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Posts Tagged ‘basil’

It’s like the friggin’ Basil-pocalypse around here, what with my Ungodly Popular Caprese Pasta Salad and pesto buttons.  But in case you haven’t had enough…

In case you love your basil so much you wanna drink it…

In case you love your basil SO much that you want it to make you drunk…

Strawberry Basil wine, bitches!

I sure hope you planted some late-season berries, and if not, I hope you’ve got some stowed in the freezer.  I plan on cleaning it out and getting you trashed.

You’re welcome!

Crank the stereo to 11 and join me on my journey to immortalize one of summer’s most fantastic flavor combinations in the most holy form known to mankind…

BOOZE.

**I’m linking to a reliable source for any optional special equipment or ingredients, and am telling you when there’s a  free alternative. Before settling, though, consider that most of this stuff is surprisingly dirt-cheap, SIGNIFICANTLY easier, and will last you.  Why not invest in your future as a slutty moonshiner?**

Homemade Strawberry Basil Wine
Makes 1 gallon

Go Get:
*a buncha water
*3 lbs. honey or 6 cups sugar
*4 lbs. strawberries, preferably organic or unsprayed (frozen works just fine, thaw ’em first)
*1 cup packed basil leaves
*juice of 1 lemon (don’t use the preserved stuff in the bottle)
*1/2 cup strong black tea
*1 packet wine yeast
*OPTIONAL: 1 tsp. yeast nutrient (makes stronger yeast and more problem-free fermentation)
*OPTIONAL: 1/2 teaspoon pectic enzyme  (gobbles up suspended pectin to prevent the formation of snotty-looking ropes and haze in your wine)

Special Stuff you’ll want to have on hand:
*A primary fermenter: 1 gallon glass jug, crock, or food grade bucket–recycled wine jugs are, obviously, perfect for this
*An auto-siphon with tubing for transferring the wine from the fermenter to the bottles without kicking up sediment; you can also just use about 4 feet of clear, plastic tubing if you’re willing to siphon manually.  If you REALLY don’t care about wine clarity or the potential for off flavors, you can use a kitchen ladle to separate wine from sediment, but you’ll need a wide-mouthed fermenter, like a bucket or crock.
*Bottles for the finished wine: 5 750-ml wine bottles (recycled is fine), or a 1 gallon wine jug, or swing-top beer growlers; if you’re not using wine bottles fitted for a screw top, make sure you have the corks for sealing them.  Sanitized, plastic 2-liter soda bottles aren’t ideal, but they’ll also work as long as you cover them to keep out light–you’ll need about 2 2-liter bottles
*A fine mesh sieve for straining the pureed fruit
*OPTIONAL: A hydrometer (not necessary, but it’ll help you figure out how alcoholic your wine is and how advanced the fermentation is)
*OPTIONAL: Airlock (this keeps air from getting to your wine while still letting CO2 from the fermentation escape–you can also use plastic wrap and a rubber band to seal, though results are not as secure
*OPTIONAL: Rubber bung (heh heh…bung) to seal the fermentation jug (if you’re using one) and have a place to stick the airlock-if you’re using a fermentation bucket, the airlock can go into a pre-drilled hole in the lid. If you’re not using an airlock, do that plastic wrap/rubber band thing.
*OPTIONAL: Candy or meat thermometer (highly recommended)

Go Do:
Clean, rinse, and sanitize all tools, spoons, etc.–basically anything that is going to be touching the wine and isn’t getting boiled needs to be cleaned, rinsed, and sanitized.  See my post on doing that for the products and processes you’ll want to use.

Puree the berries and the basil leaves in a food processor until it’s smoothie consistency (8 cups).

Put it in a large pot with 8 cups of water and all the honey or sugar.

Heat until very hot, but not boiling (185 degrees), and hold it at that temp for half an hour, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, boil a second pot of water and let it cool down to room temperature (70 degrees F).

Pour the hot fruit mixture through the fine mesh sieve into a sanitized bowl or pot.

Toss the pulp into the compost heap, or find a fun use for it and share your idea with the class.

Now stir in the lemon juice, tea, yeast nutrient, and pectic enzyme, if using.

Cool the mixture to room temperature and pour into the fermenter.

If the wine doesn’t fill the 1 gallon fermenter to within a few inches of the top, add water from the spare water pot (the one you boiled and cooled) and stir.  Take a reading with your hydrometer if you’re using one–write the number down for later (mine was 1.090, a little low for my liking, but then I accidentally dumped some of my wine stuff down the sink, and will pay the price in alcohol percentage points…crap!).

Now take a half cup of the spare pot water and sprinkle on the yeast packet.  Let it sit for ten minutes to allow the yeast to reacclimate.  Then throw the yeast mixture on top of the wine mixture.  No need to stir, the yeast does a good job of that.

Now put in the rubber bung (heh heh) and airlock (or put on the lid and airlock, or use some plastic wrap secured with a rubber band).  Make sure you half fill the airlock with water to make it effective.  You may want to set the fermenter in a larger bucket in case there’s spillover during fermentation.  Put the whole deal in a dark, room-temp location.

Now we wait.  We let the yeast do their thing, periodically checking to make sure there’s still water in the airlock.  Over the next week or two, you’ll hear lots of bubbling and gurgling going on and will see bubbles coming out the airlock.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Then things slow down and yeast die and drop to the bottom of the fermenter–ah, sediment, can’t live with you, can’t live withou–actually, I just can’t live with you.

Anyhow.  If you were an advanced winemaker, you’d transfer the wine to secondary and tertiary fermenters, but it’s not strictly necessary, and I’d like to keep things simple for you beginners.  Leave the wine in that fermenter for about 2 months–the wine should have stopped fermenting and will hopefully have cleared itself (if you didn’t use pectic enzyme, it may never clear completely).

At this point, a hydrometer really comes in handy to know how much sugar, if any, is left in the wine.  If the yeast have eaten all the sugar, you can safely bottle your wine.  Use this handy online calculator to figure out the final alcohol percentage of your finished wine.  You can test-sample, but fair warning, IT WILL BE HARSH AND PUNISHING, MISFITS.  Worry not, it shall improve immeasurably with time.  Just.  Like.  Us.

Now use your sterilized auto-siphon to transfer the wine from the fermenter (on a table or counter) to your sanitized wine bottles (on the floor), being sure to leave the sediment in the bottom of the fermenter.  (Here’s how to use an auto-siphon, if you’re not sure.  If you’re using plastic tubing, set one end in the primary fermenter, the other end in your mouth–suck until the wine siphons up into the tube and quickly stick it into the secondary fermenter to catch the wine in time.  Then send me a video of you sucking on the tube.  If you’re ladling, well, ladle away!)  You’ll have to leave enough space at the top of bottles for sealing, about 2 inches.

Now seal using a corker if you’re fancy or a rubber mallet and some bravery if you’re not, or just apply the swing tops or screw-tops.  Put the containers back into a cool, dark location, stored sideways if you used corks, and let your wine age for a minimum of six months–a year is even better.

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Every time your BMG (BNG?  Bad Nonna Genny for today’s recipe?) walks up to the front door, she’s bombarded with a cloud of basil ambrosia.  But she knows it won’t last forever.  Soon she’ll be wailing and gnashing her teeth and rending The Boy’s garments (what?  They’re not as cute as hers) because she can’t get fresh basil anymore.  But she will be encouraged to know that, despite the lack of basil ambrosia in her life, despite the fact that she seems to have reverted to speaking of herself in the third person, there is basilage to be had, and it’s as close as the freezer.

Pesto, peeps!  During the summer I make a fresh batch every week, which is about as long as it takes for the monster plants at the front door to become unwieldy again.  Then I drop it by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper sheets, roll up the paper, bag it, and stick it in the freezer.  By the end of September, I’ve got rolls and rolls of pesto like herbaceous green button candy, and it sees me through until the next year’s plants kick into SEARCH AND FUCKING DESTROY mode.

I keep the pesto on the thick side–easy to spoon, and it stays concentrated so I can use it however which way I like.

SOME EXAMPLES OF HOWEVER WHICH WAY I LIKE:

*Folded full-strength into some softened butter for rolls
*Dropped into soup or stew for quick seasoning
*Thinned with a little pasta cooking water and tossed with your favorite noodles
*Under my arms–all-natural deodorant! (“Is she joking? I hope she’s joking.”)
*Creamed into mayonnaise and adorning a BLT
*Thinned out with some vinegar and drizzled over a salad
*As a cool hipster-y lip gloss (“Where is she going with all these body product jokes?”)
*Spread thinly onto a pizza crust in place of red sauce
*Whisked into scrambled eggs
*Layered in a tomato and mozzarella pie, topped with a biscuit crust
*As an all-natural, scented lube! (“Oh dear God.”)

Okay, so would you like to know how to execute this most marvelous and simple yet impressive feat of domesticity, or would you like your Bad Nonna Genny to give you increasingly more suggestive uses for pes–

–Oh, you’d like the recipe?  Okay, then.

5 Minute Pesto Buttons
Makes about 8 buttons, each button equal to approx. 1 1/2 tablespoons pesto

Go Get:
2 cups packed basil leaves
1/4 cup nuts (pine nuts are traditional, but I’ve used walnuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, etc. with great results–today I started with slivered almonds)
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano Cheese (BNG is never without it, parmesan is a good substitute)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt ‘n Pepa (the hip-hop duo from the ’90’s, not the seasonings.  Okay, fine, I meant the seasonings.)
olive oil (this isn’t exact, but it’s usually around 1/4 cup)

Go Do:
Okay, now toss those basil leaves into the bowl of your food processor.

Now add in the garlic cloves, a few shakes of salt and pepper, and cheese.

Now toss those nuts into a dry skillet, turn the heat to medium, and agitate things around until it’s all toasty–shouldn’t take more than a minute, and they’re usually done when you start to smell them.  Observe!

Now drop in those nuts and give the food processor a few good pulses until everything’s all macerated.  Now start the motor running and slowly drizzle in olive oil through the feed tube in the top.  You should see things start to form a paste.  You can add a little more if need be, but I’d just take off the top and check before you do that, just to make sure the oil’s being incorporated.  When things form a loose paste, you’re done!  Check it for Salt ‘n Pepa (the seasonings, not the ’90’s hip-hop duo), and adjust accordingly.

Now put out a sheet of wax paper and drop the pesto by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the sheet, about 2 inches apart.  Lay another sheet of wax paper on top, lightly flatten the pesto mounds into thick, flat buttons for easier storage, and gently roll it up.  Pop the roll into a bag, stick it into the freezer, and rest easy, misfits.

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