Salsa Mia ~ Beat the Chill with Garden Spice
This weekend we will enjoy a community salsa and chili contest: “Beat the Chill Chili & Salsa Cook-Off.”
And the chill must be beat. Until this week, the temperature has not crested zero in about three months. I begin to wonder if the garden was all just a dream…
The pantry proves that the sweet dream was in fact real. Seven varieties of tomato and tomatillo salsas still stock the canning shelves, some made with orange and yellow heirlooms, others packed with fresh cilantro and lime, still others combining smoked peppers with dark brandy wines. One of these lucky salsas just may enter our community cook off. (For our readers local to the Methow Valley, enter the contest to benefit our Methow Valley Community Center, February 2.)
Of all the salsa recipes created and tested through the years, above all I’d like to share the tried and true tomato salsa. I’ve landed on this one as solid and adaptable ~ the ratios are reliable for water bath canning and depth of flavor is guaranteed.
~ Tried & True Tomato Salsa ~
Some prefer a thick and chunky salsa, in which case, seed the tomatoes. Others prefer a thinner salsa for which you can leave the seeds. This recipe works for either.
The instructions are for a “max batch,” designed to fill the water canner with 7 full quarts or multiple batches of pints. Cut the recipe in half for smaller amounts of vegetables.
Hopefully your garlic is plentiful and punchy for this recipe. I find the spicyness of garlic to be one of the most important flavors in good salsa. Our garlic was happily bedded down in the fall, and last summer’s crop is still in use, but I’ve found that the garden garlic we dried is also workable and very punchy.
Cilantro is easy to grow on a constant basis. It grows very quickly, and can be reseeded throughout the year indoors. Cilantro is entirely useful, roots, stems, seeds, leaves and all!
When in comes to cumin, purchasing fresh seed is necessary. Pre-ground cumin is always disappointing and a recipe like this takes the full-on flavor of the spice to stand up to competitors like onion and vinegar.
The same is true of sea salt ~ an area where the cook should not skimp. Especially in canning recipes, the stronger sea salt is vastly different from standard table salt.
A final note about jalapeño peppers: gauge their spice level partially on their maturity. A pepper of full maturity will have “veins” of white stretching vertically from base to stem. Without these, you may still have a spicy pepper, but a taste test is advised.
Tomato Salsa, Max Batch
24 large tomatoes
6 cups onions
30 cloves garlic
12 + jalapeño peppers
1 ½ cups red wine or cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons fresh ground cumin seed
1 teaspoon dried red pepper to taste (optional)
2 teaspoons ground sea salt (more or less to taste)
Bunches of fresh cilantro, at least 1 1/2 cups, preferably 3 cups
~Dice all vegetables in batches in a food processor; use gloves when handling peppers if you find it necessary, and be careful not to touch face or eyes.
~Combine all ingredients besides cilantro in a large sauce pot; bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 5-10 minutes; then add chopped cilantro (its delicate construction loses flavor if boiled much, but more benefits flavor).
~Taste for spice and salt content; adjust with dried red pepper.
~Process in a boiling water canner 25 minutes for quarts, 15 minutes for pints.
Note: the ratios in this recipe are specific to preserving. If you wish to eat your salsa fresh, use less vinegar, some to taste or none at all.
Yield: 7 quarts or 14 pints
Stay warm and enjoy!
Love from our table to yours, Georgina @ Caramelize Life