Strawberry Basil Balsamic Jam

Strawberries and basil

Strawberries and basil

This Strawberry Basil Balsamic Jam captures the essence of fresh summer fruit. It is easy to make, it just takes some time.

You can store this jam in the refrigerator or you can process it using a safe water-bath canning method to store it in the pantry for up to 1 year.

Try to hide a jar in the back of the cabinet for a cold winter night in January or February or if you get snowed in. Pour it over some goat cheese, toast up some great bread, slice an apple and summer will come alive again in your mouth.

if you are one of those who think strawberry jam is far too sweet, try this one. The herbal element as well as the complex acid from the balsamic really takes a plain strawberry jam and turns it into an amazing treat.

Leaving the strawberries whole, this creates a delicious strawberry compote perfect for desserts, ice cream and goat or cream cheese. Puree the berries for a more jam like consistency.

Strawberry Basil Balsamic Jam

  • 1# fresh strawberries, stemmed and cleaned; cut as desired
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 large sprigs of fresh basil
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
  • pinch of kosher salt

Combine the berries with the sugar and large sprigs of basil. Stir well. Allow to marinade for 2 hours, stir often. You will notice the sugar will melt and there will be considerable syrup in the bowl.

Place this into a heavy bottomed stainless pot, add the balsamic vinegar, turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. Then the mixture boils, skim any foam that forms on the surface.

Reduce the heat and simmer actively until the mixture thickens to the desired consistency, about 20 minutes.

Place a plate in the freezer. Once cold, pour a spoonful of hot jam onto the plate and replace it in the freezer until the jam cools.

Run your finger through the cooled jam. If it remains separated and does not run or run back together, it will maintain a jam like consistency. If not, keep cooking longer. Chill some down to really evaluate the consistency. Even if it remains a bit runny, it makes great syrup and dessert sauce. The flavor is so delicious!

Ladle the hot jam into hot sterilized jars, cap and either process in a water-bath canner to store at room temperature or refrigerate once the jars cool.

I am not an expert canner so I would advise following expert advice on how to process your jars in a water-bath canner. I do know that if you use a pressure canner, you will have mushy fruit, so be sure to only use a water bath canner or a “granny bath” – I love that term!

This jam has a lovely complex flavor. We find it delightful on toast, over oatmeal or French toast, we even enjoy it on cheese platters with a glass of wine in the evening.

I packed some in small 4 ounce jars so they would be easy to take just a few servings on picnics, tailgating or on the go meals.Compotes on cheese platter

Make some before all the summer berries are gone! Those of you in climates just warming into your Summer, make this with the fresh berries, you’ll be glad you did!

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Things I learned from Blogelina’s “Commentathon”

I just finished participating in a fun activity – Participating in Blogelina’s Commentathon!

The premise is you register an “epic” post worthy of receiving 50 comments. You agree to view, read and leave a meaningful comment on 50 other blogs during a one week period. The Blogelina staff assign groups and sent out an e-mail to participants links to all the blogs in the group. There were 56 blogs in my group.

This is what I learned from reading 50+ blogs and leaving 50+ comments over the last 5 days:

1. There are a lot of Mommie Bloggers out there!

Where were you when I was raising my son? You all would have made it so much easier.

2. Leaving meaningful comments on so many blogs made me feel good.

It’s more about building interactions and starting conversations than counting visitors.

Don’t lurk! Say something kind or meaningful

3. This taught how to improve the quality of the comments I make.

As I read the blogs I looked for something to comment on, something meaningful in some way.  I also noticed there is a great number of people out there who only say things like “great post!” which is fine but say why you think so. Let everyone know whats on your mind and be kind.

4. Good things happen when you get involved!

Beat depression and most other pity parties by volunteering at your local hospital or nursing home. An entire new perspective is waiting for you. Prepare to be changed.

Don’t just sit in your room watching the life parade march by. Be part of the parade.

5. The world is full of generous, sensitive souls.

There is hope after all! Commit random acts of kindness; it’s contagious, makes you feel great and enhances the quality of life all around. You never know when or what you do may have a profound difference in someones day or life.

6. Even with all the mommie bloggers out there, motherhood isn’t easy.

Don’t be afraid to ask and accept help. Cookies go a long way; giving and receiving.

So does chocolate.

7. There is so much to learn about blogging!

I wish there was a group I could join to learn together, or someone to partner with; there are so many options!

8. Everyone needs to prioritize making more quality “ME!” time.

This is something we often let go of when we get busy or ambitious. Making “ME!” time will enhance every aspect of your life.

Write in on your calendar or schedule. You’ll feel a twinge of delight when you say to someone, I’m sorry, I’ve got another appointment at that time. What day or time that would suit you better?”

There is great satisfaction putting your mental health first.

9. Creativity is alive and well and thriving!

Crafts are not just for kids anymore! And you can play with food and then eat it too.

I think it is only polite to photograph someone else’s food after you ask. I was surprised how much my family does not want me to photograph their food.

There are so many ways to use “duck” tape!

10. Families matter most of all.

Sometimes families get broken. Sometimes they get fixed and other times they don’t. Sometimes it’s better left that way. People who hurt you have no room in your life, no matter what the relationship bond.

Families aren’t always blood but those people around you who love you and support you unconditionally. Even if it’s only one person or a hundred.

Some family squabbles can’t be fixed, the damage is too deep. Accept it and move on. You don’t have to dwell on it but improve where you are now.

Accept life isn’t fair. Focus on the positive things in your life.

Keep moving forward.

The Ketchup Project – My Big Idea

I’ve been thinking about the state of our food supply and am honestly quite upset about it.

Monsanto, GMO‘s and big corporate entities are taking over and producing foods they think we should eat.

They are killing us!

The foods do not support good health or well-being. Now rather than just sit around complaining about it, I’ve come up with a plan.

Tell me what you think about it.

It’s called the Ketchup Project.

It’s about making our own condiments and not buying processed foods.

We would learn to make fresh ketchup, mustard, pickles and mayonnaise. We would get together in our communities to make these things and share with each other.

We would know what is in the food we are feeding our families.

We could establish community centers where you could get to know who is processing your food, If you don’t like to cook, there are other jobs to volunteer to do besides cooking. and still be able to share in the production.

At these centers you could get to know your butcher, your grower,who makes your cheese and dairy products, who makes your ketchup, and condiments you eat every day.

You could take “The Mayo Pledge” and learn to make your own. Imagine how much less mayonnaise you’d eat if you had to make it every time you wanted it! It’s easy to make but fresh mayo needs to be made nearly every other day unless you can use pasteurized egg yolks.

It is a step towards health, building community, supporting farms and food producers on a local basis. Best of all it’s a step away from Big Corporate and Processed Foods with so many chemicals and additives, that only simulate the real thing.

Want proof? Make ketchup and compare to what is in your fridge right now. Be sure to process it in a blender to produce the same smoothness.

A vibrant bowl of homemade ketchup

A vibrant bowl of homemade ketchup

I bet you’d be spoiled for ketchup for the rest of your life; and you might get a glimpse as to why President Regan counted ketchup as a vegetable in school lunches. (Unbelievable, but true).

10 Tips Addressing “Meanwhile” in Cooking

“Then, too, I had trouble with cookbooks. As I studied the recipes, I discovered the fateful word meanwhile.

I was supposed to separate eggs, then beat them, meanwhile stirring constantly. I was to melt butter, blend in the flour and gradually add milk. Meanwhile dicing or peeling something, and not forgetting to test the cake in the oven with a clean broom-straw. Meanwhile I was theoretically tossing the salad.

The most important lesson I learned was not to get in a panic when I saw meanwhile staring at me.”

What Cooks at Stillmeadow, by Gladys Tuber

Stack of cookbooks

Stack of cookbooks

How true it is!

Planning and organizing a cooking session is crucial to everything coming out on time and getting everything made.

Whether it is everyday dinner or a special event, forming a few good habits will make cooking so much easier, faster and more organized.

Here are a few tips:

1. Print your recipe or write in your book; keep a notebook handy.

Make notes of what you liked, didn’t like, what you changed or substituted. I write all over my books, all the time.  If you don’t write in your books, have a notebook handy to make notes about timing, recipes, ingredients etc.writing in cookbooks 003

You’ll need that notebook anyway to make notes about shopping lists, what you have on hand, and creating your game plan or plan of action.

Cheese Soup Recipe

Cheese Soup Recipe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Read your recipe/recipes. Understand what they are asking you to do.

Read the recipe before hand. When something is boiling away on the stove is not the time to realize you were only supposed to add half of something first and the other half later. There are many recipes that list the total measurement but use it in different amounts throughout the recipe.

For example, 3/4 cup sugar is listed in the cookie recipe but the method says to cream only 1/2 cup sugar, reserving the remaining 1/4 cup for rolling the dough balls in before baking. BIG difference if you add all the sugar with the creaming. Your resulting cookies would spread and not be very nice looking.

3. Gather all the ingredients before you start cooking.

Separate according to recipes if making several things at once, as you typically do for dinner.

Backzutaten zu Pfannkuchen (Crepe), Kochbuch

Backzutaten zu Pfannkuchen (Crepe), Kochbuch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Keep all proteins separate and cold for food safety. Be aware of cross contamination. Follow good food storage habits, this post gives you some guidelines for food safety in the home.

The 9 Golden Rules of Food Safety

The 9 Golden Rules of Food Safety (Photo credit: Czarina Alegre)

4. Make note of all the tools and utensils and ingredients you will need.

Make a note of any tools you don’t have. Put those on your wish list somewhere. Cooking is such fun when you can play with all the nifty toys. I love Micro-planes and colorful silicone spatulas and, to Robert’s dismay, I pick up dish towels nearly everywhere I go.

Of course there are the “good” dish towels and there are those you can use to wipe the floor or stove down with. Heavens, you wouldn’t use a “good” towel for that would you?! Gasp!

Note any ingredients you need, are running low on or how much you have. This way, on your next grocery run, you can replace anything that gets used up.

5. Read all you recipes side by side to determine how long each recipe takes to make.

Recipes

Recipes (Photo credit: pirate johnny)

Make notes of cooking times, what takes the longest? Remember to include warm up times. Like pre-heat the oven, boil the water for pasta which can take 15 minutes or so depending upon where you live and how cold your water is to start.

Start with the item that takes the longest to prepare and the longest to cook. Prepare your prep list starting with the longest timed item, to the least amount of time.

Keep in mind some processes may take some time such as peeling and seeding 10 pounds of tomatoes. See if you can evaluate your skills for an accurate timing estimate for your game plan.

6. If you’re not sure of How to do something, look it up on You Tube.

Want to make hollandaise? French Macarons? Fresh butter? Not quite sure how to cut Julienne carrots? How do I feed sourdough?

There are videos that show you how. Look them up and watch! Then practice. Some of these videos are like having a private tutor. Some are downright awful. But this is a good way to see how something is done rather than waiting to take a class.

7. Write down your game plan and follow it.

“Plan you work; work your plan” is what I tell students in class when they have multiple tasks to accomplish within a tight time frame.

writing in cookbooks 008

writing in cookbooks 013

8. Keep a list of the fresh food in your kitchen so it gets used on a timely basis.

I hate throwing food out that has gone bad from not being used. Now I keep lists of what is in the fridge, freezer, and pantry shelves.

Canned tomatoesI put up a lot of things like tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, pickles, jams, salsa and chutney for fall, winter and spring use. Keeps me busy in the summer, but at least the freshness of the season is captured and I know what is in the processed foods we eat. I try my hardest not to buy processed foods anymore.

I use an excel spread sheet to manage the flow of the canned goods. This way, when they are gone and next year rolls around, I can see what we used up first and how much we used. It helps to plan the next years production. I’m quite geeky like that.

9. Use Timers!

Like measuring cups, you can’t have too many. Time things to help keep you on track and to remind you so nothing gets burned. There are so many fun kitchen timers out there, but your smart phone has a timer too.

English: An electronic egg timer to time eggs ...

English: An electronic egg timer to time eggs for soft, medium and hard cooking. The timer plays a short tune at each stage of the cooking. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve got this retro one from France that has two timers on it so I can keep track of the bread in the oven and the rice simmering on the stove.

There are even ones that play tunes like the egg timer in the photo.

Timers are a great way to add some whimsy to your kitchen. I love whimsy!

10. Enlist help and have fun!

Get people involved, if they are eating at the table, they should be willing to give a helping hand somewhere. Setting the table, lighting candles, cutting flowers, choosing music, tossing a salad, bringing dishes to the table, pouring refreshing beverages, there are many tasks people can help with. All you need to do is ask.

I’ve asked Robert to help making salads while I handle the rest of the meal. Turns out he makes GREAT salads! I enjoy having him in the kitchen. Not quite sure how much he enjoys it, but judging from his salads, he does.

Kids will eat more if they have a had in helping prepare the food. Cleaning up without fuss? Not so much.

SO there you have a few of my tips for becoming more organized in the kitchen and how to address the meanwhile without panic.

Cooking is fun!

What tips do you have for organizing your cooking and kitchen?

What issues do you have while cooking; what is your greatest challenge?

Egg Plate – Concave or Convex?

Glenda, this is for you!

I couldn’t see how to attach a photo in the comments, so here’s an entire post on the egg plate’s optical illusion.

One of the features in the In My Kitchen post this month is an egg plate. The photo shows the plate without any eggs in it which makes the indents look more like convex domes rather than concave indents.

Celia pointed out this is due to monoscopic vs. stereoscopic vision. (One vs two, as in our eyes) It is because of this we have optical illusions.

Plain egg plate, concave or convex? Do you see indents or domes?

Plain egg plate, concave or convex?
Do you see indents or domes? I feel like reaching in and pushing them all down! Notice the flowers, are they indented or relief?

 

And this one?

Egg plate with an egg in it, now do you see indents or domes?

Egg plate with an egg in it, now do you see indents or domes?

Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs

Here is a link to Celia’s paper dragon that seems to follow you around the room as you move. Again it is due to mono/stereoscopic vision and the camera lens.

Fun!

Do other people have egg plates too?

In My Kitchen, September 2013

I nearly choked when I saw how many months have passed since I did one of Celia’s In My Kitchen Posts! Since this happens to be a long weekend in the US, I’m making time to do one this month.

Here goes!

In my kitchen this summer, is an egg plate that holds 6 deviled eggs. I loved the small version. Now Robert and I can have deviled eggs without having to make a whole dozen just to fill up the plate. (Yeah, I’m obsessive like that) I think it’s funny how the depressions in the photo have the optical illusion of being convex rather than concave.

6-egg Egg Plate

I’ve been pickling up a storm this summer.

Vegetables ready to pickle!

Vegetables ready to pickle!

Pickling Cukes

Pickling Cucumbers

I hope we have enough to last us this  winter. I’ve made Sweet Pickle Chips, Half Sours, Dill Pickles, Pickled Cauliflower, Pickled Beets, Pickle Relish.

When I was done pickling, I made jams.

Simmering whole fig and lemon jam

Simmering whole fig and lemon jam

Blueberry, Lemon and Thyme, Strawberry Basil Balsamic and Whole Fig and Lemon.

Strawberries and basil

Strawberries and basil

Blueberry, Lemon and Thyme Jam

Blueberry, Lemon and Thyme Jam

These two were also in the jam batch: Peach, Pepper with Ginger, and Mint Jelly. I used natural pectin by using grated apple peel.

Grate apple peel for pectin

Grate apple peel for pectin

While the canner was out, and to take advantage of 4 gallons of boiling water, I also threw together a batch of Heirloom Tomato Salsa, Homemade Ketchup, and Dijon Style Mustard and our own processed Horseradish.

Horseradish Root

Horseradish Root. See the sprout on the end? It sprouted so now it’s growing in the garden. In a pot since I understand it spreads and is hard to control. I just cut the sprouted bit off, stuck it in some dirt and before too long it grew.

Processed Horseradish, for the perfect Bloody Mary!

Processed Horseradish, for the perfect Bloody Mary! I love horseradish on most any protein with a squirt of fresh lemon

Homemade Condiments

Homemade Condiments

The “PING!” of cooling jars seemed to be non-stop for several days.

Now I have to find somewhere to store all these jars!

I found this great bowl and sauce server in the cabbage Leaf patters by Majorca Ware; I just love it!

Cabbage Leaf bowl and Sauce Server

Cabbage Leaf bowl and Sauce Server

What’s happening in your kitchen?

Sweet Pickle Chips

Sweet Pickle Chips