Sunday, September 02, 2007

Salsa!

I loves me some good salsa. My favorite off-the-shelf brand is Green Mountain Gringo, because it has a very fresh taste and uses a good amount of cilantro, which I love. But it is not easy to find the mild version here, you can only find medium, roasted garlic, or hot. I like my salsa spicy but not too hot, and the medium GMG, while good, isn't as flavorful as the mild. It's not made the same way as the mild, because it doesn't just taste like a hotter version of the mild.

At any rate, someone I know from a gardening forum that I visit from time to time is a very good cook. And she does a lot of home canning. A lot. No, she's not from New York. Most New Yorkers (and probably residents of many other states) would think her crazy to invest such time in food. But not me, because I have tried recipes she has posted, and they are quite good.

So when I started my tomatoes this year, I did so with the intention of making her salsa. Yes, making it. From homegrown tomatoes.

Unfortunately, my tomatoes didn't completely agree with me. They didn't produce as many tomatoes as I would need to make a batch of salsa. And because of their strange shape and the way they grow (they aren't perfectly globe-shaped), the individual tomatoes don't yield as much "meat" as I had hoped.

So a couple of weekends ago, our friend Jeff and I went to the farm stand and bought the tomatoes I needed to finish out the batch. And while the farm stand tomatoes weren't quite as good as mine, they were infinitely tastier than the store-bought horrors that pass for tomatoes. We bought onions. We bought cilantro. Green and red peppers. Three jalapeños. A long hot finger pepper. A serrano pepper. A hot red chili pepper.

The process of making the salsa was a bit arduous. First, you have to wash off all the tomatoes (enough to make a cups when chopped, seeded and drained); then you must throw them into boiling water and boil them until the skins split so that they can be easily peeled. Then the tomatoes must be cut in half sideways, so that the seed pockets are fully revealed, and the seeds and surrounding gelatinous juice pockets cleaned out. Only then can the tomatoes be chopped to a medium dice. Then the hot peppers must be split and seeded. As Jeff discovered under my tutelage, gloves are a wise choice when working with hot peppers. They were so strong that they made us cough. Onions had to be chopped, as did bell peppers.

It was such a long affair that we stopped in the middle of it all to make dinner. When we finished with dinner, we got back to work.

Once you boil the mixture, you have to can it. Canning can be done a couple of different ways, but involves a ballet of sterilized hot jars being filled with a mixture that has just come to a boil, carefully handled to put on the lids and rings. It's a delicate task not to scald yourself. The jars are then lowered into a boiling water bath or pressure cooker and boiled for a specified "processing" time. At the end of processing time, the jars are lifted from the cauldron and put on a rack to await the "pop" of the vacuum seal being formed as the jars cool. And once they are cooled, you have to have a relatively cool, dark place to store them.

What we wound up with, though, was salsa as can only be made fresh. Delicious, sweet, real tomato flavor that was just wonderful. We were not disappointed...but we were tired. I varied the original recipe a bit (my variations are included below) to my individual taste. However, for safety, you must use the amount of vinegar called for, or more; you cannot use less!

The only thing I did wrong was substitute conventional boiling for pressure cooking. Unfortunately, I only discovered after the fact that you can't make that substitution with this recipe because there isn't a sufficient amount of vinegar (acid) in this recipe to hold the salsa stable at room temp and it will spoil in the jar (eek...botulism!) if not refrigerated....so if you do make it, remember that you MUST use a pressure cooker to process it OR you must add more acid...others who have made this have chosen to use an additional 1/3 c. vinegar and 1/3 c. lime juice.

So if you would dare to try the recipe:

Annie's Salsa
8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained (seeds and juice removed)
2 1⁄2 cups chopped onion
1 1⁄2 cups chopped green pepper
3 – 5 chopped jalapenos, or combination of jalapenos, serranos, hot finger peppers, banana peppers, and habaneros to your taste
6 large cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp. cumin
2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup canning salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup vinegar (see note below)
16 oz. tomato sauce
16 oz tomato paste
Mix all ingredients, bring to a boil at medium heat and boil 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, taking care not to Skim off foam, pour into hot jars, and pressure-cook process at 10 lbs of pressure for 30 minutes for pints. NOTE: If you use the traditional water bath, you MUST use an additional 2/3 c. vinegar or a combination of vinegar, lemon, or lime juices to equal an additional 2/3 c. or it will not be safe to leave unrefrigerated! Process for 20 minutes for pints.

Makes 6 pints.

10 Comments:

At 9:42 PM, September 03, 2007, Blogger Jess said...

I can vouch for it being fabulous!

 
At 7:47 AM, September 04, 2007, Blogger pinknest said...

oh this sounds SOOOO incredibly daunting and tiring!! i would have to camp out in my kitchen. but chips and salsa, yummy!!

 
At 9:15 AM, September 04, 2007, Blogger Cincy Diva said...

I giggled the entire time I read this post because of the Old El Paso ads. "He gets his salsa in New York City!"

 
At 8:24 PM, September 04, 2007, Blogger Dantallion said...

My mouth was watering throughout this entire post. I'll be trying this one.

 
At 3:20 PM, September 05, 2007, Blogger addROC said...

sounds excellent, but a bit to involved for me, at least for now.

 
At 11:51 AM, September 10, 2007, Blogger Brooklyn Bitch said...

Thinking about canning things! This salsa sounds AWESOME!
Maybe when I'm making preserves I'll make some zesty salsa as well! Mucho de tasty!
Oh...and pies...where are the pie ideas I've been promised!

 
At 9:15 PM, September 10, 2007, Blogger Marc said...

pinknest - yes, camping out might have been a better approach!

Cincy - don't make me laugh, it hurts. Actually, I think that's Pace's ad, but I got the reference!

Dan - I never knew you were kitchenologically inclined! : )

addROC - I wouldn't blame you for skipping it, it is involved!

BB - It is fabulous, I will say that...but a pain. Yes, when you're doing other canning, then make a day of it! As for the pies...tell me what kind of pies you're after...fruit pies? Meringue pies? Pecan pie? And how easy or difficult would you like to go? I have all kinds.

 
At 10:10 AM, September 11, 2007, Blogger Deborah said...

I love homemade salsa, but have never made it myself. I do have some tomatoes finally starting to ripen - maybe that is what I will have to do with them!!

 
At 2:38 PM, September 13, 2007, Blogger Dantallion said...

Marc: I never used to be. I've been teaching myself to cook (and really enjoying it)

 
At 6:04 PM, September 18, 2007, Blogger Brooklyn Bitch said...

I am such a spaz and didn't see your response....
In any event, I would like fruit pies...and of a difficulty level of medium-ish. :)
Also, I wanted to let you know about a blogger meet-up in Brooklyn that's coming up.
I am going to try my best-est to be there with addROC.
Here's the 411:
http://onlytheblogknowsbrooklyn.typepad.com/only_the_blog_knows_brook/2007/09/brooklyn-blogad.htmln

~The Bitch~

 

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