We’ve all done it. “I could really use a few more basil plants here and there.” “I just love the way it smells and adds flavor to tomato sauce, and my compound butter, and my tomato sauce, and my pesto, and my tomato sauce…oh, and my Margherita pizza.”
Soon, we become Johnny Pestosauce, giving friends and family our extra pesto until they finally run from us when they see us approach with a baggie filled with frozen green cubes. Spreading the basil wealth can get old (to some folks), but here is alternative that will have them begging for more. This recipe is modified from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
Yield: 7 half pints
• 4 cups water
• 2.5 cups firmly packed unchopped basil leaves
• 1.75 ounces Fruit Pectin
• Green food color (optional)
• 5 cups sugar
1. Finely chop the basil.
2. Add the basil to the water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let it steep for at least 15 minutes.
3. Strain and press on the basil to get all of the flavor. Discard the basil. (Add it to your compost.)
4. Return the liquid to the heat. While stirring, add pectin then food color until it is the color you want. I added 4-5 drops. Return to a boil over high heat.
5. While stirring constantly add sugar all at once and return to a boil (keep stirring) then boil for 1 minute.
6. Remove from the heat and skim off the foam.
7. Fill prepared hot half pint jars. Add caps and rings.
8. Process for 10 minutes in a covered boiling water bath.
9. After 10 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the cover, and let stand 5 minutes.
10. Remove jars from the canning pot and set aside to cool overnight.
The original recipe used white wine vinegar with apple juice or white wine. I went with all water because I really wanted to try to capture and highlight the basil flavor. I cut back just slightly on the sugar for the same reason.
I had expected the basil to be green after steeping but it had almost no color. Since I wanted it to be GREEN, I used some high quality food dye. Next time, I will try blitzing the basil in a blender before steeping and maybe add the stems and steep longer to see if I can get more green color naturally.
Despite the modifications and errors, this turned out great and was very popular. The worst part about this recipe was that it only makes 7 half pints. I would make second batch if you have enough basil. You can also scale up or down the basil to fit your taste and purpose.
Add a decorative label, and it will be the best gift you make all year. When people see it, they’ll look a little confused at first, not really understanding what basil jelly is, but just assure that with butter on toasted bread, it will change their life. Okay, that may be a little over the top, but this jelly may just do it.
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