Monday, September 22, 2008

Herbal Delights (or what to do with those herbs you are growing)

There is one particular thing I have been wanting to do for years. After many years of waffling on the matter, I decided it was time to just do it already. Now, should I let the fact that my family will likely turn their noses up at the results or the fact that I have never, ever canned food before deter me? Nah, not this time. With that thought in mind, I searched for a nice basil jelly recipe that even I couldn't mess up - much.

It has been a good year for basil. And can you believe that even with all this, I still had to go out and cut some more to get the requisite 2 packed cups?

Here we have 5 cups of white sugar, 1 quart water, 1 package (1-3/4 ounces) powdered fruit pectin, green food coloring (optional) and the aforementioned 2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves, finely chopped.

I bring the basil and water to boil in a large saucepan.

Meanwhile, I had washed the canning jars and lids in hot, soapy water and now heat them in a large pan that is filled with water. Hmm, seems that after 10 years somebody finally figured out that she could heat pans on her stove top grill. Hey, they don't call me bright for nothin'. Excuse me while I go bang my head on a nearby wall.

The basil has turned a darker shade of green by the time the water comes to a boil. Now, remove the pan from the heat and cover. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes are up, strain the liquid and discard the basil. And isn't this an appetizing color?

Return 3-2/3 cups of the liquid to the pan. Stir in the pectin.

Add the radioactive-green food coloring. After each drop, stir until you decide whether the color is right or it needs more coloring. Geez this tube is hard to squeeze.

Return to a rolling boil over high heat.

Pour in the sugar. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam that gathers on the surface.

I finally get to use my grandmother's old canning funnel for canning. She'd be so proud of me.

Leave 1/4 inch head space in the jar.

Cap, but don't screw the lid bands on too tightly.

At this point the covered jars get put back into the water bath and the whole thing is boiled for 15 minutes in order to kill any bug-wuggies. Can I tell you how noisy this necessary step is?

Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. You will begin to hear the lids popping as they seal. Do not be alarmed. This is good.

Once the jars in the water bath have cooled a bit more, remove the jars to a safe location so that they can continue to cool. I placed the jars on a towel on my dryer so that they were out of the way.

The next day, test the seals by lightly pulling with your fingers. You do not want to pry the lids off; you just want to make sure they are secure. I found that one jar was not properly sealed, so that was tossed.

I had a bit left over for immediate consumption.

And what did I tell you? My family's reaction was definitely 'meh'. The culinary heathens.

Basil jelly, while sweet, has a bit of a grassy taste to it. Good, but different. I understand that it pairs well with cream cheese on crackers. And as it seems that I will be enjoying this herbal delight alone, I will be looking for different ways to use basil jelly.

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