The Hot Pack Challenge
“She was gay and frightened about the visit to Salinas. She liked the idea so well that she felt there must be something bordering on sin involved in it.”
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
We’re deep into July and the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge is in the seventh month. Seriously how is it the end of July? It’s that time of year when canning projects explode with the momentum of summer. Here along the central coast of California local tomatoes and peppers will peak late next month. Our summers are later than most, September and early October bring the most heat. It’s then that I’ll make huge batches of traditional salsa with local, dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes. For this month’s canning challenge I tried something new, Roasted Tomatillo Salsa.
Maybe it’s a lemon lovers preference, all I know is that I enjoy the tangy taste of Tomatillo Salsa. It’s especially good with avocados. It’s really good with chips. And it’s nice to have something besides tomato salsa in the pantry. Canning salsa is an afternoon project, so worth the time. Homemade means you know every ingredient that goes into the jar of salsa, that’s pretty amazing. The spicy and the heat of the salsa is within your control too.
We had carnitas for dinner on salsa making day. Warm tortillas, chunky guacamole and a simple cabbage slaw dressed with olive oil and apple cider vinegar. The fresh Roasted Tomatillo Salsa was perfect company. I preferred the Roasted Tomatillo Salsa with green tomatillos, it was bright and tangy. The Mr gravitated to the Roasted Tomatillo Salsa made with yellow tomatillos and corn, it is just a touch sweeter, still with a nice tomatillo tang.
I gathered most of my salsa ingredients at the Salinas Farmers Market, finding yellow and lavender husked tomatillos and garlic and onions grown in Soledad. I’d never seen yellow tomatillos before. The vendor told me she harvests her tomatillos later, ripe, yellow and sweeter. Right then and there I decided to make two batches of Roasted Tomatillo Salsa, one with yellow and one with green tomatillos. Peppers came from vendors who traveled to the coast from the hot inland of California. I took a chance with the long skinny peppers. The sign said they were sweet, no one at the booth spoke English. For heat I found jalapeño and Serrano peppers. Apparently the heat in peppers is not in the seeds but in the white membrane that holds the seeds. When prepping hot peppers always wear gloves and do not wipe your face and eyes.
The second batch of Roasted Tomatillo Salsa was all about the yellow tomatillos. At the last minute I added a cup of roasted corn from my freezer. I was hoping for a pale green salsa, but the green hued peppers kept their dominant role. I roasted all the vegetables except the onion and then chopped everything in the food processor. Roasting is optional, but it always deepens the flavor. For a chunky salsa, chop the vegetables by hand. Canning salsa can be broken up into two days. Prep the vegetables the first day, can the salsa on day two. Canning the salsa for later is optional. The Roasted Tomatillo Salsa can be kept in the refrigerator if used in three days. The recipe for Roasted Tomatillo Salsa is adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
| Roasted Tomatillo Salsa yield 5-6 cups
|1/2 lb||assorted peppers|
|1/2C||apple cider vinegar|
|1t||fine grain sea salt|
|1 bunch||cilantro, leaves chopped|
- Prep the canning gear to make the salsa. Prepare the canning jars and lids. If you have hard water add vinegar to the pots with the jars and lids. Have a large non-reactive pan ready to make the salsa after the vegetables are roasted and chopped.
- Heat the oven to 350°. Cut the top off the head of garlic, leaving just the tops of the cloves exposed. Pour the olive oil in the bottom In a small oven proof dish, enough that it covers the bottom of the dish. Place the garlic in the baking dish, clove side down in the olive oil. Cover the dish tightly with foil. Roast the olive oil for 30 minutes or until the cloves are soft. Remove from the oven to cool. When cool, use a small fork to remove the cloves from their skins. Set the garlic aside to chop with the tomatillos in the food processor, or chop by hand. Turn the oven temperature to 425°.
- While the garlic roasts prep the tomatillos, peppers and onions. Cover two sheet pans with parchment. Husk and remove any stems from the tomatillos, rinse and pat dry. Spread the tomatillos across the surface of the sheet pan and roast for 30-40 minutes. Roast until most of the tomatillos have collapsed and some have browned tops. Set aside to cool.
- Wearing gloves, trim the stem ends from the peppers, cut them in half and remove the seeds and interior membrane. Spread them evenly across the surface of the second prepared sheet pan. Roast the peppers for 20-30 minutes until they begin to release their juices, go from crisp to limp and some of the peppers have begun to brown. Set aside to cool.
- While the tomatillos and peppers roast and cool finely chop the onion in the bowl of a food processor or by hand. Add the onion to the salsa making pan. When cool, chop tomatillos and garlic in the bowl of a food processor or by hand. Add the tomatillos and garlic to the salsa making pan. Stir in the apple cider vinegar, salt and cumin. Over medium high heat bring the salsa to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes. While simmering, chop the peppers in the bowl of the food processor or by hand. Add the peppers and cilantro to the pan, simmer for five minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Remove one jar from the canner with canning tongs, poring all the water back into the canner. Fill the jar with salsa, leaving 1/2” at the top of the jars. Scrupulously, clean any jam from the rim of the jar. Place a warm lid on the jar and add the canning ring. Twist until closed and the ring is tight on the jar. With tongs, place the filled jar back in the canner. Repeat with the rest of the empty jars. Arrange the jars in the canner so they are not touching and are covered with 1”-2” of water. Place the lid on the canner and bring the pot to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a vigorous, rolling boil. Process the jars for fifteen minutes. Leave the lid on the canner, turn off the heat and let sit for five minutes. With canning tongs remove the jars from the canner. Cover with a thick towel until the jars cool completely. Remove the rings and clean the jars with warm soapy water. Wipe down with vinegar if there any hard water stains. Label the jars and store in a cool dark place.
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