Lacto-Fermented Pesto

I planted a ton of basil this year, and I’ve been looking for ways to preserve it so I can enjoy it in the winter. I searched around for lacto-fermented pesto recipes, but all the ones I found seemed to have a ton of brine in them. Then the thought occurred that I could modify the sauerkraut recipe I use to get enough basil packed in the jars to make a thicker pesto. Best of all, it’s super easy! Once the pesto is done fermenting, just dump the whole jar into the blender or food processor and process until it’s the texture you like. As an added bonus, toss the stems in some water with some sugar and a pinch of sea salt to make an excellent basil simple syrup.
I made two jars so I could try it out, and it worked very well! I ate one jar right away, and canned the other in a hot water bath to see if it would hold up (it does). The flavor is about the same as regular old pesto, but slightly more savory thanks to the fermentation process. Because it’s packed in brine, it also is thinner than traditional pesto, but still is a good consistency to toss with pastas, stir in to soups, or add to just about anything else!

Jars of pesto

The jars prior to fermenting.

Lacto-Fermented Pesto

~3 cups fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp salt (I use sea salt)
1 1/2-2 c water
2 cloves garlic
2 pint jars

-Tightly pack the basil leaves into the pint jars, pressing down as you add more leaves to the jars.
-Place a clove of garlic on top of each jar.
-Mix the salt in the water until dissolved.
-Pour the brine over the leaves until they are covered.
-Place the lids of the jars and set aside for two weeks to ferment.

Basil Simple Syrup

1 cup basil stems
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
pinch sea salt

-Combine water, salt, and basil in a pot.
-Heat until simmering, and simmer for 7-10 minutes or until the infusion is as strong as you would like.
-Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

7 responses

  1. I have read that you cannot can pesto. (With cheese and olive oil). As it will develop botulism. This recipe has neither ingredient. How long did you boils your jars in a water bath to can? And idles the fermenting keep it
    From developing botulism?

    • Hi! You’re right–that’s why I created this recipe in the way I did. Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve made this so I can’t remember the exact processing time, but I believe it was around 15 minutes. I would look at similar fermented things (sauerkraut, etc) in the Ball blue book to check for exact times. I’ll update this to include the time if I get my hands on enough basil to make more pesto soon!

      • Then I’m not so sure ‘pesto’ is an appropriate word for this condiment [that I’m sure tastes great] 😛

        The nuts are kind of a key component of what makes it pesto xD.

      • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! While many traditional pestos include pine nuts (or other nuts, depending who you ask), food is an evolving thing (just like language), and the two often intersect to result in new understandings of a dish (just look at how we’ve envisioned salads over the last 500 years). One example of that is our modern version of pesto, which is a term now applied to a condiment that might or might not contain nuts. I selected this modern version, rather than the more traditional version, which is already well-represented elsewhere.

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