Not long ago, I wrote of the mad love I have for my CSA. Though I adore the giant bags of fresh, delicious produce from a farm right down the street, sometimes the bags are a little too giant for our two-person household. In the summertime, I can only eat so many tomatoes and jalapeños before I’m tomato-ed and jalapeño-ed out.
With several weeks of CSA bounty accumulating in my fridge and no desire to make fajitas again, I knew I had to perform triage before the produce went bad. It was time to call in my secret weapon: my brother, Chris. In addition to being my favorite brother (okay, my only brother), he’s also the best chef I know. While I inherited the DNA that evolutionarily dooms me to burn toast, he got all of our mom’s culinary skills — and more.
“Why don’t you make salsa?” Chris suggested. “It sounds like you have all the ingredients. You can cook it, jar it and serve it up year-round.”
I love my brother’s homemade salsa and steal several jars from his pantry every time I visit him in Wisconsin. It’s fresh, flavorful and packed with ingredients I can actually pronounce, instead of the who-knows-what in most supermarket varieties. What’s more, it doesn’t cost five bucks a jar. In my family, where salsa goes on everything from breakfast to snacks to salads, that’s a lot of savings.
Every year, Chris and our mom gather a giant bounty from local farms. They spend two days peeling, dicing, simmering and canning jars of homemade salsa by the dozen. Of course, I do my part — drinking root beer at the kitchen table and sneaking tastes from the pot when they’re not looking. Like I said, I don’t have the genetic programming for kitchen work.
“Make salsa? That sounds too hard,” I whined. “How ‘bout I just pay for your plane ticket to Arizona, and you can make salsa in my kitchen?”
“It’s idiot-proof, Susan. I promise.”
Before I could retort about the “idiot” comment, a message from my brother appeared in my e-mail inbox with his salsa recipe. And…well, he was right.
I was surprised to learn that making homemade salsa is not that hard. I’ve made several batches on my own, and I’ve yet to screw it up. Take advantage of a bounty from your CSA, home garden or the farmer’s market. Whether you’re a whiz in the kitchen or an idiot like me, you’ll love having the flavors of summer in the pantry year-round.
“Idiot Proof” Salsa Recipe
Makes 6 to 8 pints
35 small or 25 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
8 (for mild salsa) to 12 (for spicy) jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
3 small onions, chopped
2 banana peppers, chopped
2 Anaheim Peppers, chopped
2 tbsp canning salt
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 cloves minced garlic
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1. Combine all ingredients in a large kettle and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer until salsa is a consistency you prefer (usually 3 to 4 hours, depending on water content).
2. If you prefer a less chunky salsa, run through food processor before serving or canning.
See? I told you it was easy! Want to try your hand at canning salsa? Check in tomorrow for step-by-step instructions! —Susan