Get dirty this summer!

Summer can get dirty!

Summer is spectacular in Minnesota. You have the chance to leave the winter behind and get outside to enjoy the lakes and farms.

As a chef, it’s even more important to search out the local farms with fruits and vegetables. While I love a great farmers market, here’s an important tip:  make sure to find the ‘grown in 60’ area. This means that what you are choosing is coming from farms that are within 60 miles of your market.

beets2We love getting to know the farms and farmers in our area. When looking for ones near you, I’d suggest asking them if they have an email list.  That way, if you’re looking for a particular crop, such as blueberries, beets, cucumbers or tomatoes, you’re able to ask them to send you the best time to come and harvest at the peak of deliciousness.  I also love to dig in and work with some of the local farmers on harvest days for special items.

Like many of you, my grandmother and great aunt taught me to can foods at the peak of their ripeness. It’s something we love to do and, as a result, we get to enjoy these treats all year long!  If you’ve never canned before, don’t fret;  anyone can do it and put in the freezer for up to 6 months.   Since you already know that I have roots on a farm, it won’t surprise you that I especially love jams and jellies . . . .however I never understood why my friends would stop at putting these lovely concoctions on their toast!  In our home, they go with all kinds of hearty cheeses, cakes, cookies, ice creams, iced drinks with club soda and more. We use these in sauces with beef and pork, as well.  You’d be amazed at the flavor a teaspoon makes in a savory dish.

I wanted to share one of our delicious favorites; Blackberry Basil Jam. One taste of this jam and you might not want to stop eating this light, fresh, rich concoction!  Here’s the recipe (and happy canning!), and please let me know if you’ve got a favorite jam recipe!

Blackberry Basil Jam


16 cups fresh, blackberries
6 cups fresh, basil, leaves, tightly packed
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed, orange juice
1 cup water
1/4 cup freshly squeeze, lemon juice


Sterilize lids and jars for 10 minutes in a large pot of boiling water. They can stay in the hot water after sterilization until you’re ready to use them.

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, blend the basil leaves, sugar and orange juice until smooth.

Place the blackberries in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot.

Stir the mixture into the blackberries, add water and bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture is thick, about 25 minutes. You can use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to lightly smash them.

Stir in the lemon juice, taste and add more if you’d like. Cook about 5 more minutes until it coats the wooden spoon. Remove jam from heat.

Set a large stockpot filled with enough water to just cover the jars on high heat. Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims with a clean cloth and seal with the lids.

Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Using tongs or a jar lifter, remove from the water and set on a towel to cool and seal. To test the seal, run your finger over the lid after 30 minutes. You should feel a slight depression in the center of the lid. The sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

If a jar does not seal, put it in the refrigerator and use within one month or freezer for 6 months.



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