Back to the canning realm…
Making the corn relish that Saturday wore me out; I couldn’t face doing a second canning recipe the same day, since I didn’t have another 2 or 3 hours to spare.
This meant that the fresh produce from the farmer’s market languished until Monday. The tomatoes called to me from the kitchen table and the peppers from the fridge, at first whispering, then growing louder and louder until they were shouting, “COOK ME! COOK ME!”
Not wanting to waste this food that I’d bought, I gritted my teeth and foolishly attempted to prepare the Zesty Salsa recipe on Monday night after I got home from work, thinking it would take 2 hours at most. I started the project at 7 pm and didn’t finish till almost 11 pm.
Silly me, I didn’t factor in that I would also need to run to the drug store that night to pick up my seasonal allergy medicine plus put two kids to bed. Not to mention that I’m an incredibly slow prepper.
This cooking project turned out to be one challenge after another. It felt like The Amazing Salsa Race.
The evening’s highlights:
-didn’t have all ingredients on hand so I had to run out to the store (discovery! CVS carries Tabasco sauce as well as allergy medicine)
-messed up peeling tomatoes so I ran out of them and didn’t have quite enough for the recipe (discovery! peeling tomatoes is a pain in the a$$); by the end, I just chucked the remaining pieces into the pan, peel and all
-got burning hot pepper juice all around my nose, then in my eyes when I took out my contacts that night (discovery! guess I didn’t scrub my hands well enough)
-then burned my eyes again the next morning when I put my contacts back in (discovery! pepper juice can get on contact lenses)
At several points in the evening, I was sorely tempted to throw the whole lot of ingredients into the trash can, but then there were those sunken costs – the time I’d already spent chopping up the ingredients, plus the cost of the ingredients themselves. So I persevered.
Suffice it to say, nobody’s going to be eating this first batch of salsa except me and my family.
My biggest discovery from using the Canning Discovery Kit that night? I don’t think I like to can.
But I couldn’t let a recipe defeat me. The second time I made this recipe later in the same week, I was a little older, a little wiser, and had the cooking wind at my back.
I hadn’t planned on attempting this recipe again so soon, since I was heading out of town on vacation the next day and I was fed up a bit with canning.
By a strange confluence of fortuitous factors, however, I was lured back into the salsa challenge: a pile of fresh, juicy local tomatoes from my colleague’s garden landed in my lap; and when I stopped at the neighborhood farmer’s market after work, they had all of the other fresh ingredients I needed – green peppers, hot peppers, onions, and even cilantro.
(About the farmer’s market – you know how they have the varieties of hot peppers all in separate trays? Well, I asked the vendor if he could give me a variety, and he was willing to do it, grabbing a handful each of hot banana peppers, jalapenos and some other chilies. How nice! So you don’t have to buy the trays exactly as they’re displayed.)
Also, I knew I was just about out of cider vinegar, but when I got home and measured it, there was exactly enough for the recipe – 2/3 cup.
This time, I chose to process my jars in my smaller stockpot without the aid of the green canning rack. I put a towel in the bottom of the pot to stop the jars from rattling during processing. Using the smaller pot allowed the water to reach the boiling point faster, and it was easier to manage the jars in and out of the water.
I also used the blanching technique to remove the skins from the tomatoes, instead of stupidly peeling the tomatoes with a vegetable peeler like I did the first night (I know, I know, a total rookie mistake, I should know better than to peel vegetables with a veggie peeler.) The blanching made the skin removal a snap.
The recipe preparation took more like 2 or 2 1/2 hours this time. I freely admit, I’m the world’s slowest veggie prepper; this preserving process could go much more quickly for you. (Let me know if you do try to make this recipe and how long it took you to do it. I’d like a scientific measure of exactly how slow I am.)
We didn’t have time to try the salsa until we returned from vacation. But the first night after we returned to town, we broke out the bottles, to be used for our chicken tamale dinner.
Of course, I had to try the two batches side by side to see if the screw-ups and bigger variety of peppers in the first batch made it taste different from the second. It turned out that the two salsas looked the same and tasted the same.
The salsa turned out a bit runny and the tomatoes had converted to mostly juice. I’m not sure if this is because I chopped the tomatoes too small or the tomatoes were extra ripe or if I should have cooked it a little longer or if this is how cooked salsas typically turn out.
I personally don’t like green peppers much to begin with (and this recipe calls for a lot of them), and think that when they’re cooked, their color is a bit unappetizing. But that’s just me.
I’d like to try making this recipe again one more time this season with heirloom tomatoes and the same mix of hot peppers I’d gotten from the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market that Saturday, to see if this salsa tastes different using heirlooms.
(Quibble, quibble, quibble.)
Nevertheless, I still ate the salsa, both kinds, it tasted fine and I didn’t get sick. Joy! So, these were safe to give to others.
With Lucia’s comments about the pleasures of enjoying your own homemade salsa during the Super Bowl in mind, I set aside one jar, to be opened in February 2011.
(Adapted from the Ball Canning Discovery Kit recipe booklet; recipe makes 3-4 pint jars)
5 cups chopped, cored peeled tomatoes
2 1/2 cups chopped, seeded green bell peppers
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/4 cups chopped, seeded chili peppers (hot banana, Hungarian, etc.)
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 T. finely chopped cilantro
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce, optional
Start your water boiling in your canning pot or a large stockpot, get out your canning utensils if you plan to use them, and wash your jars and lids.
Remove stems from the tomatoes and cut a little “x” into the skin at the base of the fruit.
Bring water to a boil in another large sauce pan, and then drop your tomatoes in the boiling water, a couple at a time, blanching them for 30 seconds to 1 minute; then remove the tomatoes and either run them under cold water or plunge them in an ice bath to stop them from cooking further. (I used an ice bath).
Slip the skins off the tomatoes, then core them, cut them in half, and scoop out the seeds. Chop up the peeled tomatoes.
Core and seed the green peppers and chili peppers, and chop them up. Chop the onions, and finely chop the cilantro.
Combine the tomatoes, peppers, onions, cilantro and the rest of the ingredients on the list in a large stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Ladle hot salsa into jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles; re-measure head space. Wipe rim and center lid on jar. Screw band until fingertip tight.
Process filled jars in boiling water for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, remove stockpot lid, and leave jars in the hot water for another 5 minutes. Remove the jars from the water, cool and store.
One additional note: though the Amazon link shows the Ball Canning Discovery Kit priced at $18.78, I found it at Target on an end cap display in their kitchen equipment department for around $10.99. I was told that Target will carry the Ball preserving supplies until the end of October. Just an FYI.