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Spicy Tomato Salsa

11 Sep

9 dried chili peppers

Hot water

12 cups diced cored peeled tomatoes (1/2 inch/1 cm dice) * See How to Peel Tomatoes.

3 cups chopped red onion

1 1/2 cups tightly packed, finely chopped cilantro

15  cloves garlic, finely chopped

6 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped * If you like your salsas extra spicy, leave in all or a portion of the seeds and membranes.

3/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tbsp salt

3/4 tsp hot pepper flakes

1. In a heatproof glass or stainless steel bowl, combine dried chilies with hot water to cover.  Weigh chilies down with a bowl or a weight to ensure they remain submerged, and soak until softened, about 15 minutes.  Drain off half the water.  Transfer chilies and remaining water to a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal blade and puree until smooth.

2. Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids.

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine chili puree, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno peppers, vinegar, salt and hot pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

4. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot salsa.  Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process both 8-ounce and pint jars for 15 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving, Edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine.

I haven’t been able to stop talking and thinking about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which chronicles the year she and her family  committed to eating 100% local produce.  She talks about asparagus the way some men talk about women in fishnets; and I can tell you, I’ve been as excited to see asparagus in local markets after a long, food-dull winter as many are to see beer, nachos and Bears football today. Maybe the book has stuck with me because I share her utter excitement in juicy, sweet tomatoes after months of unripened, tasteless toms from god-knows-where at grocery stores, but really, it’s just that she makes it sound so incredibly easy and doable.  And it turns out, it is.

I don’t live on a farm and I share my yard with 6 other units (currently 11 people total) so although the City of Chicago does allow its residents to raise and keep both chickens and roosters on their property within city limits, I figured all 11 neighbors would not be welcoming to a little brood of chickens between the 3 grills,2 tables and my garden.  Space is tight as it is.  These were the sorts of things I thought immediately as she described ordering her little box of chickens and the variety of wild turkeys for her property.  Literally every can-not that I’ve come up with has been followed by a very easy solution in the city.  For example, Gene’s Sausage Shop and Delicatessen, which is 3 blocks from my house, sells free range, organic chickens from a farm in Wisconsin and there are nearly always local eggs and meat at the farmers markets (and there is a farmers market somewhere in this city every day of the week).  I haven’t fully boarded the all-local-bandwagon (it’s so hard to resist avocados in summer) but I would estimate that well over 80% of the items I’ve cooked at home this summer have been local.

So as fall is setting in, I’m contemplating how to continue supporting local farming and how to save the tastes of summer.  This weekend was momentous because I finally started jarring.  This was yet another task that I had found completely daunting, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy and, between you and me, fun it can be.  I started with this salsa recipe but I also made a peach salsa that I hope to post soon.  It’s so convenient to have homemade salsa available when you need it and each of the individual ingredients shine in the homemade salsa rather than condensing into a homogenous stew like many of the store-bought options.  If it seems like too much work for you alone, get friends together to split the jars (this recipe makes 12 8-oz jars).  And I happen to know the local Ace Hardware on Lincoln Avenue is having a sale on jars and canners through the end of the month.  I’m happy to burst your can-not bubble, but no excuses,  you can do it too.