(And Vomit-Colored Salsa…)
I know, I know. I’m not winning any fans with my title. But it is vomit colored salsa. What can I say?
It tastes just as good as red salsa. Mine just happens to be pinkish-orange because of all the beautiful green and yellow heirloom tomatoes that I use. And for whatever reason, I always seem to have the most of the green ones. They are so delicious and sweet, but when you cook them into sauce? Trust me, it’s a tough sell. Everyone will take a jar of my salsa though, vomit colored or not. So there you go.
I also made a ton of tomato sauce this year. That always seems to be such a ridiculous waste of fresh garden tomatoes, but really, what else can I do with them? I can only give so many away. I still have a crate full…I’ve dried them before and I just really don’t love dried tomatoes all that much. I’ve rough-chopped and frozen them without cooking for chili, soups, etc. It’s easy and works just fine. You tend to get a lot of liquid, but in chili and soup, who cares? I just don’t make that much chili and soup with chunks of tomato. So this year, after making 20 pints of salsa, I made and froze sauce with the remaining tomatoes.
I’ll tell you how to do both.
For all the tomatoes destined for the sauce pot: cut all the blemishes off and core. Quarter and put into a pot with a tablespoon or two of kosher salt.. Simmer and mash and stir for a couple hours until about an inch of the watery liquid has evaporated off in steam. Either pulse in food processor (tedious) or use an immersion blender in the pot to puree. Then run through a food mill or sieve. Let cool. I use quart-sized freezer bags and put 2 cups into each one. Lay flat on a cookie sheet and freeze.
This makes about 20 pints.
20 cups tomatoes
8 cups chopped onion
2 chopped green peppers (variable)
10 chopped small to medium hot peppers (variable)
1/3 cup sugar (variable)
4T chili powder (variable)
4T salt (variable)
2.5 cups white vinegar
1/3 cup cornstarch mixed with equal amount of cold water (variable)
Cut of any blemishes, core and roughly peel the tomatoes with a knife. You can do the dip-into-boiling-water-method if you want, but I don’t bother. Ripe garden tomatoes peel pretty easily without that time consuming step. I’ve also skipped peeling them entirely. Salsa was fine, if you don’t mind little strips of skin here and there.
Pulse these in the food processor to the consistency you like. Remember that they will soften further when you cook them. My kids hate chunks. My husband loves chunks. So I don’t worry about it too much since no one is ever happy anyway. I forget what’s next…
OK, I’m back. I had to go get my notes!
Measure the amount of chopped tomatoes as you go and then dump that into a large stock pot. You will need approximately 20 cups of chopped/pureed tomatoes total. I tend to use a little more. More tomatoes won’t hurt the safe canning ratio, because they are acidic. More onions, peppers and cilantro will. Just so you know. You can play around with the recipe — I always do, mostly because I my pepper variety changes year to year — but keep that in mind. If in doubt, add more vinegar at the end.
Chop/pulse a combination of sweet and hot peppers. My mix (above) used about 10 medium sized hot, 4 small and 2 very small sweet green peppers. We like it hot, so I use mostly hot peppers. I take the seeds out of the really hot ones (hungarian yellow, habanero) but leave the rest in. You can do it however you want, just know that the seeds make it a lot hotter.
Add to the peppers 6-10 cloves of peeled garlic. Chop/pulse to desired size and consistency, then add to the stock pot.
Chop/pulse about 3-4 big large onions (enough for 8 cups. you can add less, but not more), add to the stock pot.
Add 2.5 cups of white vinegar. Salt to taste (I used 4 Tablespoons. We like salt.). Grind some pepper to taste. Add 2-4 Tablespoons chili powder. Again, this is personal taste. Start at 2T, taste and add more if you like. I used 4T and it’s tastes highly seasoned. I find that as the jars sit for a while, both the hotness of the peppers and the zip of the seasonings diminish, so I tend not to fear a little overseasoning.
Bring to a simmer and add 1/4 to 1 cup of sugar. Again, personal taste. You can skip the sugar entirely, but I’ve gotta say, if you add just a bit (I use 1/3 cup) people go crazy and don’t know why. Mix 1/3 cup cornstarch* with 1/3 cup cold water and slowly add to salsa pot, stirring often. Simmer for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, sterilize your jars and lids. Right before filling jars, stir in 1/2 to 1 cup of cilantro. Mmmmm. mmmmmm. mmmm. (You either love it or hate it.)
Fill hot jars with hot salsa to 1/2″ from the top. Wipe rims and seal. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.
OK, I’m going to be honest here. The woman who started me on her version of this recipe doesn’t process her jars. She says, as long as they “pop” and “seal” as they cool, it’s fine. Her mom has been doing this for years and years and years…Sooo. Neither do I!! But I can’t condone this sort of behavior from anyone else because the USDA says it’s not safe. You know the USDA, right? The harbingers of truth and wisdom? If it weren’t for the cilantro, I’d process away, but the more you cook cilantro, the less flavor it has, so I just have such a hard time putting those jars with beautiful cilantro in the water bath! It probably wouldn’t matter since, by the time the sauce goes into the jars, the cilantro is cooked anyway… Can you tell I’m having an attack of conscience? Well, no one has died yet. If someone does, I promise to update this post.
Anyway, make sure all the lids seal tight (you can test by lifting the jar by only the lid, not the band. It should stay sealed) Immediately reprocess or refrigerate those that don’t seal.
*Cornstarch is a secret and optional ingredient but recommended for salsa that just barely “sticks to your chip” without being thick and overly cooked. I learned the cornstarch tip from Kristi Kratch and can’t thank her enough from saving me from the watery, insipid salsa I had been making up until then. She adds a lot more to hers (1.5 cups). You can too if you want. She also gets credit for the sugar. She uses way more than me (1.25 cups) and I love her salsa, but Dave made me cut back to where I’m at today (1/3 cup). So play with it. Just keep the ratio of acid (tomatoes and vinegar) to non-acid (peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro).
Also, and this should go without saying, don’t eat ANY jars that have lost their seal or are bulging.
And don’t come crying to me if you kill someone with your kindness. It’s a chance you have to be willing to take.