September 2, 2009

Ready, Set, Salsa

READY - pounds of tomatoes, pounds of onions, a dozen jalapenos, nearly as many Anaheim peppers, back straining amounts of chopping, and a pair of rubber gloves to prevent pepper burns! Finally, finally we were ready to make salsa!! It was a two day job, with yesterday being the day for chopping, extra runs to the garden for more tomatoes, and extra runs to the store, since I didn't read my recipe very carefully - ugh! Today was the actual canning, which I'm getting more comfortable doing on my own, especially since I have an aloe plant growing in the kitchen to deal with my inevitable burns!

SET - this is one batch cooking away - 30 minutes of simmering, and the second batch before any cooking was done. Fresh cilantro, cumin, and garlic season these batches. Each batch yielded 9 pints, and I canned 14 of those, with the remaning salsa going into the refrigerator or freezer. I have 7 slots in my canning rack, and that's why I chose to make it easy on myself and can 14 jars. More than two rounds of boiling and canning, and I'm not a happy woman anymore!

SALSA- this is a great batch. The taste is spicy, but subtle and flavorful rather than just being HOT! Because of the difference in tomatoes and peppers each year, there's always a little mystery about how it's going to taste. I used a recipe from New Mexico State University Extension Center. Be sure you use a very reputable source for your canning instructions. I've harped on this before, but I'll harp again - NEVER just wing it with your salsa canning, or any canning for that matter. Canning acid foods and non-acid foods together, i.e. tomatoes with peppers and onions, takes a very specific acid balance and you need to follow it carefully for food safety. Another tidbit I learned inadvertently from this site - our altitude is 1089 feet! The processing times for salsa are dependent on altitude, so I had to "Google" and find out. It made me think about the fact that we have lived at altitudes that range from 14 feet above sea level, to 5630 feet - more than a mile above sea level!

This was a wonderful side benefit of using cilantro in the salsa. Last night, DH cut up the 8 tablespoons we needed for two batches of salsa. Then he got curious about how to freeze all the extra, and found this ice cube tray method on the internet. You chop the cilantro finely, pack it into the trays, and top them up with water. Then freeze, pop out the cubes and put them in a freezer bag. We knew about doing this with prepared pesto, but had never seen this done with fresh herbs. I think it's brilliant and I can wait to use these in our Indian, Mexican, and Thai dishes. But tonight - it's salsa smothered burritos all the way baby!

P.S. Happy Birthday to my youngest brother today, who is an "Irish twin" to my older brother. For the next several weeks they will be the SAME age!

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