The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.
I have to admit to being a newbie when it comes to food preservation. I’ve never done any canning because it seemed like a big investment to buy the necessary equipment to get started. But recently Ball started selling cute little freezer cups with screw on lids and for some reason, for me, that made it seem like less work and less of an investment and a few months ago, I made my first strawberry freezer jam.
When I saw all of the fabulous peaches at the Farmer’s Market, it seemed like an obvious choice to make peach freezer jam for this challenge. So when I returned home with my big, juicy, delicious peaches, I did a search for a great peach jam recipe and found a reduced sugar Old Fashioned Peach Jam recipe on Megan’s wonderful blog, A Sweet Spoonful. This recipe really lets the peach flavor shine through and I’m so happy to have preserved a taste of summer for a cold winter’s day.
This year in my garden I planted Spicy Globe Basil. I fell in love with this little plant when I saw it at the nursery. Because of the little tiny leaves you don’t need to chop it before you use it. I’ve enjoyed it in recipes all summer, but when Bonnie, City Home / Country Home, recently blogged about her favorite pesto recipe, Foster’s Market Pesto, I decided to harvest most of it and make her perfect pesto for the challenge. And I’m so glad I did, because it really is a perfect, classic pesto.
Stop by City Home/ Country Home and check out more of Bonnie’s perfect recipes, including recipes and tips on food preservation, and high altitude baking.
I used Bonnie’s tip and froze the pesto in an ice cube tray and then after it was frozen transferred it to a Ziploc bag. I had enough basil to make one and half times the given recipe, which yielded one ice cube tray full and enough to make Pesto Cheese Ravioli for dinner.
Perfect Pesto for Daring Cooks
- 2 C. firmly packed basil leaves washed and dried
- 6 garlic cloves
- ¾ C. extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ C. roasted pine nuts
- 1 C. 4 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- *optional: 1 vitamin C tablet keeps the pesto from going brown
- Place the basil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the garlic and pulse several times to make a rough chop.
- Add the olive oil in a slow steady stream down the feed tube, with the motor running. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl several times.
- Add the pine nuts, Parmesan, salt, and pepper and puree about 1 minute longer until the mixture is well blended and smooth. *(Note: If adding a vitamin C tablet, add it along with the pine nuts).
- Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use or up to 2 weeks. You can also freeze pesto in ice cube trays. After it is frozen, remove from the trays and store in freezer bags for up to 6 months. Take out only as many cubes as you need.
Cheese Ravioli with Pesto:
- Cook ravioli (16 oz. ) according to package directions. Drain, reserving ¼ cup pasta water. Combined ¼ cup pesto with ¼ cup hot pasta water.
- Pour over ravioli and gently toss.
Some great tips from the Daring Cooks’ challenge on Freezing:
Freezing refers to storing foods in airtight containers at 0ºF (-17.8ºC) or lower. Freezing does not kill bad bugs. The cold temperature causes the microorganisms to go into hibernation/suspended animation.
Freezing is the easiest food preservation method, especially with modern freezers. The main pointers for freezing:
1) Freeze foods quickly. Quickly freezing creates smaller ice crystals. Water is a funny substance where water expands when frozen. This means larger ice crystals can puncture cell walls (such as whole berries) so when defrosted you end up with a mushy mass.
2) Try not to freeze too much at once. Typical advice 2 to 3 lbs (1 kg) per cubic foot (28 Liters) of freezer space.
3) Containers should be airtight and leak proof.
4) Minimize air and gaps in the packaging. This reduces the chance for freezer burn – drying.
5) Label and date the package. Frozen foods tend to look the same over time, especially when a layer of ice has formed.
6) Vegetables can be blanched to deactivate enzymes. Blanching is quick cooking in boiling water for a few minutes and cooled rapidly in ice water.
7) For initial freezing using pliable freezer bags, freeze on a smooth, flat surface to prevent the bag from molding itself to the rack.
Visit the Daring Kitchen Recipe Achieve for all the challenge recipes, tips and other food preservation ideas. Thanks John for such great information and a perfectly timed challenge.
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