As the growing season moves into its final, coolest stage, the last hurrah of summer vegetables, flowers and herbs beg to be harvested and welcomed to the pantry. Lots of them. I’m like the squirrels scurrying to collect black walnuts fallen from our now-leafless tree and burying them in my freshly planted fall greens (thanks a lot). Or the 18 sparrows that tried to enter the birdbath at the same time, preening for a special event (wish I’d made a video).
Hello to my pantry are the end-of-season salsas, canned tomatoes and tomato sauces in the dozens, herbs preserved in many ways, another round of jellies and jams (they don’t ever stop), some new pickling ideas, herbs drying in a dark room (sounds weird but looks and smells great). What kind of frenzied chaos would ensue around here if I also owned a freezer or a dehydrator?
Here’s (maybe) my final canned salsa of the season, a plain tomato version that lines up in the pantry with its colleagues: tomatillo, ancho chili, and peach. This makes as good a sauce (the definition of salsa) for fish, chicken or rice as it does a dip for the ever-present tortilla chips. I promise I’ll get off the topic.
Tomato Pepper Salsa adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
7 c chopped tomatoes that have been cored and seeded
2 c coarsely chopped yellow onion
1 c coarsely chopped green bell pepper
5 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 c dense homemade tomato puree or a 5.5-oz can of tomato paste (preferably organic)
¾ c white vinegar
½ c loosely packed torn cilantro leaves
1½ tsp whole cumin seeds, toasted and ground OR ½ tsp ground cumin
If the tomatoes are especially juicy, salt them and let them drain for an hour or so before proceeding with the recipe.
Prepare jars for water bath canning.
Combine all ingredients in a large stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 30 minutes.
Pour salsa into hot jars. Process in water bath canner for 20 minutes (8 oz, 12 oz, 16 oz). Turn off heat, remove canner lid and remove jars to sit undisturbed until cool.
Makes six 12-oz jars.