Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Strawberry Basil Jelly

Yep, this one might be a little bit different folks... but I just love the combination of fruit and herbs together!  Several weeks ago (because I'm so far behind on my posts), my parents were over for the weekend and my husband had brought home an entire flat of the most wonderful strawberries!  As a fun "project,"  I asked my mom to show me how to make jelly/jam.  This is definitely not something I've ever done, and I was curious.  So this post really belongs to my parents and my daughter - the Lovely Lily!  You'll notice that these are not my hands.  Ha.  

You are wondering about the basil, right?  Well of course during the process of serving as the official "project photographer,"  I got to wondering... "Wow, that sure is beautiful and so fragrant!  I betcha that would be amazing with some chopped up basil or thyme in there!"  And that little kernel of thought is all it took.  We made some with and some without the herbs; but honestly, the jelly with the herbs was super awesome!  Feel free to make yours both ways as well, if you just want to make plain old jelly.  But hey, playing with your food is always a lot of fun!  


Before anyone leaves me snarky comments, I know this is technically "jam,"  but in my house, somehow it all gets called "jelly."  So please do me a favor and play nice.


Ingredients:  
  • 8 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and cored
  • 11 cups + 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 boxes SURE-JELL (fruit pectin)
  • herbs of your choice
    • chopped basil
    • fresh thyme, stripped (optional)


Step-by-Step:
Prepare the strawberries.  All the strawberries need to be hulled and cored... and smashed.  Lily used a potato masher for this.  Smushing up the berries is a great job for a kid if you have one hanging around.  It also turns out that the recipe calls for an insane amount of sugar.  :(  So Lovely Lily leveled off each cup and measured it all out.
The only pot I had that was large enough to accommodate this whole operation was a pressure cooker (without the lid on), so that's how they did it.  In went the berries and the SURE-JELL.
Lastly, a teaspoon of butter.  We'll call this "grandmother magic."  And off the berries went to begin the cooking process.
For the next part of the process, my mother took over.  The jars and lids need to be sterilized and prepared.  They need to be submersed and boiled for at least 10 minutes.  

 Allow the hot water to remain in them while the berries are cooking.
Bring the berries to boil on medium heat.  
Boil the berries for at least a couple of minutes on a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat.
Add sugar to the fruit mixture in the pot.  Return to a full rolling boil.  Boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.  DO NOT REDUCE THE SUGAR IN THE RECIPE SINCE THAT WILL RESULT IN A FAILURE TO SET. *This statement comes directly from the package.  Don't blame me for this crazy amount of sugar.
granulated sugar
Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling each to within 1/4" of top.  Check the canning section of your grocery store for these wide mouth canning funnels.  They are the perfect size for fitting into the top of the jars.
Long handled tongs work great to add the sterilized lids to the jars to avoid contamination with your fingers.  Also, both the jars and the jelly are like hot molten lava right now!  If you have any drips on the jar rims and threads, you will want to make sure you wipe those clean.
You will want a rag or some sort of protection while screwing the rings onto the lids.  These jars are super HOT right now!
Here we have one perfect little jar of strawberry jelly.  But was I happy with that?  Nooooo... I had to somehow start thinking of something different to do with it.  
So I ran out into the herb garden and picked some fresh basil and some fresh thyme and decided that we were going to have some fun!  :)  Of course this is completely optional, but I don't think you'll be disappointed.  For this first one, I chopped the basil and for this small jar (about 1 cup of jelly), I added a large pinch (probably about 1 - 1 1/2 tsp) of chopped basil.  
chopped basil
I gave it a little stir to distribute it throughout.
For this one, I did the same with some thyme leaves.  Aren't the colors pretty together?
fresh thyme
Now place the jars of jelly back into the pot.  If you don't have a canning rack, you can place a towel in the bottom of the pot to keep them off of the bottom and to keep them from bumping around in there.  They need to be completely covered in the water by about 2 inches.  Bring the water to a gentle boil and allow to boil for around 10 minutes.  You can see that we have them labeled according to which herbs we added.  We also left some plain.  
Carefully remove them from the boiling water and set them upright on a towel to cool completely.
You can see that my mother used a two-tong method to accomplish this.  Now during this cooling process, you will start to see the lids pop down.  You may even hear them "pop."  After they cool, you can check the seals by pressing the center of the lids with your finger.  If they spring back up, then they are NOT sealed, and refrigeration is necessary.  If they are sunk in, and do not pop up, then they are sealed and you can store them unopened in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.  Refrigerate opened jams/jellies for up to 3 weeks. 
Well of course we had to test some out, so we made some quick muffin tin drop biscuits, some homemade whipped cream, sliced up some more fresh berries, and used that gorgeous strawberry basil jelly as part of an absolutely killer strawberry short cake! 
Now I will fully admit, there's also nothing wrong with just having some jelly on your toast with a cup of tea on a rainy day, either.  That's real life, folks.  :)

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Written Method:
Prepare the strawberries.  All the strawberries need to be hulled, cored, and smashed.  We used a potato masher for this.  Smushing up the berries is a great job for a kid if you have one hanging around.  It also turns out that the recipe calls for an insane amount of sugar.  

The only pot I had that was large enough to accommodate this whole operation was a pressure cooker (without the lid on), so that's how they did it.  Add the berries and the SURE-JELL. Lastly, add a teaspoon of butter.  We'll call this "grandmother magic."  Now start your berries went to cooking.

For the next part of the process, the jars and lids need to be sterilized and prepared.  They need to be submersed and boiled for at least 10 minutes.  Allow the hot water to remain in them while the berries are cooking.

Bring the berries to boil on medium heat.  Boil the berries for at least a couple of minutes on a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat.  Add sugar to the fruit mixture in the pot.  Return to a full rolling boil.  Boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.  DO NOT REDUCE THE SUGAR IN THE RECIPE SINCE THAT WILL RESULT IN A FAILURE TO SET. *This statement comes directly from the package.  Don't blame me for this crazy amount of sugar.

Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling each to within 1/4" of top.  Check the canning section of your grocery store for these wide mouth canning funnels.  They are the perfect size for fitting into the top of the jars.  Long handled tongs work great to add the sterilized lids to the jars to avoid contamination with your fingers.  Also, both the jars and the jelly are like hot molten lava right now!  If you have any drips on the jar rims and threads, you will want to make sure you wipe those clean. You will want a rag or some sort of protection while screwing the rings onto the lids.  These jars are super HOT right now!

Here we have one perfect little jar of strawberry jelly.  But was I happy with that?  Nooooo... I had to somehow start thinking of something different to do with it.  So I ran out into the herb garden and picked some fresh basil and some fresh thyme and decided that we were going to have some fun!  :)  Of course this is completely optional, but I don't think you'll be disappointed.  For this first one, I chopped the basil and for this small jar (about 1 cup of jelly), I added a large pinch (probably about 1 - 1 1/2 tsp) of chopped basil.  I gave it a little stir to distribute it throughout.  I did the same with some thyme leaves.  

Now place the jars of jelly back into the pot.  If you don't have a canning rack, you can place a towel in the bottom of the pot to keep them off of the bottom and to keep them from bumping around in there.  They need to be completely covered in the water by about 2 inches.  Bring the water to a gentle boil and allow to boil for around 10 minutes.  Carefully remove them from the boiling water and set them upright on a towel to cool completely.  

My mother used a two-tong method to accomplish this.  Now during this cooling process, you will start to see the lids pop down.  You may even hear them "pop."  After they cool, you can check the seals by pressing the center of the lids with your finger.  If they spring back up, then they are NOT sealed, and refrigeration is necessary.  If they are sunk in, and do not pop up, then they are sealed and you can store them unopened in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.  Refrigerate opened jams/jellies for up to 3 weeks. 

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