Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I have lots and lots of basil at my house, since Annie made me buy some that I didn't need so she could take my picture. Fortunately basil keeps really well if you cut the tips of the stems and keep it in a glass of water out on the counter: it grows little roots and keeps growing as long as you can remember to keep the water topped up.
When Safeway had organic nectarines for 99¢/lb I bought a big bag of them to make one of my favorite jams, basil-nectarine. I like to make nectarine jam better than peach because the peels soften nicely when cooked instead of getting tougher, as peach peels seem to, so you needn't peel them. Including the peels helps make the jam a brilliant vermilion. Unless you burn it, in which case it'll be a dull brown.
My back was only turned for a couple of minutes when I smelled a burny smell. I quickly took the pan off the heat and took the jam's temperature: it was 226ºF, at least 4º too hot! I decided to proceed with my recipe and bottle it up anyway, and hope for the best. It turned out to have a really nice caramelly flavor, and to be only a little bit too sticky, so I considered it a success and labelled the jars 'Caramelized Nectarine-Basil Jam.' The following recipe, however, is for the pretty, vermilion jam I'd originally intended to make:
Nectarine Basil Jam
makes 7-8 1/2 pints
3lb nectarines, pitted and coarsely chopped
2lb 12oz sugar
4oz lemon juice
~1/2 basil, chiffonaded (about as much as in the photo at the bottom of this post)
Early in the day before you plan to finish making your jam, bring the nectarines, sugar, and lemon juice to the boil in a big kettle and let simmer till the fruit's tender. Cover and let rest till the evening, when you should bring it to the boil again, let cool uncovered, then re-cover and let stew till the next morning.
Get all set up, with your jars boiled and everything, then bring the fruit to the boil for the third time and boil hard till it's reached 221ºF. This usually takes about four minutes, but watch it the whole time lest it caramelizes after only three minutes!!!! Take the jam off the heat, stir in the basil, bottle it and boiling water bathe for five minutes.