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Why is my pesto bitter?

ckells's picture

My pesto was bitter and  not yummy. Was it the walnuts I used or can you mis-handle basil? Help please.

ckells's picture

(post #33092, reply #23 of 46)

I just bought pine nuts from Wegman's and they were indeed from China and cost almost $13 a lb. Interesting info thanks. I'm trying again today to do pesto with basil from a friends garden, lighter green than what I bought from the farmer's market. I appreciate all of the helpful suggestions and am in awe of all of the dedicated cooks out there. I'm a new poster and will be a daily looker here!

Regality's picture

(post #33092, reply #24 of 46)

It was probably the nuts, and as someone noted, all nuts can get bitter/rancid with age.  However, almost all of the ingredients in pesto could add to the bitterness, except probably the cheese--the nuts, strong olive oil, overly mature basil, or even the garlic, if it's a bit "over-aged."


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Glenys's picture

(post #33092, reply #25 of 46)

And the cheese shouldn't go in in they're freezing it.

cosmo55's picture

(post #33092, reply #37 of 46)

We've been making and freezing pesto for years with the cheese. We've never had any problems with it and the pesto is always really good. Why should you freeze it without the cheese? Is it a better flavor? Or, is it a health issue? Just wondering....

Glenys's picture

(post #33092, reply #38 of 46)

It depends how one uses the frozen pesto. If you're from the group that cooks it into cream (yes, some Italian inland form Genoa do such a thing) it doesn't matter or if you're dropping a cube into a soup. I learned from Marcella Hazan and I agree, and I hate to be finicky, that the heating of the cheese with the pesto causes it to separate. It's much better for the quality and consistency of the Reggiano (or Reggiano/Romano blend) if it's added at the end. Less coagulation of the proteins, separating of fat and perfect dusting over the pesto infused pasta.

cosmo55's picture

(post #33092, reply #39 of 46)

Thanks for the response. Perhaps we'll try it and compare in the future....

plotdot's picture

(post #33092, reply #40 of 46)

The pesto recipe I use says not to add cheese or nuts if you're freezing your pesto, but to add it later when it's thawed and you're reconstituting it. That makes sense, since both those things tend to age ungracefully, even if they have been frozen.

CookiM0nster's picture

(post #33092, reply #41 of 46)

I understand the cheese, but not the nuts. They freeze so well. I actually store all mine in the freezer.

Jean's picture

(post #33092, reply #42 of 46)

I store cheese in the freezer too. And I freeze pesto, nuts, cheese and all. I think the stuff is indestructable.

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TracyK's picture

(post #33092, reply #43 of 46)

I freeze pucks of basil and oil... that way I have a little more flexibility regarding what to do with it. :-) If I want pesto, I can turn it into pesto just by tossing in some nuts and cheese. If I just want to add basil to a sauce or whatever, I can do that as well.

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plotdot's picture

(post #33092, reply #44 of 46)

The only reason I can think of is that once the cheese and nuts are in the pesto, all the whey and oils are released into the paste, and maybe those don't reconsititute as well when thawed. Milk doesn't reconsitute very well when frozen either. Remember, the water from the leaves is emulsified into the paste, then crystallizes when frozen. Maybe it doesn't re-emulsify as well if the cheese and pine nuts are included before it's frozen. There are some things that just don't go around as well twice. For instance, I've never thought that chicken or pork, unless they were in a pie or casserole, reheated all that well. Beef, on the other hand, seems to reheat just fine. Something changes chemically when chicken or pork is reheated; it even smells different. I agree that roasted pine nuts are better than raw. It makes all the difference, if you don't like that resin-ey flavor, which is an entirely different flavor than the strongly bitter pesto I had the year we planted them where the yew bush had been taken out.

CookiM0nster's picture

(post #33092, reply #45 of 46)

Good point.

plotdot's picture

(post #33092, reply #29 of 46)

One year I our basil where we had taken out some Yews only a few months before. That year the basil was bitter. I couldn't use any of our huge crop. Ever since then I've only planted basil in pots in fresh soil with plenty of bone meal and Osmocote, and I've always had good results. I think soil has a lot to do with the flavor of herbs, particularly sensitive ones like basil. Soil matters a great deal with grapes; why should basil (or any crop, for that matter) be any different?

MadMom's picture

(post #33092, reply #30 of 46)

Hi, plotdot, and welcome to CT.  You bring up a very good point about the must be one of those gardener people (as contrasted to the brown thumb people, such as I!)  Herbs seem to be the only thing I can grow.  I cannot even grow tomatoes.  Of course, I don't weed or water, but guess I expect God to take care of them.

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Flapjack66's picture

(post #33092, reply #31 of 46)

A few years ago, a writer to FC suggested growing basil in acidic soil, claiming that low pH prevented the plants from bolting. Anyone had any experience with this? My current tactic is just to keep picking (aggressively).

Gretchen's picture

(post #33092, reply #32 of 46)

My basil doesn't really "bolt" like dill or cilantro do with hot weather in our climate.  Don't quite get that. Just pick often, as you say.