Best Tomato Salsa Recipe for Canning…so far.

My family enthusiastically rushes to the table whenever I make Mexican anything.  For us, no condiment better complements Mexican foods than salsa fresca—that fresh and feisty combination of onion, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and lime.  For about 6 months of the year, this posed no problem as fresh tomatoes are easily accessible, but the other 6 months…well, I got a problem.  Because we try to eat local as much as possible, the solution seems apparent, just can some salsa during tomato season.  So I tried that again and again and again.   I searched for years to find a decent, tested tomato salsa recipe for canning with no success.

Faced with disappointment, I put the dream of a good canned tomato salsa on the shelf and moved on to explore other options.  We tried commercial brands, even high-end ones, but with their mushy texture and over-cooked flavor we unanimously rejected them all.

Making salsa fresca with out-of-season grocery store tomatoes also met with dead-end results.  Grape tomatoes had an acceptable flavor, but a thick skin and high price made them an un-solution.  Roasting paste tomatoes enhanced their flavor but made a sloppy salsa and took too much time.  I thought that I had arrived at the perfect solution when I discovered the Kumato—a rich, red-brown tomato perfectly packaged in cellophane.  While pricy, the flavor was excellent particularly considering the source and the season.  But when something seems too good to be true, it is.  A bit of research revealed that Syngenta, the company that developed the Kumato, collided with my ethics.  Syngenta has patented the Kumato’s seeds and strictly regulates the farmers allowed to grow the plant.  I believe that farmers have a right to save seeds and that life cannot be patented, and I am back to square one.

So this summer I once again took up the crusade to find a decent canned salsa recipe, and I think that I finally got it.   While it does require cooking before canning (thus diminishing that fresh flavor), it doesn’t taste overcooked. It uses lime, the logical choice to acidify the tomato salsa–a far superior flavor compared with vinegar.  It has adequate cilantro flavor, and the texture, because it uses paste tomatoes, remains firm.  Although nothing compares to salsa fresa with vine-ripened tomatoes, this is a good substitute with the added benefit of convenience. Once made and on the shelf, it essentially becomes an instant food—a blessing if not a lifesaver at times when you have 10 minutes to prepare a meal for hungry, whining kids.

Use safe canning practices.  Click her for step-by-step hot water-bath canning instructions.

Best Tomato Salsa Recipe for Canning...so far.
Author: 
Recipe type: Preserving
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 half pints
 
Recipe adapted from University of Wisconsin Extension Salsa publication.
Ingredients
  • 7 cups peeled, cored, seeded and chopped paste tomatoes (about 3½ lbs.)
  • 1 cup seeded and finely chopped green chilies—from hot to mild
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • ½ cup bottled lime juice
  • 2 t salt
  • ½ t cumin
  • ⅔ cup finely chopped cilantro
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
  2. Add cilantro and simmer for another 10 minutes; continue stirring.
  3. Ladle into hot half-pint jars leaving ½ head space.
  4. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes at 0—1000 feet altitude; 20 minutes at 1001-6000 feet; or 25 minutes about 6000 feet.
Notes
You can easily double or triple this recipe. I like to use ½ pint jars to can salsa but you can follow these same instructions and use pint jars.

Deli-Style Kosher Dill Pickles–The Full Ferment

Revised on August 7, 2014:

Deli-style Kosher Dills, like the ones you get at any respectable delicatessen, are a “must” on my list of foods to make and preserve. Since gherkin cucumber season is winding down, I’ve got to get to the farmers market early to make sure I get enough.    Twelve pounds of gherkins will get my family through a winter of  “Sandwich Night Wednesdays”  plus the occasional packed lunch with a few more quarts to give away to those friends and families who prize pickles as much as I do. If you have attempted the Half Sour, be brave and take that next step— Deli-style Kosher Dills.   It’s actually quite easy— time and microbes do most of the work.  For a quick overview of the fermentation process, check out Fermentation Pickling Primer. Currants and leavesI add currant leaves to my kosher dills while they ferment.  Not only do they impart a unique and wholly enjoyable smoky flavor, but currant (grape and sour cherry) leaves also contain an enzyme which keeps the cucumbers crisp as they ferment.  If you don’t have a currant bush, grape vine or sour cherry cherry tree, ask your farmer.  Currants grow everywhere in Wisconsin.  In my postage stamp garden, I have 7 currant bushes.  They grow with little care and in the shade, which perfectly suits my gardening style and garden.

DIRECTIONS FOR FERMENTING PICKLES–DELI-STYLE KOSHER DILLSDeli-style Kosher Dills--Ingredients Equipment for Pickling

#1–Gather all the ingredients and equipment:

Ingredients for Fermenting

  • About 3 ½ lbs. pickling cucumbers (3 –5 inches), blossom ends removeBlossom-Endd
  • 6 large sprigs of fresh dill
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 T pickling spice
  • About 12-15 currant or sour cherry leaves (Optional)

Ingredients for the Brine

  • 1 gallon water
  • 3/4 heaping cup salt
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (5% acidity)

Equipment for fermenting

Equipment for Fermenting Pickles

  • 6 quart vessel– The picture above shows other vessels I like to use when fermenting more or less cucumbers. Any non-reactive container is fine.
  • Food-grade seal-able plastic bag (like a Ziplock storage) large enough to keep cucumbers submerged

#2–Scrub cucumbers and shave off the blossom-end with a knife or scratch off with your nail (See picture above).  The blossom-end contains enzymes which may soften the cucumber. Deli-Style Kosher Dills--Soaking cucumbers in an ice water bath

#3–(Optional) Soak the cucumbers in an ice water bath for 6-24 hours to maximize crispness.  This isn’t absolutely necessary, but if they are straight from the garden or farmers market, it does help to remove the field heat and keep them crisp.

Deli-style Kosher Dills--Preparing the brine and ingredients #4–Prepare a 5% brine solution–4 quarts water + 3/4 heaping cups canning salt + 1/2 cup flavorful vinegar (optional).  Thoroughly mix until the salt is dissolved.  Add a portion of the brine–about 1 quart–to a strong, food grade plastic bag and seal. I use 1 gallon Ziplock freezer or storage bag. This is your weight to keep the pickles submerged.

Weighted pickles with a brine filled bag #5–Add the cucumbers, dill, garlic spices and leaves to the vessel with the 3 quarts of remaining brine. Place the sealed bag of brine on top of cucumbers making sure that all of the cucumbers are completely submerged. It is necessary to keep them submerged so they are in an anaerobic environment.  Fermentation and lactic acid can only occur in an anaerobic environment.

#6–Check pickles every few days skimming off the white scum.  The pickles should be ready in about 2 weeks (no more than 4).  You’ll know they are done when they are a uniform olive green and taste like a pickle.Deli-style Kosher Dills--fermentation complete

#7–Remove the pickles from the brine and rinse off any yeast.  Strain the brine twice: First in a colander to remove spices and herbs. Second, through a coffee filter to reduce cloudiness. Store pickles in the brine in the refrigerator; they should keep for about a year.   (See directions for canning the pickles below).

Cooking with Kids: I let the kids do most of the work with making pickles. It’s perfect for them.  It involves lots of washing, water, mixing and measuring.  Other than measuring the correct amount of salt, this isn’t precision work, nor does it involve knives or fire.  I also let them skim off the yeast and mold over the 2 – 3 weeks it takes for the pickles to ferment.  They especially love this task for unknown reasons.  I’m guessing the “Yuck Factor” plays a role or maybe it is just the miracle of witnessing something appear from seemingly nothing.

 

If you want to can them for long-term pantry storage, read on.  You may also want to click on the  link for a quick tutorial in Hot water-bath can.

Deli-Style Kosher Dill Pickles

DIRECTIONS FOR CANNING YOUR FERMENTED DELI-STYLE KOSHER DILLS

STEP 1–Gather all your ingredients and canning equipment:

Ingredients for Canning

  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Crushed red pepper flakes or whole hot pepper (optional)
  • Mustard seeds (optional)
  • Sprigs of fresh dill
  • Fermented pickles
  • Filtered brine or freshly made brine—¼ cup salt : 2 quarts water : 2 cups vinegar (5% acidity)

Equipment for Canning

Boil the brineSTEP 2–If you have not done so, filter brine through a coffee filter. Next, boil for five minutes. If you do not like a cloudy brine, you may make new by combining ¼ cup salt : 2 quarts water : 2 cups vinegar (5% acidity) and boiling this for 5 minutes. I sometimes use a combination of fresh and fermented brine. Pack pickles into clean hot jarsSTEP 3–Meanwhile, pack pickles into clean, hot, canning jars along with 1 – 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced and ¼ t crushed red pepper or 1 t mustard seeds and fresh dill. Pour Hot brine

STEP 4–Pour in hot brine over the pickles leaving ½ inch head space. Use a hot-water bath to can the pickles; process pint jars for 10 minutes, quart jars for 15 minutes. canning canned deli-style kosher dills

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Freeze Peaches & Make Fresh Peach Lemonade

Peaches grow best in sub-tropical climates, not here.  I know a few farmers with a few trees, but the harvest is hit or miss.  Happily, this year was a hit.  With our balmy, seemingly endless-summer, which felt more like the South of France than Southeast Wisconsin, peach-tree growers experienced a bumper crop.

Hooray, because eating a fresh, tree-ripened peach is a small slice of summertime heaven.  Second to that, a properly preserved tree-ripened peach surely beats a rock-hard, off-season grocery store peach any day of the week.  So while the season lasts, eat them…and preserve them.  Options remain endless—syrups, pie filling, even pickles.  I prefer to freeze them mostly, but I also make peach fruit leathers and peach butter, neither of which can easily be found at the supermarket. I do follow a strict rule and never can peaches.  Canned peaches conjure memories of bad times like junior high school lunch or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

HOW TO FREEZE PEACHES

Step 1: Blanch and Remove the Skins

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
  2. Add whole peaches no more than 8 at a time to the boiling water, cover with lid and time for 3 minutes.  Start timing immediately. Don’t wait for it to return to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or the sink, create an ice-water bath.
  4. After 3 minutes, remove peaches with a slotted spoon and place the fruit in the ice-water bath to cool as quickly as possible. This is called blanching, and it stops the activity of the fruits’ enzymes thereby preventing browning.
  5. Once cooled, the skins should slip off easily.
  6. Cut into wedges or halves removing the pit.  I sometimes skip the knife and just use my hands depending on how I will use the fruit later.
  7. Next transfer the cleaned fruit to another large bowl of ice-cold water which has been acidified with lemon juice—¾ cup lemon juice to 8 cups water. The lemon water is an additional safe-guard against browning.  Leave the cleaned peaches here until you are ready to pack and freeze them, and do not dump the water out at the end.  You can turn it into a Peach Lemonade. I’ll show you how.  Read on. (Crushed ascorbic acid/vitamin C will also do if no lemon juice is on hand, but you won’t be able to experience the peachy lemonade).

Step 2: Choose a Freezing Method

Wet Pack Methods:
1.  Sugar Pack
Sprinkle desired amount of sugar over the peaches as you layer them in the freezer-safe storage bags or containers. I use about 1 tablespoon sugar for every 2 cups peaches. Let it set at room temperature for about 5 minutes before freezing it.  This allows the sugar to bring out the peach juices.  Leave ½ inch headspace to allow for expansion in the freezer.
This is my preferred method—great results with less work.  I pack them in 1-cup or 2-cup plastic containers, and use them in my packed lunches or for after-dinner treats all through the winter.  The kids love them.
2. Honey Syrup Pack
Honey syrup is much simpler to make than simple syrup with sugar and water.  You don’t have to make it in advance as it doesn’t require cooking and cooling. Moreover, it has more sweetness with fewer calories. The syrup will be easier to make if the water and honey are warmed slightly.
  • Very Light Honey Syrup—4 parts water: 1 part honey
  • Light Honey Syrup—3 parts water: 1 part honey
  • Heavy Honey Syrup—3 parts water: 2 parts honey

Again, pack the peaches in desired proportions in freezer-safe containers leaving ½ inch headspace to allow for expansion in the freezer.

Dry Pack Method:
Blanch and remove peach skins and pits. Cut into wedges, place on a cookie sheet and set in freezer.  Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe storage container. I can easily remove the number of frozen wedges that I want anytime.  This method is great for storing peaches which you will later bake.  I also like to throw these into smoothies and of course I use them to make Peach Lemonade.
“No time–Freeze now, Prepare Later Method”:
Use this method when you’re really pressed for time and the peaches are on the verge of spoiling.  Put the entire peach in the freezer. That’s it. Transfer it to a freezer bag if you’re planning on leaving it there for more than a few days, otherwise, it will start to shrivel. You can later run the peach under warm water and the skins will slip right off.  I use these peaches to make fruit leathers or peach butters.  This “No time” method works for tomatoes too. 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Peach Lemonade
Author: 
Recipe type: Beverage
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: About 2 quarts
 
Why waste even a bit of peachy goodness? I think of this as my reward after an afternoon of processing and preserving peaches.
Ingredients
  • Lemon water used to hold the cleaned, blanched peaches (about 8 cups)
  • Lemon juice as needed
  • ¾ - 1 cup sugar
Instructions
  1. Take the lemon water that the clean peaches were floating in awaiting processing and place it in your blender or if you have an immersion blender, transfer it directly to a pitcher. The water will be a peachy-orange color with small bits of peach flesh floating in it.
  2. Add sugar and blend thoroughly in your blender.
  3. Taste and add more sugar or lemon juice if needed.
Notes
Because of the peach bits, it will be a nectar consistancy. Add a whole, clean peach (no skin, no pit) if you'd like an even thicker nectar. This will also work if you want Peach Lemonade on a day you don't want to process a batch of peaches. Ingredients 1 - 2 peaches sans skins and pits ¾ - 1 cup sugar ¾ cup lemon juice Directions Blend in your blender, adjust for flavor, and serve.

Cooking with Kids:  Let your kids help with removing the skins and pit.  I also let my girls spinkle in the sugar while I layer the fruit in containers–just measure out the sugar in advance or have them. They also love to use the blender.  What kid doesn’t like using a noisy machine?  Lastly, the kids must participate in adjusting the taste–great sensory exploration for the little ones and an opportunity to describe flavor for the older ones.

Tip: I want to give a shout out to Tree Ripe.  Long before I knew that we would get a bumper crop of peaches, in late June I headed to the parking lot of the Ace Hardware in West Allis to buy peaches off the back of a truck arriving straight from Georgia.  I bought 70 pounds of peaches. I know GA isn’t exactly local, but it directly supports farmers, and Georgia is closer than California, and I can’t live on apples only.  I also bought 10 pounds of MI blueberries.  If you live in the Midwest check Tree Ripe out.

 

 

 

 

Half-Sour Pickles: Fermentation Baby Steps

Half Sour PicklesI learned the art of fermenting pickles last year and quite frankly couldn’t stop.  Watching a crisp little Gherkin transform into a tangy crunchy pickle by simply submerging it in salt water for a few weeks, well, it seemed like nothing short of a miracle.  With each batch I made, I kept thinking, that was just dumb luck.  So I’d experiment, making another batch, and behold, more pickles. Like a baby testing the effects of gravity by dropping her bottle on the floor again and again, it never ceased to surprise and delight me.

Once I had mastered it, I took the show on the road sharing the joy of old-fashioned pickling with the world.  It might have been the most well attended class that I have ever taught, and the questions, so many questions.  It seems people not only have a hunger for pickles, but the DIY know-how to make them at home.

Well, I’m here to say, that you too can ferment pickles at home—the kind of pickles that would make any Polish grandma proud.  And it couldn’t be simpler.  If you have never fermented before, the half-sour is a good stepping-stone fermented pickle—it takes only a week to make, it requires very few ingredients, and any quart jar with a lid will do.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Half-Sour Fermented Pickles
Author: 
Recipe type: Pickle
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 1 quart
 
Half sours use a brine with a much lower salt concentration--a fresher taste in exchange for a shorter shelf life
Ingredients
  • 12 oz. pickling cucumbers, blossom-end removed
  • ¼ t peppercorns, crushed
  • ½ t pickling spice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig dill
  • 4 ½ t pickling salt
  • 1 T white wine vinegar
  • 3 cups water
Instructions
  1. Dissolve salt into the water.
  2. Pack all ingredients and spices into a sanitized jar and pour brine over the ingredients. Cucumbers must be submerged to ferment, so pack them tightly using a quart jar with a narrow mouth or stuff a pint-sized freezer bag filled with remaining brine into the mouth of the jar to keep cucumbers submerged.
  3. Check the jar daily and clean any scum off the top, rinsing the bag if necessary. This is just yeast.
  4. In 3 days, there should be fermentation bubbles. Once the bubbles have stopped forming in 7 or 8 days, place the jar in the fridge.
  5. Pickles will keep in the fridge for about 3 weeks.
Notes
Every cucumber has 2 ends--the stem-end on one side and the blossom-end on the other side. The blossom-end is where the flower transformed into a fruit. Shave off the blossom-end of each cuke before pickling. This will keep it firm as the blossom-end contains enzymes which soften the cucumber over time.

This Half Sour Pickles recipe was inspired the pickling guru Linda Ziedrich in her book The Joy of Pickling. for more information and recipes on pickling and fermentation see the following links:

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Lebanese Pickled Turnips

You know those delightful little pink pickles you find garnishing your hummus at your favorite Persian or Middle Eastern restaurant? These are those. A few minutes to prepare and a few days later…CRUNCH, a salty, sour, cheerful pink pickle with a mild radishy bite.  Who knew a lowly turnip could taste so good?

Lebanese Pickled Turnips
Author: 
Recipe type: Pickle
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 1 quart jar
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. turnips (about 5 or 6 golf ball sized)
  • 1 small beet
  • 4 - 5 sprigs celery leaf, or ½ t celery seed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 - 5 cloves garlic, crushed
Instructions
  1. Peel turnips and beet. Slice into ⅛th inch half-moons.
  2. Pack the turnips, beets, garlic and celery, into a sanitized quart jar layering the ingredients.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the water, vinegar, salt in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Pour the hot brine over the veggies completely covering them.
  4. Set aside to cool, then label, date and refrigerate. Wait 3– 5 days before eating. They will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Preserve it:

This is not a canning recipe, meaning you cannot hot-water-bath can these pickles safely.  This recipe is not tested for that.  These pickles are refrigerator pickles only and will keep in the fridge a good long while.  Since turnips are available nearly the whole growing season in the Midwest—right up through November—and store so well in the fridge, there seems no reason to bother canning them when you can make a fresh batch so quickly. But if you really want to have a “puting up” pickle, let me know.  I’m sure I can get you one.

 Cooking with Kids: 

Don’t underestimate your child’s love of sour.  Think of all of the sour candies on the market.  I have also witness arguments between kids over who will get to suck on the left-over lemon rind. I can get my kids to gobble up any veggie as long as it comes pickled.
Pickles make the ultimate sour taste experience and making pickles is like experiencing a bit of magic.  The taste transformation accomplished with just a few ingredients and a bit of time is likely to spark the imagination of any kid.  Have your little ones cut the celery with scissors or measure the spices and liquids.  Taste the raw turnips before pickling for a great opportunity to compare the before and after flavors.

Garlic Scapes

They look like art—a sculpture of inviting green.  Available only in farmers markets and gardens for a few weeks in June, their ephemeral nature and rarity only adds to their allure. If you are like me, you will spy them in the market and feel compelled to buy them even if you have no clue as to what to do with them.

More than vegetative art, the scape is the flowering stalk of hard neck garlic.  Young tender stalks grow in beautiful curlicues, but as they mature, the stalks straighten and dry and the flowering bulb turns to seed.  To direct the plant’s energy away from making seeds and towards producing a large, flavorful garlic bulb, the farmer removes the tender edible scape.  Viola! My most coveted springtime treat with a taste nearly  identical to garlic with a fresher, milder, more herbal quality.

What to do with it once you’ve brought it home? Well you could chop it up and add it to stir fry or perhaps pickle it, but I suggest  that you make Garlic Scape Paste and add it to everything you would have added garlic…and then some.


5.0 from 1 reviews
Garlic Scapes
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 2 cups
 
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch, about 14 scapes, flowers removed and stalks coarsely chopped
  • ⅔ cup oil (olive, canola, grape or safflower are good choices)
Instructions
  1. Remove the flower portion of each scape as it can be bitter. I like to save them and use as a garnish.
  2. In a food processor, add scapes and pulse until finely minced.
  3. Next, slowly pour in the oil while processing.
  4. Transfer paste to a glass or plastic jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  5. Paste will keep refrigerated for about 2 weeks. Add to recipes as needed. You can also freeze it.

 
Preserve It: 
Buy a few bunches at the market, make it en masse, and freeze. Place paste in a freezer bag, press flat removing as much air as possible, label and seal.  If you freeze it flat on the shelf, you can break off bits of garlic scape paste as you need it as long as it lasts.  Even if freezer real estate is an issue for you, put this on the A-list.  It is a tasty time saver-—better-than-minced-garlic-flavor-at-the-ready.

Cooking with Kids:

Have your kids help with the prep by using scissors to remove the flowers, and cut the scapes into chunks for easy processing.  They are also very good at pushing buttons…I mean for the food processor.