July 13, 2009

An Overabundance of Produce

Every so often our gardens gift us with an overabundant harvest. This year it looks like it's going to be tomatoes and peppers. I'm not complaining. It's just that I have this really strong aversion to wasting things and I can only give away so many fruit and veggies to friends and family before they start running when they see me coming.

I am going to attempt to can salsa this year because we love it and I'll have all of the components readily available. I make it fresh all the time, but to put it up will be a new experience. I have been searching applicable recipes and thought I'd share a few with you. Salsa, it seems, can be made from almost any fruit or vegetable or a combination thereof.

Tomato Tips: There are a few guidelines to ensure the best quality salsa when canning. The type of tomato you use in important. Meatier, firmer tomatoes, such as Roma or other paste varieties hold up better than your average salad tomato. Don't use overripe or spoiled tomatoes for canning recipes. It's a "recipe" for disaster and the flavor will be undesirable to say the least. Green tomatoes and or tomatillo are also a good choice and can be substituted for all or part of the tomatoes. For recipes that call for peeled tomatoes you can easily skin them by dipping them in boiling water for about 30-60 seconds and drop them in a bowl or sink full of ice water. The skins will easily slip off.

Chile Tips: Peppers use in salsas can be anywhere from mild to super hot depending on your personal preferences. If you're using hot peppers do yourself a favor and wear rubber gloves while cutting them and for God's sake do NOT touch your eyes or any other part of your body until you remove the gloves and wash your hands as the result of not following this tip is not pretty - believe me!

Generally speaking the smaller the pepper the hotter it will be. Leaving the seeds in the recipe will increase this heat as the capsicum is concentrated in the seeds and pith of the peppers. You may sub out any chile for another, just keep in mind that the end result should be edible and not burn the skin off your tongue.

Some suggested milder varieties include Anaheim, Ancho, New Mexico 6-4, Big Jim, Chimayo, and Hungarian Yellow Wax. You can also sub in mild peppers such as sweet red, green or any other color bell peppers, Giant Marconi or the new varieties of mild jalapeno.

To take your salsa up a notch add any of the following chiles for a bit of fire: Serrano, Cayenne, Habanero, Chile Piquin, and Tabasco. Use sparingly unless you like to set your mouth on fire. Jalapeno peppers are a common choice as they add a bit of heat and unique tang to salsas and are readily available. If you don't grow peppers or can't find them fresh locally you can use canned chiles instead. For a change of pace try roasting your peppers and tomatoes (whole) on the grill to char the skin and place in a brown paper bag until cool enough to handle. The skins will just slide off leaving delicious roasted flavor to add to your salsa.

I won't go through the entire method for canning but suffice it to say for safety's sake follow the manufacturer's directions. Fill hot clean jars with the hot salsa, being careful not to leave any salsa on the rims. Wipe jar rims with a clean, damp paper towel. Put on lids and screw on metal bands. Process according to directions and test for seals when jars are cooled. Anything that is not completely sealed should be refrigerated and used within a few days. Do not - I repeat - DO NOT take any chances when it comes to canning. Botchulism is just not worth the risk!

Tomatillo Green Salsa

Yield: 5 pints

5 cups chopped tomatillos
1 1/2 cups seeded, chopped long green chiles
1/2 cup seeded finely chopped jalapeƱos
4 cups chopped onions
1 cup bottled lemon juice
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp ground cumin*
3 Tbsp oregano leaves *
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and stir frequently over high heat until mixture begins to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot salsa into pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner 15 minutes at 0-1,000 feet altitude; 20 minutes at 1,001-6,000 feet; 25 minutes above 6,000 feet.

You may use green tomatoes in this recipe instead of tomatillos.


Chile Salsa

Yield: 7 to 9 pints

10 cups peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes
4 cups chopped onions
1 cup vinegar
6 cups seeded, chopped chiles*
3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Combine ingredients in a large saucepan. Heat to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Ladle hot salsa into pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner: 15 minutes at 0-1,000 feet altitude, 20 minutes at 1,001-6,000 feet; 25 minutes above 6,000 feet.

*Use mixture of mild and hot chiles.

NOTE: The only changes you can safely make in these salsa recipes are to substitute bottled lemon juice for vinegar and to decrease the amount of spices and herbs. Do not alter the proportions of vegetables to acid and tomatoes because it might make the salsa unsafe.

A few links to spark your creativity:
One Particular Kitchen: Salsa Roja
Karina's Kitchen
How to can anything!

Have fun making delicious salsas to enjoy all year long

1 comment:

Anna said...

Your tomatoes look amazing! I love all the color variations too. So cool that you're going to make big batches of salsa to can. I need to get more creative with my salsa. I've only ever used jalepeno peppers, but I'd love to try the other kinds.