Wednesday, August 3, 2011

S Is for Salsa

Copyright Theresa Leschmann
I didn’t get to do much with my vegetable garden this year. Between the torrential rains that flooded most of southern Illinois this spring and kept many gardeners at bay until almost summer to the unspeakable heat wave that has taken hold for almost the entire month of July, I just didn’t have the time to combat Mother Nature. Fortunately, I am surrounded by some wonderful farm stands and U-Picks.
This week I happened to stop at Poor Boy’s Market, I little vegetable stand that has been doing a steady business for a few years now. Their sign said “We will order canners for you”. That was exactly what I had stopped in to get. The lady working the stand told me canners were hard to get this this year because of the spring flooding. I braced myself for the sticker shock when I asked how much they were. “$10 for 25 lbs.” she replied. I almost fell over. I’ve paid a dollar a pound in years that were supposedly good! I immediately ordered 50 lbs. and set out to get the onions and jalapenos I would need to make salsa.
Not all of the tomatoes will be used in salsa but better than half will be. My family loves salsa. I make several different varieties but they all start out about the same.
15 lbs. tomatoes
3 cups diced onion
3 to 6 seeded and diced jalapenos, depending on how hot you like it.
4 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 12-ounce cans tomato paste to thicken it up a bit
2 cups bottled lemon juice
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons oregano
I omit any salt or sugar for health reasons but you can add it if you like. You can also change the lemon to lime juice and change the oregano to cilantro for a different taste.
My morning was gobbled up by errands but spent the afternoon scalding all 50 pounds of tomatoes and peeling off the skins. Fortunately, my boys helped. Next I cored and cut the tomatoes in half. I squeezed the tomatoes over a large bowl to remove as much of the water and seeds as possible. Then I chopped the tomatoes and set them in a strainer over another bowl to collect more of the tomato juice. The 15 lbs. of tomatoes comes out to about 3 quarts of diced tomatoes after all of this. I finished chopping the rest of the veggies and put the drained tomatoes and other ingredients in a pot to simmer for thirty minutes.
Meanwhile I started the water in the hot water bath canner, ran the jars and lids thru the quick wash in the dishwasher to clean them again and get them hot. When the salsa was ready, I sampled it of course before ladling it into the 7 pint jars. Lids in place, the jars went into the canner and processed for 20 minutes. At this minute, they are rest on a towel on the kitchen counter.
Seven pints won’t be nearly enough but it’s a nice start on the larder. The rest of the tomatoes are in some large Tupperware bowls with tight lids, all peeled and ready to go in the morning. Another batch of salsa or two and then some diced tomatoes with garlic, oregano and basil. Mmmmmm.


SJerZGirl said...

Theresa - what do you do with the juice you squeeze out? Can you use it for other recipes?

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