Sunday, July 24, 2011

Let's SALSA! everybody!!!

 Any salsa endeavor absolutely MUST begin with the reddest, ripest juiciest tomatoes you can find. I grow my own, own course, so it's often a matter of getting enough of them ripe and gorgeous at the same time to make a batch. I usually use a mixture of romas with regular tomatoes, because the Roma tomato is very meaty and less watery, thus making for a thicker salsa. Being the goof that I am, I usually hand chop all my salsa ingredients too, because I like the texture better.

  So--here's the ingredient list to start making your own salsa, better than anything you can buy!  Because I "guesstimate" so much, these ingredients are pretty close, lol.  The best way to do your salsa is to taste it as you go. If it needs more salt, put more in. I also add ingredients depending on what is in my garden.

  Tomatoes--ripe and red --15 pounds (+/-)
  Onions--yellow--10 pounds
  Green and yellow bell peppers about 6 large
  Jalapenos--depends on how spicy you like your salsa, but at least 6 good sized fresh jalapenos
  1 full head of fresh garlic, minced
  Fresh cilantro and parsley-I use both, but you can leave them out if you don't like the taste of cilantro.
 Ground cumin
 Black pepper
 Sea Salt
 lemon juice, fresh or bottled, or you can use white vinegar-about a cup

As you can see in the picture, I only had some yellow peppers this year, so that's what I used. I'll make at least one more batch before the season's over, and I'll use green bells then too. (And yes-this is the amount of jalapenos I used in my batch.)
NOTE: You will want to have rubber/latex gloves on hand for chopping and seeding the jalapenos. If you don't wear them, the pepper juice will scald your hands and you will be sorry!!!!  Be very careful, because of the weather this year, the peppers are exceptionally hot.
  Right about now, I get out my big blue enamel water bath canner and fill it about 1/3 full of hot water. Put the lid on it and set it on the stove and turn up the heat. Because there is lemon juice/vinegar/hot peppers  in this recipe, it is safe to use the water bath canner to can this tomato recipe. If you are canning plain  regular tomatoes, always use the pressure canner to be safe from botulism.

  Using a good sharp knife and cutting board and lots of counter space, core and chop your tomatoes. I never peel tomatoes for salsa...more nutritious that way and less work. lol  Dice them into half inch cubes and throw them into your biggest pot (I use my dutch oven). BTW--you do know not to ever cook tomatoes in aluminum, don't you??  I have a cast iron and a stainless steel dutch oven. 
 Peel and dice the onions the same way, maybe even a little smaller.Toss 'em in the pot.
 Same for the bell peppers, seed and core and chop finely. If you use greens and yellows, it looks really pretty
 Now put this pot on the stove and turn on the heat to medium. While it is heating up some, go ahead and chop the cilantro and garlic and parsley. It should look about like this: by now:

  Gorgeous, isn't it?

  Now, put your rubber gloves on and get those jalapenos on the cutting board. Gently slice off the stem end and slit them lengthwise down the middle.  Using your gloved finger, take all the little seeds out and put them aside. Depending on how hot you like salsa, you can add some or none or a lot of these back in. But for now, take 'em out. Dice the green pepper part finely and dump into your simmering pot. Stir well.

  Bring to a slow simmer and keep on the heat for about 20 minutes. Put in the lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Is your kitchen smelling wonderful yet?

   You're going to want to can this salsa in pint jars. I like the widemouth jars, but any will do. Wash and scald the jars, get a saucepan of boiling water going and put the rings and lids in it to soften the rubber seals and sterilize them.

  Taste your salsa and see if the spices are right for you. If not add a little more.

   Fill your jars with the hot salsa, leaving about a half inch of headspace. I can fit about 8 pints at a time in my canner.
 Check your canner and see if the water is boiling yet
 Take the lids out of the boiling water, and after wiping off the tops of the jars, put on the lids and screw the rings down tightly.

  Make sure the boiling water is 1 inch over the tops of the jars, and bring to a hard boil. Boil for 25 minutes.

Then take the jars out of the boiling water bath, using a  jar lifter, and set them on the counter on a thick heavy towel (I use a bath towel for this). The jars will begin to seal, you'll hear a little PING! within about 5 minutes. Leave them be for at least 24 and preferably 48 hours, to completely cool and finish the sealing process. Then label and store in a dark cupboard.
 Aren't they gorgeous? Aren't you proud of yourself?
 I make extra hot (2 jars)  for my son, who thinks he is invincible. LOL  This year I put 3/4 of the jalapeno seeds I'd removed into his 2 jars. We'll see if they're hot enough for him this year!

  Bon Apetit!

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's that time of year again....

 ...and the Dragon Woman has been busy as a bee.

   In spite of the brutal heatwave here in the midwest, my garden is miraculously producing many things, although some have indeed fallen by the wayside. The cucumbers have burnt to a crisp. The squash is suffering, and the summer squash have all but disintegrated. The 'maters have lost a lot of their beauty, but are still putting out enough fruit that I have canned some, eaten a lot and given away a few.  I have enough in there on the counter to make a batch of salsa today. I canned some whole ones, some diced ones and some with okra and onions in them.  The potatoes are looking good, and I stirred the mulch around in the Red Pontiacs and found some really good sized ones.  The basil needs to come out, the second planting of green beans needs to go in, and it is so hot out there that I can't imagine doing either. Today is like the 6th day in a row of dangerous and excessive heat, with no end in sight. For the second time this summer. We got a few days off in between.

I'm just finishing my breakfast/'lunch...that summertime treat of a bacon, mayo and fresh tomato sandwich on good whole grain bread. Oh it the best food on the planet or what? lol  I have some more beans to can in there and salsa to make and then I will call it a day. I've been doing household chores and playing around a lot. Gathered eggs this morning and fed the chooks. Hung laundry on the line, and it is almost dry by the time I get back to the house.

  One of my favorite dishes this time of year is sauteed fresh green beans with garlic. It is easy and delightful. I start with a mess of fresh beans 
 This, of course, is more than one mess. lol  Aren't they beautiful?  You want to leave them whole, and use the youngest beans you can find. I nip the stem end off them and wash them and let them drain a bit. I mince fresh garlic...and I use a lot, because we love it. In a heavy skillet, (I always use cast iron, or my heavy gauge stainless steel wok), I heat enough olive oil to make the skillet good and slippery, but don't overdo it,. You can always put in more oil anytime you need to--can't take it back out!  Put in the beans and turn the heat to medium high. After a bit of swishing the beans back and forth and they start to sizzle, put in the minced garlic.
You want the beans to be bright green and crispy cooked. Don't cook them too long, or you'll have A) Burned garlic--yuck!  and  B)  mushy green beans. When they're done to your taste, grind black pepper and sea salt on them. Serve them hot and enjoy!

  I know this is a short post...but I'm getting back in the water toe at a

Bon Apetit!