summer, we realized how much better fresh is. Unfortunately there's no way to have fresh pesto in winter, we're just going to have to either manage with frozen, or buy pesto whenever we want it, which for me is consumerism at its worst (where is that basil coming from in December, anyway? There's nothing local about that unless you live in Mexico) - so, I guess I'll be making big batches of pesto for the freezer. But first, I wanted to try freezing pureed basil in oil ice cubes. I did this last year with cilantro, and we ended up not using a single one. But I figure basil cubes might be handier - like for when I open a jar of tomato puree to have on pasta, adding a cube or two of basil might be nice. 

I put some special ice cube herb freezer trays on my wish list and got them in my stocking this past Christmas. The Ball company makes them. They come in a set of two with lids.

I picked a full basket of basil, which basically fills up the food processor. 

I process the basil, then drizzle oil in through the top, just until I have a paste. Then spoon the mixture carefully in to the trays. A whole basket's worth of basil made very little puree.

Bummer. I'll have to do this again, several times. I will also probably do this with cilantro and maybe with thyme, and make sure I use them up this winter!

I also spent some time canning more roasted tomato puree this morning. The daily harvest of tomatoes is finally reaching a satisfactory amount. I usually roast the cherry tomatoes with garlic, basil, and olive oil for freezer sauce. The larger tomatoes either get turned into puree, crushed tomatoes, or salsa, in a sort of round-robin pattern.  

I love looking at a bountiful harvest of tomatoes.

I was starting to get a little mad at the canning ring situation in the kitchen. We have a basket on a shelf that was overflowing with lids and rings. So I left the lids in there, and took all the rings out, and put them on bungee cords and hung them next to the garlic - one cord for wide mouth, one for regular mouth. This small hack has literally changed my life. The rings are easy to get on and off, and they are much neater and definitely out of the way! 

As you know, you need fresh lids for canning, but the rings can be used several times before being retired. I also use old lids and rings for freezer preserving, or anytime we have leftovers to go in the fridge. Mason jars have become our go-to for pretty much any kind of food keeping. The only place we use plastic is in the kids' lunches.

One more pretty image to share with you - I picked all the Bishop's Lace seedheads in order to save the seed. This is one of the prettiest seed arrangements I have ever seen. Nature is often so surprising! The seeds are green an purple - the purple ones are drier. Gorgeous.

Bishop's Lace is in the carrot family, like Queen Anne's Lace and a lot of herbs (parsley, coriander, dill, anise) and some poisonous things like Water Hemlock. Don't pick and eat these things in the wild unless you are 100% sure of what you have found. This family used to be called Umbelliferae because of the flower shape (umbels), but is now called the Apiaceae. I don't know why. One thing is for sure, insects very much love this shape of flower, so it's good to include them in the garden for pollinators!