fermented salsa party

IMG_4080IMG_4077Salsa is one of the preservationist’s most difficult challenges.  In terms of flavor, at least.  Canned salsa always tastes cooked and too lemony to me.  And there’s this odd insistence in adding cumin and garlic, two flavors that I just don’t like in salsa.  Or oregano, of all things.  Perhaps I’m being too fussy.  But I really want something like pico de gallo but all year round and without compromises.  Is that too much to ask?  Well, I suppose so.

I couldn’t find a trustworthy and delicious salsa recipe online, so I had to make one.  And to you, dear reader, I present it as my latest gift.  It’s superior to canned salsa in all ways but one: you need space in your refrigerator to hold two half-gallon jars.  I realize that’s sometimes difficult.  But if you can’t swing that, do try a half recipe.  This one really should be part of your repertoire.

If you want to add garlic, you can, but just a few cloves.

The flavor of the salsa changes over the course of months in your refrigerator, becoming more and more sour.  It will still taste lively and fresh, regardless.  I find the extra sour flavor really refreshing on winter tacos and quesadillas, or stirred into beans.

Lacto-fermented Salsa

Yield: 1 gallon + another small jar for eating now.

  • 2 pounds white onions
  • 1 cup mixed fresh red frying peppers, green bell or long peppers, and/or hot peppers
  • 1 cup packed cilantro leaves
  • 6 pounds Roma or other paste tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • For each cup of finished salsa: 1 tablespoon whey drained from live-culture yogurt or another fermented juice (I used tomato kvass and green bean ferment juice, but I doubt you’ll have that!) and 1 teaspoon kosher salt (approximately 2 cups of whey and about 3/4 cups of salt).

Wash two half-gallon jars or four quart jars.  Pour boiling water in jars to top and let sit in sink while you are prepping vegetables.

Clean, trim, and quarter tomatoes.

Coarsely chop onion, peppers, garlic, and cilantro to ease their way into the food processor.  Working in small batches, pulse all vegetables except the tomatoes three to five times, and set aside in bowl large enough to mix 1 gallon salsa.  If there are any large pieces remaining, hand chop so everything is roughly even.

Pulse the tomatoes in batches in a similar fashion.  Do not blend so much they become paste-like.  There should be pieces of tomato left.  Hand chop any large pieces remaining.

Mix the vegetables together in the bowl with the lime juice.  Set aside whey or other fermented juice and salt.

Ladle the salsa into jars using a liquid measuring cup and a wide-mouth funnel.  For every cup of salsa poured into the jar, add one tablespoon whey/other fermented juice and one teaspoon sea salt.  Important:  leave about 3 inches of head space to account for bubbling.  Do not (trust me) overfill the jars.  Any salsa left over can be enjoyed fresh.  Last time I had about a pint.

Mix well, screw on lids, and place each jar on a plate or tray for any leaks.  Leave at room temperature for 1-4 days until bubbly and fizzy and sour.

There will be separation issues (see above picture).  Stir every day to push down vegetables and more evenly ferment. I find it impossible to keep the salsa pieces submerged under liquid and the salsa has a tendency to pack itself up near the top, so I am more vigilant about stirring and examining for mold.  It’s a quick, already acidic ferment, so I have been 100% successful so far in fermenting, but I do want to issue a caution that this part should be monitored.  I also wipe down the rim of the jar to discourage mold growth each time I stir.

When is it done?  Taste it.  It should be sour and lively.  I find it is best around 3 days, and the longer you let it ferment and get sour and fizzy, the longer it will keep in the refrigerator.  Mine lasts for many months.

Once it tastes good to you, refrigerate.

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it’s not easy being green tomatoes

Well, we need to face facts.  We may get a few more ripe ones during this warm weekend, but most of us in the Willamette Valley will be stuck with bushels of unripe tomatoes this year.

Suzi Busler, the fearless leader of our Master Food Preserver program in Lane & Douglas Counties, recently held a green tomato class in Roseburg.  These are her notes on recipes for cooking and preserving the little monsters:

Green Tomato Chutney – outstanding….best chutney I’ve tasted. Recipe came out of Ball Complete book [ed: see below];

Green Tomato Salsa — used the tomatillo recipe – was excellent [ed: see below];

Dilled Green Tomatoes – a pickle recipe in Ball Complete book [ed: see below; also in Ball Blue Book];

Green Tomato Pie Filling – good [ed: this and more tested recipes are in the Lane County Extension “Green Tomato” publication LC 369];

Fried Green Tomatoes – Slices of green tomato, dip in egg, dredge in flour, dredge in Italian Seasoned Bread crumbs, fry in oil, sprinkle salt, pepper, a little cayenne pepper and sour cream…yum;

Oven Roasted Green Tomatoes – slices of tomatoes, cookie sheet, brush with olive oil, salt/pepper and crushed garlic. Cook in slow, warm oven (200°F) for 4-6 hours till leathery.

Green Tomato Chutney

Yield: 7 pints

Adapted from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

16 cups sliced, cored, peeled green tomatoes
½ cups canning salt
Cold water
3 tablespoons pickling spice
4 cups white vinegar
16 cups chopped, cored, peeled apples (tart, firm)
3 medium yellow or white onions, chopped
3 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
6 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder

In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, layer tomatoes and pickling salt. Add cold water to cover.  Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight.

Transfer tomatoes to a colander placed over a sink.  Rinse well with cold water and drain thoroughly.

Peel, core, and chop apples.  Add to vinegar to prevent browning.

Tie pickling spice in a square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag. Set aside.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar and apples, drained tomatoes, onions, and green peppers.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in brown sugar and return to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently for 30 minutes.

Add reserved spice bag and chili powder and stir well.  Boil gently, stirring frequently, until thick enough to mound on a spoon, about 30 minutes.  Discard spice bag.

Sterilize jars, and prepare rings and lids according to safe practices (see canning book if you do not know how to do this).

Ladle hot chutney into hot jars, leaving ½ inch head space.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot chutney.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to finger tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Cover the canner, bring to boil, and process jars for 15 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove the jars, cool, label and store in cool dark place.

For best quality, consume within one year.

Green Tomato Salsa

Yield: 5 pints.

Ed note: because you can swap out tomatillos for regular tomatoes and green tomatoes for tomatillos in salsa recipes, according to Extension, I assume this means green tomatoes can be swapped out for regular tomatoes.  Go, 9th grade math knowledge!   Adapted from tomatillo salsa recipe in Extension’s “Tomatillos” publication SP 50-768.

5  cups chopped green tomatoes
2  cups seeded, chopped jalapenos
4  cups chopped white onions
1  cup bottled lemon juice
6  cloves garlic, finely chopped
1  tablespoon canning salt
1  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and stir frequently over high heat until
mixture begins to boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Prepare jars and lids.

Ladle hot salsa into hot pint jars, leaving ½ inch headspace.  Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.

Dilled Green Tomatoes

Ed note: I make these green tomato sliced pickles each year.  I find these work better than fermenting whole tomatoes, no matter how small they are, since I have not had great luck with flavor and texture (too hard and crunchy).  Slicing tomatoes will slightly decrease the yield.  Adapted from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

Yield: 5 to 6 pints.

3 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
3 1/2 cups water
¼ cups canning salt
5 lbs. small, firm, green tomatoes, sliced, halved or quartered, or green cherry tomatoes
6 cloves garlic
6 teaspoons pickling spice (separated, one t. per jar)
6 teaspoons brown mustard seed (separated, one t. per jar)
6 heads fresh dill

Prepare canner, jars, lids.  Keep jars hot.  Yield may be smaller than 6 pints, but prepare 6 just to be sure.

Slice or quarter your tomatoes.  You may half smaller tomatoes.  Keep cherry tomatoes whole.  Try to separate tomato pieces by size, i.e., keep cherries together and slices together, for the best quality produce.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water and pickling salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve salt. Remove from heat.

Add 1 clove garlic, 1 head dill, 1 teaspoon each of pickling spice and mustard seed to each hot jar.  Pack raw tomatoes into hot jars to within a generous ½ inch of top of jar.

Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover tomatoes, leaving ½ inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot pickling liquid. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to boil and process for 15 minutes.

Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, label and store cool, dry dark place.  For best quality, consume within one year.

Whew!  My green tomatoes are done for the year, but here are all my ideas for green tomatoes. Try:

dinner for oscar the grouch

If the contents of your compost bowl look this good, you know late summer has truly arrived.  We’re still struggling with no main tomato crop in the southern Willamette Valley, but they’re starting to trickle in, and the next few days promise to have a little heat.  I managed to get 6 pints of very hot jalapeño and fresh cayenne pepper salsa out of my own tomatoes, mostly Saucey and Black Prince.  I’ll probably do another batch with purchased tomatoes, should that opportunity arrive before school starts at the end of the month.  I’m completely out of tomato sauce and regular tomatoes, so I would really like to make this happen!