Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Preserving with Dr. Monkey

Today's episode: roasted pepper salsa.

Local tomatoes are trickling into local produce stands so that means for the next six to eight weeks it's tomato canning time! I bought a box of canning tomatoes, some onions, and a dozen fat jalapenos so that I could make the first batch of salsa of the season. Here what I did:

I start out by cutting out the stem area of the tomato.
Next I turn each one over and I
cut a rather deep incision on the bottom of the tomato. I do this so that when I pour the boiling water over them the tomato skin will peel off easily. Unless your tomatoes are absolutely filthy and manure covered, then don't bother washing them because you're going to peel the skin off later once you scald them in boiling water.

Earlier I had already cut and deseeded three sweet bell peppers, a couple of sweet banana peppers, the dozen jalapeno peppers, and three green and red Serrano peppers. I coated them with a thin coat of vegetable oil, tossed some sea salt on them, and I roasted them in my oven, that is to say I broiled them until their skin started to blacken, which was about 10 to 12 minutes.

When they were done I pulled them out and set them aside to cool. And then I went back to preparing my tomatoes.
Once I filled my big Tupperware container with cut tomatoes, I poured boiling water over them and I peeled the skins off. As I peeled them I put about two thirds of them into my food processor and I liquefied them. The other third I squeezed by hand and put in my stock pots. I did this until all the tomatoes in my box were gone. Once I put my now pulpy tomatoes in my stock pots I put them on the stove to begin cooking. To each pot, which was about two thirds full, I added 2 tablespoons of crushed black peppercorns, a tablespoon and a half of coarse sea salt, two tablespoons of chili powder (and I use just regular chili powder not one the is hot or exotic), a tablespoon of cumin, the juice from a freshly squeezed lime, an eighth of a cup of apple cider vinegar, one big diced red onion, and one big diced yellow onion. The salt, the lime juice, and the vinegar not only add flavor, they help in preservation.

Next I peeled as much of the skin off of the now cooled peppers as I could. I find the roasting the peppers intensifies the flavor and mellows the heat a bit. Always peel the skin off with your fingers, never ever rinse it off with water because of you do you're washing all the flavor off the pepper. I put the peppers, as I peeled them, into my small food chopper and once all the peppers were in I pulsed them until they formed a pepper paste. Then I added the pepper paste to my stock pots and I let them cook for about an hour. It's crucial that you cook your salsa for at least 20 minutes and that it comes to a rolling boil. You can cook it as long as you like but you have to go at least 20 minutes to kill all the micro organisms that could make you sick. Also bear in mind the longer you cook your salsa, the more intense the flavor will be. I like to bring mine to a boil and then turn it way down so that it simmers while I sterilize my jars and lids.
This is a shot of one of my stock pots cooking away just after I had put the pepper paste in.

Once my jars were sterile, I used pint jars and they need to sit in boiling water for at least 10 minutes prior to being filled, I began to fill and lid my salsa. Once all my jars were full, I emptied out some of the boiling water from my stove top canner, which is just a big stock pot with a wire rack in it, and I began putting the full jars back in the water. You do this to kill any bacteria that may have gotten in your food while you were putting it in the jars prior to sealing them. Each jar of salsa that I canned and sealed sat in the boiling water for 10 minutes then I took them out and and put them on my cool down area.
I got 18 pints of salsa out of that box of canning tomatoes which is not too shabby. This salsa is a thin runny batch, which is very much like the salsa one gets in authentic Mexican restaurants and that's the kind I prefer. I can use this salsa on chips, in soups, as a marinade to slow cook meats, and as a condiment to put on sandwiches and tortillas.

I'm happy with how this batch turned out and I may make another later but now it's onto making and canning tomato sauces and passatas with all the local Roma tomatoes that are in season now.


kirby said...

That would be a great base for a tortilla soup this winter.

ReaderRita said...