September 12, 2011

Basil Jelly

It's amazing what waiting for Baby translates to in the kitchen. It seems like I'm trying to convert all my eagerness for Baby into culinary canning creations. Tonight's adventure was Basil Jelly.

Yes, I realize Basil Jelly sounds odd. However, our basil did well with the "survival of the fittest" aspect of our garden. There's no way we'll use it all fresh, dried basil loses flavor and we certainly don't have room to freeze all our basil. (Bread takes up way too much freezer space.) Plus, I'm on a canning kick, so I settled on a Basil Jelly recipe. It turned out quite well ...all 7 1/2 pints of my double batch.

Basil Jelly
4 cups water
2 cups packed basil leaves
1 package powdered pectin
5 cups sugar

Combine water and basil in large saucepan. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let stand 10 minutes. Strain out basil leaves, reserving water. Combine 2 2/3 cups of water with the pectin. Return to a rolling boil, and add sugar. Bring to a rolling boil for one minute, stirring constantly. 

Remove from heat. Skim foam. Pack jelly into hot sterilized jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Boil in a hot water bath 15 minutes.

September 10, 2011

Tomato Basil Jam

We've done plenty of tomatoes into salsa already this year, so I wanted to try something different. I had found a recipe for Tomato Basil Jam. Although I should have used the tomatoes from our garden, I wanted a different variety. We picked up some yellow cherry tomatoes at the farmers' market to use with our basil for this jam.

I'm not sure what to pair with this jam ... probably would be good for a version of bruschetta. It's definitely sweet and jammy with hints of savory from the basil.

Tomato Basil Jam
4 lbs. yellow tomatoes (the sweeter, the better)
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup basil

Cut tomatoes in half, and let them sit an hour to release their juices. Add lemon juice and sugar. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil. Boil 30 to 35 minutes until tomatoes reach consistency of jam. Remove from heat, stir in chopped basil and pack into hot sterilized jars. Boil in a hot water bath 10 minutes.

Note: My yield was 9 quarter pints.

Extra Note: I made a second batch using red tomatoes, which looks just as pretty. I don't believe this batch is quite as sweet as the yellow. 

Ground Cherry Jam

I discovered ground cherries at the farmers' market last year, so I at least knew what they were when I received a free seed package with some of my other garden seeds. We planted them in our garden, forgot about them as our tomato plants crowded into the ground cherry space and assumed we were out of luck for ground cherries as they must need at least a bit of sunshine and space to grow. So, we were quite surprised to discover ground cherries underneath our tomato plants last weekend!

The apparent hardiness of the plants led me to devise a master plan to plant them along our house next year to harvest crops large enough for jamming. However, I wanted to ensure we actually liked ground cherry jam before committing to my master plan. We picked up about 4 cups of husked ground cherries today at the farmers' market. Let's just say that ground cherries will be planted and jammed next year!

Ground Cherry Jam
4 cups ground cherries, husked and washed
1/4 cup + 4 tsp. lemon juice
8 Tbsp. pectin
3 1/2 generous cups sugar

Combine cherries, lemon juice and pectin. Cook over medium heat until ground cherries are bursting. Mash ground cherries, and then add sugar. Stir to dissolve, and bring to a boil. Boil while stirring one minute. Remove from heat, and pack into hot sterilized jars. Boil in a hot water bath 10 minutes.

Note: My yield was 10 quarter pints ... the cutest little jars!

September 4, 2011

Labor Cookies

Yes, you read that correctly. These are not Labor Day Cookies. They are Labor Cookies. These cookies are rumored to induce labor for pregnant women. I made them not because I'm unbearably uncomfortable, but rather because I'll take any excuse to eat a cookie (or four).

As my husband said, they taste quite reminiscent of gingersnap cookies. He, of course, does not taste the cayenne pepper that registers on my more sensitive taste buds .

Labor Cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
8 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup egg whites

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine flour, baking soda and spices and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the molasses to the creamed butter, and then add the egg whites until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly.

Once all ingredients are incorporated, roll dough into 1-inch balls and place onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Note: The original recipe I found online suggests eating as many cookies as you can possibly stomach, lay down for a nap and wait for labor to begin. Such an optimistic (and unrealistic) attitude!

Canned Beets

I realize canned beets are not nearly as exciting as Pickled Beets, but I'm also optimistic that my offspring will enjoy smashed beets next year before they're in season. Since I plan to make most of our food for our baby, I figured beets were a good starting point.

Canned Beets
Beets (amount is easily adjustable since all you need is boiling water)
Boiling water

Wash and drain beets. Cook beets, and submerge in cold water to peel. Slice, dice or leave beets whole.

Pack beets into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Ladle boiling water over beets, leaving 1-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints 30 minutes or quarts 35 minutes in a steam-pressure canner at 10 lbs. pressure.

Pickled Beets

I love the earthy smell and flavor of beets, but my absolute favorite way to enjoy beets is pickled into sweet sublimeness. Oddly enough, it seems I thinned out most of my traditional beets early this summer after planting way too many beets. So, that left me with some striped beets, golden beets and some oddly albino beets. Here's the traditional pickling recipe, straight from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.

Pickled Beets
3 quarts beets
2 cups sugar
2 sticks cinnamon (Note: I was able to use cinnamon my brother bought back from India to make these extra special.)
1 Tbsp. whole allspice
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups vinegar
1 1/2 cups water

Wash and drain beets. Cook beets, and submerge in cold water to peel. Combine all ingredients except beets in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon.

Pack beets into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Ladle hot liquid over beets, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 30 minutes in a hot water bath.

September 3, 2011

Dilly Beans

These little gems are among the easiest of all canning projects, and they taste delicious. We tend to eat all our fresh purple beans. (Yes, we plan purple beans. They grow well and are more entertaining than green beans, although they turn green when cooked.) So, with beans $1/pound at the farmer's market, it's hard to pass up the opportunity to make dilly beans.

Dilly Beans
2 lbs. green beans
1/4 cup canning salt
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups vinegar
1 tsp. cayenne pepper, divided
4 cloves garlic
4 heads dill

Trim ends off green beans. Combine salt, water and vinegar in medium pot, and bring to a boil. Pack beans lengthwise into pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Add 1/4 tsp. cayenne, 1 clove garlic and 1 head of dill to each jar. Ladle hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a hot water bath.