Every one of my relatives canned every year. It is totally natural that I would follow along with the tradition. The moment I moved into my house in Tolland, I thought about gardens and canning. No more apartment living, and I took full advantage of that fact. So every year I have canned something, and I have shared that love with many of my friends and acquaintances. It is great fun to be hanging over a hot stove cooking apple butter when you have somebody to do it with. I choose that example because apple butter has to be one of the hottest dishes to can. We would take turns stirring the butter over the heat, because when you make any kind of butter the cooking can go on for an hour or two, but it is worth every minute once you taste the apple butter, and have it on toast on a cold morning in January.
So what am I canning this week? We have cucumbers, dill, basil, and blueberries. So that means it is time to can dill pickles, make a batch of pesto, and make spiced blueberry jam. My dad remembers fondly the spiced blueberry jam he would get from my aunt in Cushman, MA. Growing up on our hill in Ellington, CT., we had numerous wild blueberries, but never enough to make jam. What do you expect. We were kids that were sent out to pick the blueberries. By the time we were done, many would fall out of carelessly held coffee cans. If they did not fall out, they ended up in our bellies. Three hours later we would come home with just enough blueberries to make one batch of blueberry muffins.
We have remedied the problem of blueberries by planting several high bush variety. Admittedly, nothing is as tasty as wild blueberries, but the cultivated bushes do bring enough blueberries for several pies to freeze, lots of jam, plenty of breads and muffins, and some years even enough to make blueberry wine.
Cucumbers and dill are never a problem. Every year it seems we have too many of both. I usually plant just the pickling cucumbers, because they are versatile and can be used in salads like the long cucumbers you buy in the store, with a crispness and small seeds. I always start my pickle season with dill pickles. I make bread and butter pickles later on. There is something about homemade dill pickles that can't be beat. I don't do brine pickles. I do refrigerator pickles or canning by the jar.
Of course, basil is an herb that produces a great deal of leaf throughout the season. I am making pesto for now, but I am exploring other uses of basil in fruit dishes and things like that. Pesto is a spread that I made for the first time last year. I am sold on the stuff, and love every teaspoon that gets spread on crackers, toast, pasta, and meats such as chicken. Here are the recipes I used this week.
Spiced Blueberry Jam
3 cups blueberries
1 tsp lemon juice
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 pouch liquid pectin
Remove stems from blueberries. Crush them,
one layer at at ime. Measure 2 1/4 cups, packed solidly. Add water to make up amount. Pour into saucepan. Add lemon juice, sugar and spices; mix well. Bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that can't be stirred down) and boil, stirring, for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and immediately stir in pectin. Ladle into hot jelly jars. Cover with lids, then process in boiling hot water bath for 5 minutes. Makes about 4 8oz. jars of jam.
Dill Pickles By The Quart
1 quart (1 1/2 pounds) pickling cucumbers
1 clove of garlic, split in half
1 red hot pepper, dried (I used cayenne)
2 tblsps white vinegar
1 tblsp pickling salt
2 (or more) fresh dill heads
Wash the cucumbers. Slice a small piece from each end of the cucumber. Prick two or three times in different places with the tines of a fork. Pack cucumbers in a 1 quart canning jar (I always use wide mouth for dill pickles.) Add the garlic, pepper, vinegar, salt and dill. Cover with boiling water, seal with canning lid. Store in the refrigerator. Should be ready to eat in 2 or 3 weeks. The longer you let the cucumbers pickle in the refrigerator, the stronger the flavor will be.
Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe
- 10 minutes
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
- 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Method1 Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.
2 Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Serve with pasta, or over baked potatoes, or spread over toasted baguette slices.
Yield: Makes 1 cup.
This recipe was provided by Simply Recipes
I have had advice from a top notch Italian cook who says that you can use about half the olive oil that most recipes call for. Instead of using 1/2 cup, use about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of olive oil. I also use fresh parmigian cheese. If you would like to try a less expensive "nut" I have used roasted, unsalted soy nuts in my pesto. It still tastes very good.