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The basis for salsa verde

 

For the last two months I have been lurking on Tigress’s Can Jam.  The Can Jam is amazing and sometimes I think I should ask for a late entry option.  Each month an incredible group of bloggers selects a fruit or vegetable and they post preserving recipes for that selection.  The breadth of recipes is inspirational for newbie canners like me.  For August What Julia Ate selected tomatoes – and several of these fantastic cooks selected tomatillos, a member of the tomato family, as a base for salsa.  I was intrigued – I have eaten the green goodness that is salsa verde at many Mexican restaurants but never thought to make (and can) my own.  

You need to be careful canning tomatoes in a water bath canner – they are low on the acidity scale for water bath canning and the addition of extra vegetables – like onions and peppers may tip the recipe below the safe zone.  This means that unless you are an experienced canner or an adventuresome chemist with pH testing strips, you should follow a trusted recipe – varying only the spices (leaving the vegetable, vinegar and citrus juice ratios alone).  If the acidity is too low – you run the risk of an environment conducive to botulism in your final product.  If you are not familiar with canning protocols – the USDA home preserving site is a good place to start.  

  

My first preserving book, and one of the most trusted, is the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.  I chose their standard Tomatillo Salsa recipe.   I will say that husking tomatillos is much easier than peeling tomatoes.   The price for that simplicity – dead moths.  Moths seem to love to crawl up into the husks before meeting their maker.  The other word of warning depends on the type of peppers you choose.  I love a slow burn salsa (the type that doesn’t overwhelm you at first bite – but builds up heat slowly).  To create a slow burn salsa I chose a combination of mild and hot peppers (poblano, fresno and jalapeno).  If you choose hot peppers wear gloves while seeding and chopping.  If you forget and find your hands on fire afterwards – I learned that washing several times with Dawn, followed by a 30 minute Colgate toothpaste rub will take care of the burn.  I also learned that tomatoes and sour cream only offer temporary relief.  Finally – this recipe only makes two pints.  After reading a couple of the Can Jam posts (all of which regretted only making one batch) and given my husband’s love of salsa – I brought enough ingredients for a second batch.  

Huevos rancheros with tomatillo salsa

 

Recipe – adapted from Balls Blue Book (adjustments noted):  

5 1/2 cups of husked, chopped tomatillos (about 2 pounds)  

1 cup chopped onion  

1 cup chopped green peppers (I used jalapeno, fresno and  poblano which gave me a “slow burn” salsa)  

4 garlic cloves – minced  

2 tablespoons minced cilantro  

2 teaspoons cumin  

1/2 teaspoon salt  

1/2 teaspoon red pepper (I was out – so I ground up red pepper flakes)  

1/2 cup vinegar (they didn’t specify so I used white)  

1/4 cup lime juice  

Mix all ingredients in stock pot and bring to a boil using med-high heat.  Reduce temperature to low and simmer for 10 minutes – stirring from time to time.  Pack into sterile jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Process for 15 minutes in water bath canner.

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I decided to take a break from the sweet stuff – making it time for a relish recipe.   My interest in relishes was peaked by the health benefits of vinegar.   While not all the benefits claimed by vinegar proponents are supported by scientific evidence, there is support for claims that vinegar aids in the absorption of calcium and in regulation of insulin – both of which are good things.    

We didn’t plant summer squash this year and everything is showing up a little later than planned in our garden courtesy of a chilly June (tomatoes still green, peppers and cukes still finger sized).  This meant that when the relish making craving hit – I didn’t have the goods in the garden yet to satisfy it.  Thankfully we don’t have the space to grow corn – so I didn’t feel like I was cheating on my vegetable garden by picking up multiple pounds of fresh sweet corn at the farmer’s market for a corn relish experiment.    

   

After a little research, I decided to try the corn relish recipe from the Joy of Pickling.  The recipe was pretty basic, letting the corn take center stage, and didn’t contain turmeric, which I don’t like in large doses.   

Corn carnage

 

While putting this relish together I learned a couple of things about myself.  First – early in the morning my counting skills are suspect.  I thought I had picked out 18 ears of corn – when I unloaded them at home there were 17.  Note to self – have at least two cups of strong coffee before heading to the farmers market.  Second – I am a messy cook, by the time the corn was removed from the cobs my entire kitchen was covered in corn, corn silk and corn juice.  Finally – I have no shame as I allowed my kitchen assistant to clean up the floor after me.   

Loki - the best kitchen assistant ever

 

I followed the recipe with a couple of exceptions.  I needed only 15 ears of corn.  My corn ears may have been larger than average because even though I shorted the recipe by three ears, I still ended up with almost 9 pints of relish (not 6 as claimed by the recipe – so have extra jars ready).  I also substituted brown mustard seed for yellow mustard seed and an orange pepper for one of the red ones because that is what I had on hand.   

The recipe was silent on whether to blanch the corn or not – I blanched the corn to make it easier to cut from its cob.  I used about 3 minutes in boiling water followed by a dunk in ice water.   

The final product - summer in a jar

 

Recipe – Joy of Pickling Corn Relish   

Fresh corn kernels from approximately 18 ears of corn (2 quarts)   

 2 cups chopped green peppers   

2 cups chopped red peppers   

2 cups chopped onions   

1/4 cup garlic   

1 tablespoon pickling salt   

2 tablespoon whole yellow mustard seeds   

1 quart cider vinegar   

1 cup water   

2/3 cup packed brown sugar   

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil using med-high heat.  Turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.  Pack into sterile jars leaving 1/2 inch head space – remove air bubbles.  Process in hot water canner for 15 minutes.  Store in cool, dry, dark place.