Salsa!

14 pints of salsa

14 pints of salsa. Notice the blue coloring of the open jar. It is very old.

Wednesday I canned salsa. This will be the 4th or 5th time I have done it, though the first time all on my own. Previously I always had the guiding hand of my mother right next to me, with her years of canning wisdom. I first started canning salsa in grad school, and Clare joined me and my mom once or twice. I ended up calling my mom 3 or 4 times with clarification questions, which she happily answered. I harvested about 15 or 20 medium size tomatoes over the weekend, probably 2/3 lemon boy, and the rest better boy and celebrity. On Tuesday I stopped by the Bloomington Farmer’s market on my way home, and got a box of jalapeños, a box of poblano peppers, and some green peppers. Then I stopped in at the new Bloomingfood’s next door on 6th, and got 3 bunches of cilantro, and some chipotle pepper powder.

Salsa up close

Salsa up close

I had to go to Indy Wednesday morning for work, so I planned to do the canning Wednesday afternoon. After talking with my mom on Tuesday about the recipe we had used, I thought I might need some more tomatoes. I don’t think I would have gotten enough tomatoes ripe all at once from our own garden to make salsa (at least not 14 pints). On my way home from Indy, I stopped at the hardware store in Cloverdale and bought a jar lifter, and then I stopped at a little farm which had a little vegetable stand selling tomatoes for $0.50 per pound. I bought 6 pounds, and put my $3 in their little lock box.

I started the process around 3:30. The first step is to scald the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or so, then place them in ice water. This makes it easy to remove the skin. Then I chopped up the tomatoes, removing any bad spots, and placed them in a colander to let some of the juices drip out. I ended up with just about 6 quarts of chopped tomatoes, which is what our recipe called for. I chopped about 5 or 6 green peppers, 2 large onions, 1 bunch of cilantro, and 5 or 6 jalapeños and poblanos. The whole chopping process took almost 3 hours, most of which was spent on the tomatoes. I put all the ingredients in an 8 quart stock pot, which was filled to the brim, and started heating it up. I also added 2 tablespoons of salt, 3/4 cup of white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of cumin and coriander, and 1 tablespoon of chipotle pepper powder. Even though I drained the tomatoes, it was still very juicy, so I ladled off about 2 or 3 cups of liquid, then added one large can of tomato paste (12 oz.). Once it was hot, I ladled the salsa into pint jars. My basic canner fits 7 pint jars (or quart). I put them in for about 30 minutes, and had some dinner while I was waiting (and called my mom again). Once the 30 minutes was up, I quickly removed the first batch, and had the second batch in within about 15 minutes. I heard a few of the lids popping while I was preparing the second batch, indicating that they had sealed. I was done by about 8:10, except for doing dishes, which took another half hour.

On Thursday when I got home from work, I checked the jars by pressing down on the lids. Three of them popped up after pushing down on them, indicating they had not sealed. I put those in the refrigerator, and will have to eat them within a month or so. I tested one jar last night, and it was quite tasty. It was not quite as spicy as when I had tested it on Wednesday. I think the additional cooking made it a bit milder. It turned out fairly thick and chunky, and I would give it a medium heat rating.

p.s. thanks to my mom for her advice, and to Dorene Grekowicz, for some of the canning supplies.

Good eats in fields and forests

Lemon boy, Better boy, and sweet 100 tomatoes

Lemon boy, Better boy, and sweet 100 tomatoes

It is starting to be harvest time in Indiana. What an exciting time. All the work sprouting seeds starting in February, planting in May, occasionally weeding and watering — it is starting to pay off. I have gotten several cherry tomatoes in the last couple weeks, and in the last week or so the big tomatoes are really starting to come in. I have been enjoying the cherry tomatoes all by themselves, and I have been making the big tomatoes into my favorite simple salad. Slice the tomatoes. Sprinkle some fresh chopped basil over them (plenty of basil in the garden too), and then pour a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar over them, and a little salt and fresh ground pepper. Very tasty.

tomato basil salad

tomato basil salad

Last weekend there was also quite a bit of good stuff at the Spencer Farmer’s market. I bought some eggplant, peppers, and heirloom tomatoes from the Harrimans. I know that I have my own tomatoes, but I thought that the heirloom tomatoes looked really interesting. One big one that I got was called Kellogg’s breakfast. I can’t remember the name of the other one. I also traded some bread starter with Joanna Sparks for some of her goodies, which included parsley, garlic, and pearl onions.

heirloom tomatoes - the one the left is called "Kellogg's breakfast"

heirloom tomatoes – the one the left is called “Kellogg’s breakfast”

I finished out my weekend of harvesting with some harvesting in the wild. Volya, one of the grad students in my lab is an avid mushroom hunter. We went mushroom hunting in the Charles Dean Wilderness, just south of Lake Monroe. It is part of the Hoosier National Forest. He showed me which mushrooms are okay to eat and which are not. We mostly collected chanterelles, and boy did we get a bunch! We spent several hours hunting, though we took a little break to take a swim in Lake Monroe, which was quite a bit warmer than the pond on Twin Springs.

Chanterelles

Chanterelle harvest – This is about 30-40% of what we got.

After getting home, I washed the chanterelles and then boiled them for 10 minutes like Volya told me to. I then decided to add them into a risotto, with onions, garlic, butter beans, fresh tomatoes and basil, and vegetable stock (and a splash of dry vermouth). It turned out pretty tasty.

Chanterelles up close

Chanterelles up close
Risotto with chanterelles

Risotto with chanterelles, fresh tomatoes, and basil