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2 In Canning and Food Preservation/ Easy Healthy Recipes/ Herb Garden

Cranberry Basil Jelly Recipe

What do you do when you’re drowing in basil? That’s how I described the bounty from my garden this past week. The cinnamon basil didn’t grow, the holy basil didn’t grow, but the Genovese basil? Abundant, beautiful, silky, emerald green, bee-attracting bushes everywhere in my garden.

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. And when life hands you an abundance of basil, you get creative…and make jelly out of it. Here, my first attempt at making an herbal jelly and the recipe for cranberry basil jelly.

Warning: it’s addictive. And delicious.

Basil from the Summer Herb Garden

I planted flats of basil seedlings this spring, unsure if the seeds would germinate. It was an older package of seeds that I hadn’t bothered to date, and it was already open. Sometimes, older seeds don’t germinate as well as fresh seeds.

In this case, the basil did germinate. I had so many plants that I tucked them in everywhere in the raised bed vegetable garden as well as throughout my flower garden. I figured that if they grew well in the flower garden, the bees would enjoy them. Bees love basil.

The abundance of basil this year meant that I could share it with friends, dry plenty of it for winter use, and experiment with many recipes I’ve earmarked to try when the herbs were finally ready.

I found a great herb book called Herbs with Confidence through the Paperback Swap Club I belong to. I took a chance and ordered it since I enjoy collecting herb books. This little paperback, dated 1986 and with the last printing date of 1990, features inspiration quotes, growing information, and herbs with recipes.

The recipe I was drawn to was one for herbal jelly. I knew you could make mint jelly, of course. What’s a roast lamb without mint jelly? But I did not know you could make jellies out of parsley, basil, lemon balm, thyme, and other herbs.

I decided to make the herbal jelly recipe from this book and use some of that basil from the garden.

Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

Adapting Older Recipes to Modern Knowledge

The recipe Bertha Reppert includes in the book is an older one. I have found similar ones in cookbooks and documents dating back to around 1864, and herbal jellies seemed to have been popular during the Victorian era.

It’s a vague recipe, however, in that the Reppert doesn’t specify a lot of very important information. For example, she says to use “one bottle of liquid pectin.” How big a bottle? Three ounces, six ounces, eight, ten, a hundred? Who knows?

She also does not include canning information but instead recommends pouring the jelly into jelly jars and sealing with paraffin. According to what I have read, that type of canning was popular in the early 20th century and prior to 1900 but faded out of use around 1960 or 1970. New, metal canning lids have seals that last longer and are safer to use.

Aside from those two problems, I also had the problem of what to use as the base for the jelly. The original recipe makes jelly out of water infusion of basil, but I wanted more flavor and color and I don’t like using artificial color. Reppert suggested substituting cranberry juice. There’s just one catch; did she mean all natural cranberry juice or is cranberry juice cocktail aka Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail an acceptable substitution?

Deep breath…I decided to adapt the recipe to what I had on hand. The book I’m always raving about, the  Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, came to my rescue. The recipe for mint jelly in that book calls for 10 minutes of water bath processing, so I opted for that.

The best book on canning and home preserving – ever. 

I also opted for the Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail. We’d stocked up on bottles of it when it was on sale since my family likes it.

As for the liquid pectin, I had to make an educated guess. I purchased it in pouches since that was the only type of liquid pectin I could find. Each pouch was three ounces. I doubled the recipe to use up more basil, so I decided to use both pouches.

Ready? Here’s the recipe for cranberry basil jelly.

Recipe for Cranberry Basil Jelly

To make this jelly, you will need a water bath canner and eight-pint canning jars with new lids. I found extra larger 12-ounce jelly jars on sale, so I used six of those.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of fresh basil leaves, rinsed
  • 5 cups of cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • 8 cups of sugar
  • 6 ounces (two pouches) of liquid pectin

 

Place the washed basil leaves in a large ceramic bowl. Bring the cranberry juice to a boil in a separate pot, then pour it over the basil leaves. Place a lid or a dinner plate over the top of the bowl and let it steep for 15 – 30 minutes.

When the time is finished, remove the cover and strain the herbs out, reserving all the cranberry juice. It is now infused with the basil. Pour the cranberry juice infusion into a large saucepan. Add the vinegar and sugar, and cook it on high heat until all the sugar dissolves.

As soon as the mixture boils, add the liquid pectin and stir constantly. Keep stirring and boil it hard for one minute, stirring constantly. It’s going to foam up but that’s okay. You’ll deal with that later.

When the time is up, turn off the heat. Quickly skim off the foam. Pour the jelly mixture into canning jars, wipe the rims, and place the lids. Tighten screw band lids to finger-tight. Place in a hot water bath canner with at least one inch of water covering the tops of the lids. Place the lid on your canning pot and turn up the heat, following the directions in your favorite canning book (see above) for water bath canning procedures and safety.

Processing time is 10 minutes at a full boil. When the time is up, uncover the canning pot and wait five minutes before using a jar lifter to remove the jars. Let cool, label, and store for up to a year.

cranberry basil jelly

This jar is an antique jar without a seal. I put this one into the refrigerator. The jars behind it are apples from my orchard, which I canned before working on the jelly recipe.

cranberry basil jelly

Cranberry basil jelly poured into Ball canning jars with modern seals. These are ready for the hot water bath canner.

Using Cranberry Basil Jelly

Like pepper jelly, cranberry basil jelly is a savory jelly. Americans have lost their taste for savory jellies. We like sweet foods and savory jellies may seem strange to our palate.

I spooned the jelly onto Ritz crackers and enjoyed it with a glass of iced tea. You could also spread it on fancy breads, water crackers, or saltines for a delicious treat.

cranberry basil jelly

It’s tea time! A treat fit for a queen.

The taste is a great layering of flavors. First is the sweet taste of cranberry, followed the vinegar tartness. Lingering on the tongue is the taste of basil, the lush swan song of the summer herb garden.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this recipe for cranberry basil jelly. I also experimented with making herbal basil salt, which I will share with you in an upcoming recipe.

Happy gardening! Keep growing!

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2 In Canning and Food Preservation

How to Can Peaches

how to can peaches

I learned how to can peaches from the Ball Book of Home Preserving, a cookbook I recommend to those interested in learning how to can and preserve fresh garden produce.  Yesterday, Hubby helped me can peaches, and we were able to preserve nine pints. Here’s how to can peaches and enjoy them all year long!

How to Can Peaches

We have four Elberta peach trees growing in our orchard. Three are nine years old; one is a replacement for a tree we thought was dying and moved to another location, where it flourished and now appears to be dying again.

Elberta is a yellow-fleshed clingstone peach. It’s better for canning than fresh eating, although we do have our ritual pick and eat the first peach of the season. We slice up the peach and enjoy it fresh from the tree before setting down to harvesting and canning peaches.

peach tree

 

Only two out of the four trees in the orchard are bearing fruit this year. One isn’t ripe yet; the other, above, is about half-ready to be picked. We decided to space out canning peaches this year because it is labor intensive.

How to Can Peaches: Step 1 – Choose the Best Fruits

The first step is to harvest the peaches. You should choose the best fruits from the tree for preserving. We did not spray our trees this year, and both the Japanese beetles and June bugs are taking their toll on the trees. Some of the fruit is half-rotted as you can see in the picture, below. The peach on the lower left is half brown. I used the ripe half and threw out the bad half.

 

Picking peaches and timing it so that you outwit deer, June bugs, and every other creature on earth who enjoys fresh peaches is more of an art than a science. We keep track each year of approximately when we pick and can fresh fruit so we have a rough idea of when they will be ready. Despite what the books and Cooperative Extension websites tell you, each garden, orchard, and tree is unique. The books may say that Elbert peaches are ready in late July but ours are always ripe between July 4  and July 20.

We pick only as many peaches as we can preserve at a time. They don’t last very long in the bushel baskets and any bruised fruit or fruit with insect damage will rot quickly.

Fruit should be orange, peach, or golden color. Fruit with a green tint to it is still unripe.

We pick about 2/3 of a bushel basket, which yielded nine pints of canned peaches. I didn’t discard any whole fruit from the basket but some, like the example in the picture above, could not be used in its entirety.

Rocky, one of our cats, helped me sort the peaches.

 

Step 2: Prepare the Canner, Jars & Lids

Canning peaches requires a hot water bath canner. Get your canner set up with water and racks. Wash the jars with hot, soapy water and prepare the lids and rings. (For more details, see the Ball Big Book of Home Preserving.)

Step 3: Wash, Blanch, Peel & Slice

Now the fun part: peeling the peaches. It’s sticky, messy, but rewarding.

Get a pot of boiling water ready and a pot of ice water. Wash peaches under the tap, then carefully put a few in the boiling water for about 1-2 minutes. Then, remove them with a slotted spoon and pop them right into the ice water. Ripe peaches peel immediately and easy when you use this method. Peaches that are under ripe will peel more easily with a vegetable peeler.

Peel the peaches, then slice them away from the pit. Slice into the desired lengths and sizes for canning. Put any bruised, damaged, or rotten flesh into the compost bin along with your peach peels and pits.

Immerse the sliced peaches in a bowl of cold water. Mix 1/4 cup of lemon juicce and 4 cups of cold water together and cover your peaches in the bowl with this mixture. It prevents browning.

Keep blanching and peeling the batch of peaches until you’re done. It took us an hour with two people working side by side to tackle this task!

Step 4: Make the Syrup

Canned peaches should be canned in a sugar syrup mixture. My recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups of sugar to six cups of water. Place the sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan, then pour in the water. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved.

Step 5:  Peaches and Syrup in Jars

Using hot jars and a pair of canning tongs, remove the hot jars from the canning pot and dump the water out. Then, place each jar on your work surface. I use a wooden cutting board to protect my granite countertops.

Use a slotted spoon and a funnel and spoon the peaches into the jars. Then, fill each jar with the syrup. Leave 1/2 inch of space at the top or headroom.

When all the jars are filled, use a slotted spoon or a canning tool to remove the air bubbles. Gently heat new canning lids.

Step 6:  Canning Time

Take a damp paper towel and clean the rim of each jar before placing a new canning lid onto each. Then place the screw band lid and tighten it by hand.

Use your jar lifter to gently place each jar into the canning pot. Make sure the jars are on a rack – do not let them touch the bottom of the pot or they may break from the heat.

Be sure that there is adequate water covering the top of the jars, or about an inch or so. Check the USDA’s food preservation website or the Ball Big Book of Home Preserving for details. You need adequate water and steam to properly can foods.

When all the jars are in the canning bath, place the lid and turn up the heat until the canner is boiling steadily. Then lower the heat to gently boil it.  Canning time for pints of peaches is 30 minutes.

When the time has passed, remove the lid and wait 5 to 10 minutes before removing the jars using your jar lifter. Place them on a wooden cutting board or another protected surface while they are cooling.

Listen for the PING of the jar lids sealing and check each jar. If a jar doesn’t seal properly, you can enjoy it now – just put the cooled jar of peaches into the refrigerator and eat within a week.

Label and date each jar. Most of the new Ball lids have a spot on them to write in the date. I use a Sharpie marker to date them.

Add the finished jars to your pantry. Congratulations – you’ve just learned how to can peaches!

 

Problems Canning Peaches?

If you have problems while learning how to can peaches, check with your local Cooperative Extension site, the USDA food preservation website, or a reputable cookbook.

My own jars spilled syrup everywhere while cooling. I had to research for a while to learn what happened. They cooled too quickly, which allowed the boiling syrup to escape before the jar sealed. Messy, but still usable. We washed each jar under the tap and dried it with a clean dish towel before storing it.

how to can peaches

The peaches floated to the top, as you can see in the picture, above. This is common and probably happened because the peaches weren’t heated enough prior to placing them inside the jars.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into my process for canning peaches. It is labor intensive, but I love the work, and I especially love the feeling of what’s dubbed ‘food security’ – knowing where my food comes from (the tree about 100 yards from my house), how it was grown (because I grew it), and how it was preserved (because I preserved it.) Seeing the jars of food lined up in my pantry always gives me a feeling of self-sufficiency. I wish you could feel that, too. It’s a wonderful, happy thing.

Keep growing!

 

 

In Canning and Food Preservation

How to Freeze Broccoli Rabe

how to freeze broccoli rabe

In my last post, I shared with you the wonderful nutrition found in broccoli rabe. It’s one of my favorite vegetables and it is very easy to grow here in zone 7.

Like many spring vegetables, broccoli rabe is at its peak in early to mid-spring. When the warm weather arrives, it begins to flower and loses its flavor. It is best enjoyed fresh but if you cannot eat it all when it is ready in the garden you can preserve it by freezing. Here’s how to freeze broccoli rabe.

How to Freeze Broccoli Rabe

At first, you might think this is a silly post. After all, don’t you just put the vegetables in the freezer? Not quite. You need to use a process called blanching to halt enzyme activity

Not quite. You need to use a process called blanching to halt enzyme activity in the living tissues of the plant. By halting this activity, you will help your frozen broccoli rabe taste better and last longer in the freezer.

Blanching is easy to do but can be time-consuming if you are processing a lot of broccoli rabe. It took us about three hours and two people, my husband working alongside me, to pull up the rabe in this garden bed, cut off the root portion and any inedible leaves, chop, blanch, drain, and freeze all of it.

broccoli rabe

Blanching vegetables means quickly immersing them in rapidly boiling water for a designated time period, them dunking them in ice water to halt the cooking process. Once drained, vegetables are packed into labeled freezer-safe bags and placed into our big pantry freezer for long-term storage.

To freeze broccoli rabe, first cut off the roots. Rinse the remaining plant, stems, and leaves off. Pick off any yellowed, wilted, or imperfect leaves.

Check the underside of the leaves for insect eggs. I found many clusters of white and gray eggs I could not identify on the rabe. I simply discarded these leaves.

Next, bring your rabe into the kitchen. Chop the rabe and discard thick stems into the compost pile.

broccoli rabe

You can eat the stems, leaves and florets, but the lower stems can be tough. Here, I am cutting them off before sauteeing the rest of the edible portion.

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set it aside. Put a large pot filled halfway with water on the stove and bring it to a rolling boil. Have a colander handy for draining the vegetables.

When the water is boiling, carefully add the chopped, cleaned broccoli rabe, using a spoon to stir and push it down. Time this carefully; boil it for just two minutes. At the end of two minutes, immediately remove the pot from the stove. Drain carefully (don’t burn yourself) in the colander placed in the sink. Then place the vegetables into the ice water.

I dunk the entire colander into a large, flat steel chef’s bowl filled with ice water. I submerge it for 30 seconds then lift the colander out to drain the water in the sink. I use my hands to gently press water from the broccoli rabe. Then I place the rabe into the prepared plastic freezer bag.  Once it is inside the bag, I tip the bag, open-end into the sink, and press it one last time to remove excess moisture. Then I try to push out as much air as possible from the bag and slide the zipper-top into place. The entire bag is then put immediately into the freezer.

You can use frozen broccoli rabe like spinach or other leafy green vegetables. It keeps in the freezer for up to six months, a little longer if you are lucky.

Enjoy!

Happy gardening. Keep growing!

 

In Canning and Food Preservation

Celebrate the 6th Annual Can It Forward Day

Ball-CIFD-2016-Logo (1)

Tomorrow starting at 10 am EST is the 6th Annual Can It Forward Day! Learn all about home canning and food preservation from the experts at Ball, makers of the fantastic canning and food preservation products.

canning beets 2

 

Celebrate Can It Forward Day!

I’m excited to be part of Can It Forward Day! When Jarden Home Brands, the parent company of Ball canning products, asked me if I was interested in helping spread the word about home canning, I was delighted to say yes. After all, I’m a bit of a canning addict myself now that I’ve gotten over my fears of doing something wrong.

Yes, you can say I love to can my fruits and vegetables…just a little bit….

Spiced pickled carrots, dilled green bean salad, carrot coins in my pantry.

Spiced pickled carrots, dilled green bean salad, carrot coins in my pantry.

 

pantry2

My pantry.

 

Blackberry Jam

Blackberry jam made from wild blackberries growing on our farm.

 

canning1

Pickled beets and carrots waiting to be stored for winter.

 

Yes, I cannot lie. I love to can fresh fruits and vegetables!

If you’d like to learn how to can your  own home-grown produce, or perhaps can that beautiful stuff you’ve picked at the pick-your-own farm or from the Farmer’s Market, then here are all the great resources Ball has put together to teach you how to can and preserve fresh food.

  • Tune in on July 22nd to watch canning demonstrations via Facebook Live from 10:00AM3:30PM ET. Each hour, viewers will have the chance to win a giveaway prize!
  • Engage with any of the Facebook Live recipe videos and a donation will be made to charity.
  • Ask Jarden Home Brands canning experts any preserving or home canning questions via Twitter with the hashtag #canitforward from 10AM5PM ET. Consumers can also share their own #canitforward creations with the brand onPinterest and Instagram.

For every comment or share on the videos, Ball is donating $1 to a local charity. So be sure to tune in!

So are you ready to Can It Forward? Tomorrow on Home Garden Joy, I have a great new FREEZER canning recipe for you newbies out there. Bookmark and save it for fall canning projects or when those pears go on sale.

I hope you’ll join us for #canitforwardday

Canning Resources on Home Garden Joy

If you are interested in learning more about home canning and food preservation, please see:

Happy gardening. Keep growing!

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