Monday, September 28th, 2009...9:01 am
No-Peel Tomato Salsa
Part of the massive canning spree a few weeks ago was putting up about nine pints of salsa. Really mild salsa, since Maura is still resistant to things that she feels are “too spicy”, but salsa nonetheless.
My initial plan was to try to can corn and black bean salsa, but since I don’t have a pressure canner (next year, hopefully) I stuck with the less interesting but safer tomato salsa. I figure that I’ve always got cans of beans and corn around anyhow–if it ends up that we really want corn and black bean salsa, it’s not that big a deal to just open the cans and dump them in. (Um, if you do that, drain, rinse, and drain again the corn and beans. I’ve neglected to mention that in a few recipes and found that people attempted to just dump the beans–disgusting canned-bean-juice and all–into the bowl, which…no.)
So, anyhow, salsa! Salsa’s one of those things that’s pretty easy to can. Roma (or paste) tomatoes have a higher acid content than eating tomatoes do, which means that you can safely can them in boiling water bath.
I initially started following a recipe that called for eight cups of tomatoes. Because I’m disorganized, though I read that as eight pounds, and…well, after that, I just improvised a bunch.
Just like every other time you’ve canned things, (or read about me canning them,) you have to start by sterilizing your jars. You can do this in one of two ways: boiling them for a while (ten minutes, probably, but I always get distracted and leave them in there for half an hour) or by putting them in a cold oven, turning the oven to 300, and then letting the jars hang out for fifteen minutes or so after the oven’s come to temperature. The lids and rings of the jars need to be sterilized, too. Drop them in a small pot of boiling water, let them boil ten minutes, and then leave them in the water until you need them.
After you’ve made the salsa, it’ll need to be processed. This sounds scary but is actually really easy, plus other people find it very impressive. All you will need for this is an enormous pot with something to keep the jars off the floor of the pot. I use a pasta pot, the kind with the holey insert. Fill this pot most of the way with water and bring it to a boil as you make your salsa.
Start off with about eight pounds of roma tomatoes. This got me about twelve cups of processed tomato-gunk. Most recipes advise that you peel your tomatoes, but realistically, I’m not going to stand there and peel eight damn pounds of tomatoes. The obvious lazy-person solution to this is to just throw your tomatoes into the blender or food processor. Cooked salsa ends up with a fairly uniform texture anyhow, so you’re not missing out on a lot by processing them. If you really like chunks in your salsa, set aside a pound of tomatoes and just roughly chop them instead of processing them.
Chop up three to four cups of onions. Remember what I was saying about being lazy? Yeah, I totally threw the onions in the food processor, too. Pulse them so that they’re sort of chopped up. I used yellow onions and did about three cups–if you’re fancy and splurging on sweet onions, you’ll probably want more like four.
Put the onions and the tomatoes into a pot on the stove, and set it to medium heat. They’ll start to simmer while you’re getting together the rest of the salsa.
Next up is peppers. You want about two and a half cups of peppers, and you can use any mixture of sweet and hot that you want. We used mostly sweets, between half and three-fourths of a cup of red, yellow, and orange peppers, then about three-fourths of a cup of mild hot peppers. This made a very mild salsa that even Maura will eat, and that I will spike with Tobasco if I want something hotter. It works out okay.
Anyhow, chop your peppers. If you’re using hot peppers, wear gloves. I forget this every goddamn time I chop peppers, and I inevitably spend an hour or two or four whining that the tips of my fingers are all tingly and ow, whine whine whine. Don’t be like me. Wear the gloves. It’s not that hard, and you can buy a giant box of gloves for staggeringly cheap prices at GFS or the like.
Toss the peppers into the pot with the tomatoes and onions. Chop about ten cloves of garlic, and throw that in, too.
Add half a cup of lime juice to the pot, and then a third of a cup of white vinegar. You’re not really going to taste this, it’s just to make sure that the salsa is acidic enough to safely can. Throw in a tablespoon of salt, too.
This is the part where you can add seasonings. I added garlic powder (because fresh garlic is one of those things that’s a bit sketchy when you’re canning–it’s apparently very botulism-friendly, so I try to avoid adding more than about a clove for every half-pint jar,) cumin, some delicious “hot spices” seasoning that a friend gave me, and a little bit of oregano. I also added the better part of a bunch of parsley–it would’ve been cilantro, only I was unable to find any, despite visiting three separate stores.
Simmer your salsa for a while–you need it to be good and hot when it goes into the jars. You want to let it come to a boil, and then you can go on and ladle it into the jars. A wide-mouth funnel helps here, though it’s certainly not impossible without out, just a bit messier. I fill the jars to the bottom of the screw-on tracks–you know how there’s the bump in the glass where the lid screws on? When I hit that, the jars are full. Pull a lid out of the lid-sterilizing pan, dry it with a clean towel, and put it on the jar. Then screw the ring over it. Don’t go too tight with the rings–I always freak out and think that I’m going to end with jars full of water if I don’t screw them on tightly, but this is yet another instance where you should do like I say, not like I do, because I’m told that over-tightening increases the (slim but extant) chance that your jars will explode as they’re processed. And, you know, nobody wants that, because nothing sucks like having to clean salsa (or worse, jam) off your ceiling. Anyhow, screw the ring on to where it comfortably stops, and don’t try to tighten it.
Do that for all your jars. If you end up with half a jarful at the end, just stick it in the fridge for immediate consumption.
Now for the processing. Remember the big pot of boiling water from earlier? You’re going to very carefully put the jars in. My pot can only handle four jars at a time–you can’t stack them at all, and you need the water to be over their tops. (This may mean that you have to add more water with each batch if you’re canning a whole bunch of jars.) Once the water comes back to a boil, set the timer for fifteen minutes. (A little longer is fine–I often end up going more like twenty, just because I’m doing other things.) When the timer dings, pull the jars out of the water bath using either tongs or a silicone oven mitt.
Let the jars cool on the counter. You’ll hear them sealing as the night goes on–Ping! Ping! Sometimes they’re really loud, other times they’re barely noticeable. Don’t worry too much about it.
When morning rolls around, check your jars to make sure that they’ve sealed. The little button in the middle of the lid should have popped down–if it goes down when you press on it, the jar didn’t seal properly. This isn’t a huge deal, and the salsa’s perfectly fine to eat, but it won’t be shelf-stable. Which means that darn, you’ll have to eat it right away.
Unrelated to any of that, but hey, I just realized that I can reply to comments! I rarely look at the site, and I get comments emailed so I’ve never thought to check them on the site. This is terribly exciting. Expect random responses to many comments, since now I know that I have the ability, I must abuse it at the earliest possible opportunity.