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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How to Make Mustard

Learning how to make mustard can be as simple as mixing a few things together or as complicated as soaking a few seeds. It’s not hard at all to make.

Make Your Own Mustard

While there are many different kinds of mustard you can make, this is a kinder gentler mustard, not too pungent.

All it takes is mix the ingredients together, heat until thick, bottle and cool.

Simple!

Make Basic Mustard

  • 1/2 cup dry mustard powder, Coleman’s is my favorite.
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark doesn’t matter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (non-iodized)
  • 1/2 cup good quality white wine vinegar

Measure and mix everything in a heat-resistant bowl until a thin smooth paste forms.

Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water to make a double boiler, heat the mixture until it becomes thick. As the mustard thickens, whisk so it remains smooth.

Use a silicone spatula to get all the mustard in to a clean glass jar.

Allow to cool, cover, label and store.The mustard needs to sit for at least 2 hours before serving. The mustard will also “mellow” as it ages in the refrigerator.

Homemade Ketchup, Mustard and Relish

Homemade Ketchup, Mustard and Relish

I haven’t had a jar around long enough to tell you how long it lasts.

Use it as you would any mustard but be warned, it will spoil you from buying  processed store-bought mustard.

Dip a tasty sausage into mustard!

Dip a tasty sausage into mustard!

Decorate your hot dog the homemade mustard

Decorate your hot dog the homemade mustard

More mustard recipes coming soon such as whole grain mustard, Dijon style, champagne honey, and pear/apple mostarda.

Learning how to make mustard is an easy thing to do to reduce your consumption of processed foods.

Basic Mustard

Basic Mustard – Got a Pretzel?

Sweet Pickle Chips

Making Sweet Pickle Chips

Making Sweet Pickle Chips

I have to admit I have a great weakness for sweet pickle chips.

Well, actually not just sweet pickle chips, I have a weakness for nearly ALL things pickled.

Chances are if it hangs around on a pickling day it just may get processed into some kind of something sweet or sour or both.

Sweet Pickle Chips

Sweet Pickle Chips

There is something about the simple process and the synergistic reaction of all the ingredients that results in some of the most amazing flavors on earth.

OK, I can get carried away with pickles, but who wouldn’t? I’d rather look at silly pickle pictures on Facebook than all those animal pics. At one time, at another house, in another time, there was a 100 gallon propane tank above the ground to one side of the property. I wanted to paint it like a giant pickle. The gas company told me I would get fined so I didn’t. It was the perfect shape for a giant pickle too!

I get my love of pickles from my Dad. For years now, whenever it is time for a gift, I send him a renewed subscription to The Pickle of the Month Club. He loves them!

Anyway, back to these little gems. They aren’t too sweet. Here are a few pointers:

  • Select cucumbers the size of the pickles you want (Look at the diameter and the length)
  • A basket of goodies to pickle!

    A bowl of goodies to pickle!

  • Dissolve 1/2 cup salt in some luke-warm water. Add enough ice to cool the water down to cold. After washing add the cucumbers , soak them for 30 minutes in the salt water. There should be enough water to cover the cucumbers.
  • By the way, they will float, so dunk them a bit as you work around them. Play like they are submarines . . .

Soaking does a couple of things:

  • Helps eliminate any bugs and garden debris
  • Starts extracting excess water from the cucumbers so they absorb more brine. This step also helps to not dilute the brine when the cucumbers are added later.

Sweet Pickle Chips

Making Sweet Pickles Chips

Making Sweet Pickles Chips

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of wax-less Kirby cucumbers, cleaned and cut into slices 1/4 inch thick
  • 8 ounces sweet onion, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices

Simmering Brine:

  • 1 quart of water
  • 12 ounces apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed pickling spice

Mix brine ingredients in a large pot, bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the sliced cucumbers and onions, return to a boil and lower heat. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain, discarding liquid unless processing another batch.

Pickling Vinegar Brine

  • 10 ounces white vinegar (NOT WINE Vinegar!)
  • 13.5 ounces granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mixed pickling spice
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed  whole allspice berries
  • 2 bay leaves

Optional:

  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic – for a fresh garlic flavor
  • 1-3 dried red chili pods or red jalapeno pepper – to give some heat!

Combine everything in a sauce pot and bring to a boil. It will need to be stirred to encourage the sugar to melt.

Stir the spices and sugar as you bring to a boil for the Pickling Brine.

Stir the spices and sugar as you bring to a boil for the Pickling Brine.

This mixture needs to be boiling when the vegetables are done simmering.

Procedure:

Wash the cucumbers in water slightly warmer than the cucumbers. Soak in a large bowl of cold water with 1/2 cup salt in it.

This helps eliminate any insects and garden debris that may be lurking on the cucumbers.

Mix the simmering brine ingredients, put on the range top over high heat to bring to a boil.

Mix the pickling vinegar brine and put that over high heat, stirring often to prevent the sugar from burning.

Drain the cucumbers after they have been soaking for at least 30 minutes.

Slice the cucumbers and onions into 1/4 inch slices.

Slice the cukes 1/4" thick

Slice the cukes 1/4″ thick

When the simmering brine reaches a boil, drop in the cucumbers and onions, return to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain the vegetables, discarding liquid (Unless processing another batch).

Place the cukes and onions in a large canning jar. Using a wide mouth funnel, pour the boiling pickling brine into the jar all the way to the top. Leave as little head room as possible. Everything must be submerged under the pickling brine.

If you find there are pieces that want to float, place a small glass plate or dish on the surface to hold everything down.

At first the jars may appear cloudy but as the turmeric and celery seeds settle to the bottom, the vinegar will clear up and you can enjoy looking at gleaming bottles of an amazing turmeric colored sweet pickles!

A Jar of Sweet Pickle Chips

A Jar of Sweet Pickle Chips

Resist eating them for at least 4 days but they are amazing if you can hold off for 3-4 weeks. Everything mellows and they become one divine pickle. But if you must, you can taste the next day, just remember they will mellow considerable as they age.

Once you try these, the half sour pickles and the pickled cauliflower, and pickled beets, you will never buy pickles again! I really like that idea – “No processed food unless you process it yourself” is my new motto!

Slicing cucumbers for Sweet Pickle Chips

Slicing cucumbers for Sweet Pickle Chips

You may notice this recipe is the same as the pickled cauliflower recipe and it is! All I have done is substituted the main pickling ingredient.

Cool thing with these is if you ever need pickle relish and don’t have any, simple chop of some of the pickles and onions and you have a great relish! Especially if you add a red chili or sweet red pepper, but not much. The flavor would overwhelm everything else in the jar.

Remember to serve the onions too! If you use a sweet onion like Vidalia, they become another kind of special.

Keep these in the refrigerator unless you want to process them in a canning process to make them shelf stable.

A Jar of Sweet Pickle Chips

A Jar of Sweet Pickle Chips

I find the sweet pickle chips don’t last long enough to can so just get set to make more.

Enjoy!

Pickled Cauliflower

Pickled cauliflower ingredients

Pickled cauliflower ingredients

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE cauliflower, especially when its pickled cauliflower! When I was little, I would go into the jar of mixed pickles in the refrigerator and pick out the few bits of cauliflower that could be found. It was always disappointing because if you were lucky, you could find two pieces in a single jar.

And my dad likes it as much as I do. I always wanted to see a jar of pickled cauliflower on the shelves of the grocery, but when I have seen them, the contents have always been disappointing.

Yummy Pickled Cauliflower!

Yummy Pickled Cauliflower!

SO, using a pickling method I use to make sweet pickles, I used cauliflower instead of cucumbers with lip-smacking good delightful flavor.

Pickled Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of cauliflower, cleaned and broken into 2-3 bite size bits – measure after cleaning the cauliflower
  • 8 ounces sweet onion, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices

Simmering Brine:

  • 1 quart of water
  • 12 ounces apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed pickling spice

Mix brine ingredients in a large pot, bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the cauliflower and onions, return to a boil and lower heat. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Boil the vegetables in the simmering brine for 10 minutes

Boil the vegetables in the simmering brine for 10 minutes

Drain, discarding liquid unless processing another batch.

While vegetables are simmering, make the vinegar pickling brine.

Pickling Vinegar Brine

  • 10 ounces white vinegar (NOT WINE Vinegar!)
  • 13.5 ounces granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mixed pickling spice
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed  whole allspice berries
  • 2 bay leaves

Optional:

  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic – for a fresh garlic flavor
  • 1-3 dried red chili pods or red jalapeno pepper – to give some heat!

Combine everything in a sauce pot and bring to a boil. It will need to be stirred to encourage the sugar to melt.

Stir the spices and sugar as you bring to a boil for the Pickling Brine.

Stir the spices and sugar as you bring to a boil for the Pickling Brine.

This mixture needs to be boiling when the vegetables are done simmering.

Procedure:

Wash the cauliflower in water slightly warmer than the cauliflower. Cut into florets. Soak in a large bowl of cold water with 1/4 cup salt in it.

This helps eliminate any insects that may be lurking on the vegetable.

Mix the simmering brine ingredients, put on the range top over high heat to bring to a boil.

Mix the pickling vinegar brine and put that over high heat, stirring often to prevent the sugar from burning.

Drain the cauliflower it should soak for at least 15 -30 minutes.

When the simmering brine reaches a boil, drop in the cauliflower and onions, return to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain the vegetables, discarding liquid (Unless processing another batch).

Place the cauliflower and onions in a large canning jar. Using a wide mouth funnel, pour the boiling pickling brine into the jar all the way to the top. Leave as little head room as possible. Everything must be submerged under the pickling brine.

If you find there are pieces that want to float, place a small glass plate or dish on the surface to hold everything down.

At first the jars may appear cloudy but as the turmeric and celery seeds settle to the bottom, the vinegar will clear up and you can enjoy looking at gleaming bottles of an amazing pickled cauliflower!

Fresh and Pickled cauliflower

Fresh and Pickled cauliflower

Keep these in the refrigerator unless you want to process them in a canning process to make them shelf stable.

Pickles Cauliflower, Sweet Pickle Chips and Half-Sour Pickles chilling

Pickles Cauliflower, Sweet Pickle Chips and Half-Sour Pickles chilling

Fresh and pickled cauliflower

Fresh and pickled cauliflower

I find they don’t last long enough to can so just get set to make more.

Enjoy!

Proud of Potatoes!

IMG_6510

A few of the potatoes, there are red, yellow fingerlings and Peruvian blue growing.

I harvested a few potatoes two weeks ago and was quite proud of my potatoes!

Somewhere, I read that they are supposed to dry a couple of weeks before you eat them so I put them in a bag and let them be until last night.

Look at the inside!

Look at the inside!

Scrubbed potatoes were cut and placed into a pot with cold water and put over high heat. Once the water boiled, salt and herbs were added to water to steep flavor into the potatoes as they cooked.

You can learn more about potato varieties on my post: All About Potatoes

Boil until the potatoes are done, drain and season with snipped chives and a small dab of butter  or olive oil if you like.

YUM!

YUM!

The Peruvian Blue Plant

The Peruvian Blue Plant

The flower

The flower

IMG_5631

So far, it has been quite fun to grow the potatoes. The Peruvian Blue potato plants are actually quite lovely. I’ve kept adding more soil to mimic “hilling” and hopefully, this will result in decent results meaning actually having some potatoes.

I showed the first harvest to Robert he said “looks like its going to be a long winter.” I do hope there are more potatoes to find when it is time! It’s like finding buried treasure when it comes time to dig them out of the ground.

I grew the Peruvian Blue in a 55 gallon purple Rubbermaid bin that I drilled drainage holes in the bottom to drain excess water.

Someone told me that the bags rotted, a pot would have to be quite large so since I had a bunch of bins, one became the container to grow Peruvian Blue Potatoes.

Someone else told me of a large garbage can with a door cut into the side so you could open the door, reach in and harvest a dinners worth of potatoes, close the door and the plant carries on.

How cool is that idea?!

I’d have to think of how to build something though as I’m not to sure everyone would agree on a garbage can with a door cut into the side, growing a potato plant as part of the landscaping.

Now if I lived on a farm . . .

My tomatoes are pitiful. Blossom drop plague. But at least we have a few potatoes.

Charlotte Cooks Wins a Telly Award!

We won a Telly Award for our Shrimp Creole show!

https://i1.wp.com/www.wtvi.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Cooks_Orange_Chicken.jpg

While I can’t post the video yet, here is the recipe for the dish. I hope they release the video soon on You Tube. I think it is circulating now on the channel so I’m guessing when they air a new show this one will become available. When it does, I’ll update this post to include the video.

Until then, enjoy making this recipe which also features Raw Kale Salad.

Creole inspired by NOLA cuisine.

NOLA Style Shrimp Creole

  • 2 pounds Peeled and De-veined Shrimp, save shells to make Shrimp Stock
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons All- purpose flour
  • 1 Large Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Ribs Celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small Green Pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoon Creole Seasoning
  • 2 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • 2-1/2 Cups Very Ripe Fresh Tomatoes, Diced
  • 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 2 Cups Shrimp Stock
  • 2 Tablespoon Garlic, minced
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Cayenne to taste
  • Kosher Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon White Pepper
  • 1 bunch Fresh Thyme
  • 2 Tablespoon Tabasco or to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup Green Onions, green tops thinly sliced, white part sliced into 1/4″ thickness
  • 2 Tablespoons Flat Leaf Parsley, minced

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan with the vegetable oil over medium high heat.

Add the flour and stir so it looks like wet sand on the beach.

When the butter begins to froth add 1/2 cup of the onions. Cook until the onions are golden brown.

Add the remaining onions, celery, and bell pepper.

Reduce the heat to medium and season with 1 Tablespoon Creole Seasoning and a healthy pinch of salt.

Sweat the vegetables until soft.

Add the tomato paste mixing well, and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste begins to brown, add the fresh tomatoes. Stir well.

When the tomatoes start to break down into liquid add the white wine, bring to a boil and boil for 1-2 minutes.

Add the Shrimp Stock, remaining Creole seasoning, garlic, bay leaves, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne (to taste), and thyme.

Bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer.

Simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Add the hot sauce, Worcestershire, and adjust seasonings.

Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to low and add the shrimp.

The key is to not  to over cook your shrimp. Let them slowly simmer in the sauce until just cooked through.

If you boil them, they get tough so just simmer gently. They cook quickly!

Serve with boiled rice and garnish with the remaining green onions and parsley.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

I hope you join us in WTVI-PBS Charlotte Thursday evenings at 8:30 to see our new shows.

As always, thanks for watching Charlotte Cooks!

Sorta “Socca”

Socca are flat breads from the Nice area of France. Made with garbanzo bean flour, cooked in a screaming hot oven until they blister and brown, sprinkled with salt, pepper and sometimes a bit of olive oil, these tasty bits are simply delicious.

I call these “sorta socca” because I use different kinds of flours and add seasonings and herbs to the mix before cooking. Traditional socca are simply flour, water, oil and salt.

David Lebovitz writes a great recipe for socca in his book Sweet Life in Paris and has another post about it on his blog. Check those out too. He gives some great information. For the most part, this recipe is based upon Davids recipe.

For these “Sorta Socca” you  will need:

  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup chestnut flour
  • 1/2 cup garbanzo bean (chick pea) flour
  • 9 ounces water
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon herbs de Provence
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Final seasonings: Freshly ground black pepper, sea or kosher salt, slight drizzle of olive oil which is totally optional.

Special equipment: Sturdy heat-resistant pan such as cast iron or steel. I use a crepe pan I bought in Paris and it works great! Just be sure there are no plastic handles on the pan you choose. A sturdy tart pan would work well, cast iron, although heavy, is ideal.

Here is some advice: if you go researching recipes and cooking methods you will find some call for cooking in a 450°F oven for 10-12 minutes. Please take my advice and realize this is not hot enough.

Use the broiler on high or use your grill if you can get it that hot.

To prevent the oil from burning on the pan, as it would if you were to pre-oil and then pre-heat the pan under the broiler, oil it just before you pour in the batter.

Mix all the ingredients together and allow the mix to sit for a couple of hours. This allows the flours to hydrate.

15 minutes before you are going to cook the socca, turn on the broiler and place the pan in the oven to get screaming hot.

Be SURE to use a good hot mitt or strong towel to handle the hot pan. Avoid getting burned! (Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial suggests using welding mitts for managing very hot things in the oven)

Pour the batter into the hot pan

Pour the batter into the hot pan

When the oven and the pan are really hot, pour enough batter into the pan, swirl it around and place the pan back under the broiler. Make sure there is room for the socca to rise while it is under the broiler, if it touches the heat source, it will burn.

You will see the dough puff and begin to turn brown. This only takes a few minutes and how long depends totally upon the strength and heat of your broiler.

The socca is done when it is dark brown to black around the edges and the top has golden brown spots.

Done!

Done!

Remove from the oven, place the socca on a cutting board, sprinkle with salt and fresh black pepper and a drop or two of olive oil.

Socca is meant to be rustic so either tear it into serving portions or cut it into wedges.

Put the warm socca on a rack to cool so it does not become soggy.

Sprinkle with seasonings, a little goes a long way

Sprinkle with seasonings, a little goes a long way

Sometimes I’ll re-warm any left-over socca by placing it on a hot pizza stone on the oven for a few minutes. This tastes so good warm!

Today’s socca was served with lemon hummus, baba ganoush and cabbage cruciferous soup.

If you have no idea what socca is, try it.

I encourage playing with flour mix. While traditional socca is made with garbanzo bean flour, you can mix it up a bit with other flours too. An added bonus is this is also gluten-free unless you decide to use some wheat, rye or barley flours.

If you do know what socca is, while not quite the same as the street food in Nice, this comes pretty close.

Socca with soup, hummus and baba ganoush

Socca with soup, hummus and baba ganoush