Homemade Pesto

When we say pesto most of us think of basil as the primary ingredient.  But pesto(s) can be made from a variety of herbs, vegetables and condiments; or combinations there of.  What is needed is a food processor–and chop, chop–you can be enjoying the flavors of summer all year long.  I include the making of pesto in my series on kitchen basics, because it is so easy, and so useful in a great number of ways.

Depending on what flavor you have on hand you can do any of the following with it:  spread it on grilled corn, toss with grilled veggies for extra flavor, spoon over a spreadable cheese and serve with crackers for an appetizer, use in place of sauce on pizza, stir some into eggs for a seasoned omelet, add a spoonful to soup for an extra flavor hit.   See how versatile it is?  I’m sure you can think of other uses, too.

It is so easy to make that I am giving the general directions first, followed by the ingredients list for four (4) different kinds.  Each one makes  about 2 cups of pesto.  I like to divide mine up into 1/2 – 1 cup amounts and store in the freezer, removing a small container of it as needed.  The flavor stays as fresh as the day you made it.

GENERAL DIRECTIONS

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.  Period!  Did I say Easy?   Divide up into small jars or plastic  containers, and use creatively.

BASIL

1.  BASIL PESTO

  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 Tablespoons cold water
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.

CILANTRO

2.  CILANTRO PESTO

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

ROSEMARY

3.  OLIVE PESTO

  • 1  7 0z. jar pitted kalamata olives, drained
  • 1  7 oz. jar pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  •  3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

OREGANO

4.  MIXED HERBS PESTO

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, or  1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, or 1  teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

SOURCE:   adapted from  Foods, Quick and Easy.

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Blackberry Jam

I’ve made a plan for my postings this week around the theme of  “berries”.  Each day I’ll have a recipe that uses fresh berries in a different way. Looking into my crystal ball I see a lot of baking in my future, and along with that I see the pounds/weight going up.  I guess I’ll also need to increase my dancing in order to work off the calories.  Any way you look at it its a win-win situation:  more baking which I love, more dancing which I love, and more blogging;  all for you, my dear readers!   So to begin, here’s  the story about my adventures in making homemade blackberry jam.

It’s always a challenge and an adventure when you pick blackberries!   Not too far away from where I live there is a farm which features “pick-your-own” fruits, beginning with strawberries in the spring, right through to apples and pears in the fall.  My favorite fruits to pick are raspberries and blackberries.  Blackberry picking has not started yet, so what is pictured is the farm open for this year’s harvest of raspberries.

When you drive down the lane to where the bushes are located you can see the berries hanging heavy on the branches.  Blackberry bushes are planted in rows with straw beneath them to keep down the weeds, and they grow thick and high.  The best berries are the inky black ones, and they are usually found deep into the bush.  Oh, did I mention that blackberry bushes have THORNS?   Yes, well no matter how carefully you try to avoid them those thorns will bite you.  So to get those wonderful fat, juicy, black berries you must suffer.  When you have picked your limit and set out for home, there will be blackberry juice, scratches and dried blood on your arms and legs and a blackberry stain around your mouth.  (Who can pick without tasting?)   Anyone would think you have been in a fight.

Why do I do this year after year?  Because it’s so worth it.  There are so many things you can do with blackberries like make jam, pie, cobbler, liqueur, and sauce.  They freeze beautifully.  Just lay them out on a baking sheet. Stick in the freezer for a while and when frozen place in zip-lock bags for future use.   Today I will share with you my recipe for blackberry jam.

BLACKBERRY JAM

Yield:  6   six-ounce glasses

  • 6 cups blackberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 3/4 – 1 cup orange juice
  • 3 – 4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon grated orange zest

Cook the berries with water until they are heated through.  Crush the berries and rub through a sieve to remove the seeds.  Add sugar, fruit juices and grated orange zest.  Cook over low heat until thick.  Because blackberries are naturally high in pectin,  and the juices add citric acid,  this mixture thickens well without the addition of more pectin.

While the berries are cooking I put my jars, lids and rings in the dishwasher and run it to wash and sterilize the jars.  Then as the berry mixture is thickened and ready to be jarred, I remove the hot jars one at a time from the dishwasher, (keep the other jars hot)  fill it leaving about 1/8  inch space at the top.  Wipe jar rims and threads.  Cover with two-piece lids and screw bands on tightly.  As each jar is filled and covered, immediately turn it upside down on a dish towel.  After about 5 minutes turn jars upright.  Soon you will hear a snap/pop sound as the vacuum forms and the jars become sealed.  This is so neat!  There will be no need to boil jam-filled jars in a large kettle to achieve this same result.  If for some reason a jar does not make a seal, then that’s the one you can start to enjoy right away.

This jam was made last summer.  As long as it is well sealed it will keep for several years on your pantry shelf.  I like to give a jar of jam and home baked bread as a Holiday gift or Hostess gift when I am visiting.  It is always welcome.

SOURCE:  Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook   ? edition.  This wonderful cookbook was given to me as a wedding gift, and it has seen much use over the years.  It is well worn and well loved.