Choice Salsa

In this year’s new edition of the salsa recipes for canning publication, PNW 395, our lovely extension friends added an awesome new recipe for those of us who love a little more choice in our lives – “choice salsa”! For this recipe, what you get to choose is the proportion of peppers to onions. Want a ton of peppers in your salsa? Or an equal mix of onions to peppers? Whatever your preference, you get to choose! Pretty great eh!?

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Ingredients:
6 cups cored, peeled, chopped tomatoes
9 cups chopped onions or peppers (of any variety)
1.5 cups bottled lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon canning or pickling salt

Here’s how we made it:
Blanch, peel and chop your tomatoes. My favourite way to deal with all the tomatoes is to core them, dip them in boiling water for 30 or so seconds, dip them in ice water, peel and chop them. Next chop up all the onions and peppers – you choose how much! But it has to total to 9 cups of onions and peppers, for 6 cups of tomatoes. This worked out really well for us because we made a big batch of Chile salsa, and then with the remaining tomatoes we made the choice salsa. It worked out well because I always have trouble buying the correct amount of peppers for a recipe. I grow my tomatoes, but buy the peppers and onions, so when I have 40 pounds of tomatoes, I have to figure out the right number of peppers to buy. This is HARD. So it worked super well that we used up all the rest of the peppers we had, then topped it off with the onions, since if you buy extra onions they store way better than peppers! So great! We ended up with a recipe fairly heavy on the peppers, but I think it turned out really well. I do find the lemon juice flavour to be quite strong though, so I think next time I might try half lemon, half lime.

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Prepare the canner, jars and lids. This recipe yields about 6 pints. Mix all the ingredients in a large stainless steel pot. Remember, do not alter the ratios of anything. You get 6 cups of tomatoes, 9 cups peppers/onions, and 1.5 cups of lemon juice. No reducing the lemon or adding extra veggies OK! Adding other dry spices is ok though, so if you want cumin, oregano or something else, add that now too. Heat all the ingredients to a boil over medium high, stirring occasionally. Simmer for at least 3 minutes, then fill your hot jars, leaving a half inch head space. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner (sea level), covered by at least 1-2 inches of boiling water.

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After the 15 minutes turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, remove bands, check seals, clean, label and store.

This salsa is a great one because it’s super chunky – here it is compared to my other favourite salsa. Chile salsa on the left, choice salsa on the right.

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Master Food Preserver Class – Week 5

Tomatoes are one of my very favourite things to preserve, so I was pretty happy that week 5 of our Master Food Preserver class was devoted to tomatoes (and also cheese!). No, it’s not tomato season here in the PNW, but hey class has to cover everything before the season ramps up, so we got a little tease and now have to wait a few months before we can make all these recipes.

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Canning tomatoes is awesome and amazing and definitely something that you should do, but it’s an area where you definitely need to be following tested and trusted recipes for things like salsas and sauces. Tomatoes are acidic enough to hot water bath can, but they are on the borderline between low and high acid, so we must add a little extra acid when we can them. This is because some may not be quite acidic enough, and if they are not remember we have the potential for botulism growth. We also learned that there are a couple bacteria that are only really found on tomatoes, and these bacteria can reduce the acidity and create conditions that are ideal for botulism. Adding that extra acid eliminates these risks.

In class we canned crushed tomatoes. When filling the jars, you add a bit of extra acid to each jar. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per pint or 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid. This ensures your tomatoes are definitely out of the pH range in which botulism can grow. It takes two extra seconds to do, so don’t skip it.

The hardest part of canning tomatoes is the peeling. I always can with a friend doing tomatoes because it’s a lot of work. But totally worth it. Look at those naked ‘maters!

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For the crushed tomatoes, we hot packed them. Here we are bringing them to a boil. Hot packing tomatoes is definitely the way to go, or else they have to process for 85 minutes!! That’s crazy talk!

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Crushed tomatoes!

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My favourite thing to do with tomatoes is to make salsa. We made three different salsas in class this week. Two tomato salsas and a tomatillo salsa. Salsa are delcious and amazing, but again, this is one area where you really need to follow a tested recipe, such as a recipe from Ball, So Easy to Preserve or from an extension service publication or the National Center for Home Food Preservation. The reason for this is that adding peppers and onions to the tomatoes to create salsa reduces the acidity, putting it into a range where botulism can definitely grow. Vinegar or lemon or lime juice must be added to compensate for these low-acid foods. But do you know exactly how much acid is needed for a cup of peppers or a cup of onions? No, so try out some of those tested recipes and find one you like. There really are a good number of options out there.

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The one that I helped make is actually this one that I posted last fall. It’s a great one if you like a salsa with a lot of peppers in it. I would recommend making about a million jars of this come tomato season. It’s that good. Although one alteration from the way I did it would be to make the recipe as written, then repeat rather than trying to bring twice as much to a boil. It just took forever to boil and I think holds together better if you get it boiling and into the jars faster. You live and you learn.

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OH MAN I JUST WANT TO EAT IT ALL RIGHT NOW!

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The second recipe was also an OSU extension recipe but it’s more similar to the other one from Ball I posted last year, found here. This one has proportionally more tomatoes than pepper and onions, and has a bit of added tomato paste. They are both delicious and which one you like better will just depend on your taste for salsa.

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Beautiful little fellows.

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Finally, we made a salsa verde using tomatillos. You could also make this with green tomatoes as I did last year with this recipe.

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Filling the jars.

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OK. Well now I am drooling and wishing tomatoes were ready…. but never mind let’s not wish the summer away. Let’s talk about some salsa and tomato rules.

– I already mentioned this, but always follow a tested recipe when canning salsa
– Never reduce the vinegar or lemon juice or add extra vegetables
– Altering spices is OK, like adding some cumin, cilantro or oregano to your taste
– You can swap peppers for different peppers, like if you want your salsa milder or hotter – just ensure you use the volume of total peppers called for in the recipe
– Don’t can overripe, spoiled tomatoes, or those from frost-killed vines. They have lower acidity so may not be safe to can
– Tomatillos and tomatoes are interchangeable in salsa recipes
– Use 5% acidity vinegar and bottled lemon or lime juice in salsa
– Equal amounts of lemon juice can be substituted for vinegar but not vice versa since the lemon juice is more acidic
– Don’t use thickeners in canned salsas, this can cause uneven heating and produce and unsafe product

Whew! OK that seems a bit overwhelming, but basically just be safe and smart making salsa. Follow a tested recipe, don’t be stupid, and you will enjoy many a delicious jar of salsa.

The last thing we did in class was learn to make soft cheese! Honestly, I thought it was a bit of a gross process, but maybe now that I’ve done it once it won’t be so bad next time. ha. And the cheese did taste pretty good. We made queso fresco. I’ll do a full post on it when I have a chance, but here are some pictures.

Milk and buttermilk

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The formation of the curd.

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The curd is setting up.

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Eww. Straining it.

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Squeezing out the whey.

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Ta-da!

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I think it was just the early stages and the smell that bothered me a bit. But it actually tasted surprisingly good. Have you ever made cheese? What’s your favourite kind to make?

 

 

Salsa Verde

NOOOOOO TOMATO SEASON IS OVER! ­čśŽ It is sad, but at least I have a pantry full of delicious goodies to get me through the winter. The first frost was a week or two ago, and it meant that upon seeing the warning I picked all my green tomatoes. Sadly it came a little early this year so I had a lot of green tomatoes still. However, the bright side is that I made this green tomato salsa! If you still have green tomatoes this is a great use for them.

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Ingredients:
5 cups chopped green tomatoes or tomatillos
1.5 cups seeded chopped long green chilies
1/2 cup finely chopped jalapeno peppers
4 cups chopped onions
1 cup bottled lemon or lime juice
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin (or to taste)
3 tablespoons oregano (or to taste)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Here’s what I did:

I wanted the tomatoes, peppers and onions chopped pretty finely so I used my little food processor on all three.

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Chop the tomatoes, peppers and onions.

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Mix all the ingredients together in your stock pot and bring it to a boil over medium high heat. I would wait until it’s heated and mixed together before adding the spices. I went for the full amounts of cumin and oregano but I may recommend starting with less and adding to taste because it can become a little overpowering.

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Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Meanwhile prepare the canner, jars and lids.

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Fill the hot jars leaving a half inch head space. De-bubble the jars, wipe rims, apply lids and bands, tightening finger tip tight. Process at a full rolling boil for 15 minutes.

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After 15 minutes, turn off the heat, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. After 12-24 hours remove bands, check seals, label and store! Recipe yields 5 pints.

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Salsa Perfection

OK so I probably shouldn’t have called my first salsa the “best ever” as this leaves no room for improvement. So since I don’t wanna be a bad canning mama and pick my favourite child I am calling this one “salsa perfection.” Best and perfect sound pretty equivalent to me, right? Phew, dodged that bullet. Anyways, I digress. This recipe is what we did with the other 30 pounds of tomatoes from the tomato extravaganza that was last night. This salsa has more peppers than the first recipe I posted, so if you like your salsa more peppery this is the one for you! This recipe comes from PNW 395, one of my favourite publications! It’s the Chile salsa, bottom of page 9.

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Ingredients:

10 cups peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes
6 cups seeded, chopped chili peppers (use some hot and some mild, or sub in some green bell peppers and some jalapenos like we did – 6 cups total of all peppers you use though)
4 cups chopped onions
1 cup vinegar
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dry cumin (optional)
1 tsp dry oregano (optional)

As above the recipe will yield 7-9 pints.

Here is what we did:

Core, blanch and peel, the tomatoes. I learned from last time to blanch them for just a short 30 seconds or so, that way they don’t get soggy/cooked. Core 6 or 8 and plop them in boiling water.

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Then throw them straight into ice water and repeat. Only leave them in the boiling water for the short time it takes to quickly peel the 6 or 8 and then they don’t get soggy.

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Look at all those beautiful naked tomatoes!

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Dice the tomatoes. Do a fairly course dice because they will break down a bit when they are boiled. We had 48 cups from the 30 pounds, so we did 4.8x the recipe, multiplying through for the other ingredients. Chop up the onions and peppers. Try and cut the peppers and onions in similarly sized pieces. Wear gloves for the hot ones! Remove the seeds and veins from hot peppers or add just some of them, depending on how hot you like your salsa. I like to keep a bowl of the seeds set aside so I can make some batches hotter than others and label the lids accordingly.

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We had to do this in multiple┬ábatches since my stock pot is 12 quarts and we had about 1.5x that. But if you are normal and not doing a mondo batch, mix all the ingredients in your stock pot. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend the mondo batch. It takes to long to boil so gets watery. Do one batch, get it in the canner, and repeat. I did it that way the next time I did a huge salsa batch and was much happier. Still make a ton of salsa though. Just do it in batches or multiple pots. Anyways, add all the tomatoes, peppers, onions, vinegar and spices. A fun fact about salsa is that if you don’t like the vinegar flavour you can sub lemon or lime juice in equal quantities if you prefer. Or a different vinegar like cider vinegar (we used white vinegar but both are tasty). Just make sure whatever vinegar you use is 5% acidity. You can also add more or less salt, or other dried spices. Just DO NOT alter the ratios of the veggies. And be careful if you do giant batches like this that you get all the ratios right, it is easy to screw up and make something unsafe if you aren’t careful and paying attention. Another good reason to do one batch, get it in the canner, and repeat.

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Bring the salsa to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. While bringing it to the boil prepare the canner, jars and lids. I prefer the wide mouth pints for dipping! Once it’s been boiling for 10 minutes it is ready to be put it the hot jars!

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Fill the jars leaving a half inch head space. Wipe rims, apply lids and tighten bands finger tip tight. Place in the canner covered by at least 1-2 inches of water. Bring to a full rolling boil and process for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a towel or hot pad. Count the pings as the jars seal! Below you can see we had both of our canners going with 8 jars a piece and still had almost a full pot left of salsa! What an excellent batch! Took 4 full canner loads plus 2.5 jars for the fridge – 34.5 delicious pints of salsa! If this pressure canner picture is confusing you, it’s just because I use my pressure canner as a water bath canner too, I didn’t pressure can this.

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12-24 hours later check the seals, remove the rings, wipe down the jars and label and store. Lately I’ve been noting the page number or source of the recipe on the label too so maybe by next year I really can pick a favourite. ­čśë

My share of the bounty! mmmm mmmm good.

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Best Ever Salsa!

Tomato season is here at last, and that of course means salsa season! So yesterday I grabbed my good pal Kiki, picked all my red tomatoes and set out to make some salsa. I first made this salsa last year and it was so delicious it had to be the first thing I used tomatoes for this year. This recipe is from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Warning, if you make this salsa you will never want to eat store bought salsa again!

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The recipe as listed below makes around 5 pint jars of salsa.

Ingredients:
7 cups peeled, chopped, cored tomatoes
2 cups coarsely chopped onion
1 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
8 jalape├▒o peppers, seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can (5.5 oz) tomato paste
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup cilantro, loosely packed and finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin

Reminder: salsa is one of those foods that can be borderline acidic enough for hot water bath canning, so never alter the ratios in a recipe. It is not┬ásafe, for example, to add extra peppers because they reduce the overall acidity. Adding more vinegar for acidity can compensate, but never “guesstimate,” look for a trusted and tested recipe if you like a different ratio of ingredients in salsa.

How to make it:

Keeping true with my large batch style of canning, I picked every single red tomato in my garden for this canning session. I have an array of Roma varieties ready and had around 27 pounds when all was said and done. After peeling and chopping we had 33 cups of tomatoes! So we did about 4.7x the recipe as written, which it turns out is pretty much the capacity of my stock pot. To simmer the mixture I actually ended up spreading it out over a couple pots and mixing it all back together at the end.

The biggest task for this recipe is to peel and chop the tomatoes. This is exponentially easier if you first blanch them. If you want, cut a small x in the bottom of the tomato.

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Toss them in boiling water for 30-60 seconds.

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Then into ice water. The skins on these Roma’s came off so easily, which makes for a happy canning session.

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Chop the tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic. Make sure to wear gloves to chop the jalapenos! A little bit of jalapeno seeds really go a long way in this recipe so I like to leave the seeds and veins aside and add them in to taste when I get all the ingredients together.

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Mix all the ingredients in a large stock pot. I am actually not a huge cilantro fan, so I leave it out of this recipe or add a little parsley instead.

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Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or so to cook the veggies and thicken the mixture.

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While the salsa is cooking, prepare the canner, jars and lids. I like to use wide mouth pints for this because then I can easily dip a chip right into the jar. When the salsa is done, fill the jars leaving a half inch head space. Wipe the rims, place the lids on, and tighten the bands finger tip tight.

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Place the jars in the canner covered by at least 1-2 inches if water. Process jars for 20 minutes, beginning the timer when your hot water bath canner reaches a full rolling boil. After the 20 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes then remove your jars to a cloth or hot pad on the counter, leaving at least a couple inches between them. Listen to all the jars sealing!

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For this giant batch of salsa, we ended up with 22 pints, plus a half pint left over for eats. This took 3 canner loads because only 8 wide mouth pints fit in my canner, so just keep the salsa simmering in between if you do more than one load.

Enjoy any little bit left over! Mmm. Although, I think if you leave it a couple weeks for the flavours to commingle it tastes even better. Deeeelish!

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