Friday, 12 July 2013

Recipe: Salsa (Fresh & Canned)

Hello there! Well it's Friday again, and at the Southwest Edmonton Farmer's Market, that means only one thing... it's recipe blog post time again! Charles, at the Butcher's Bus, told me that there was a time, years ago, when vegetable vendors would sell literally TONS of produce at a market for people who did home canning. He lamented the fact that no one cans anymore... no one makes pickles or jams and that it's a dying art. 

Well... I'm here to tell you that it just ain't so! And I've accepted his comments as a bit of a challenge. I've been putting out very, very simple canning and jam making recipes of late on the market blog, and today's is no exception, to help to fulfill my friday recipe blog purpose:

1. To get people to purchase fresh veggies and fruit at the market.
2. To get people back into the kitchen preparing simple & nutritious home-cooked meals & to get families gathering together for their meals.
3. To teach people a little something... whether it be a new cooking skill or a piece of nutritional knowledge.
4. To entertain people who love food.
5. To give people another way to support and connect with the local food system.
6. To encourage people to stay connected to our market, and to become loyal shoppers & patrons.

I hope you enjoy today's blog post... here it is! 

Peppers are not only spectacularly beautiful vegetables, but they are incredibly nutritious as well. Jonny Bowden, in his book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth writes,
Both Animal and human studies have indicated that consumption of chile-containing meals increases both fat burning and calorie burning. And a recent study in the July 2006 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that chile pepper has a beneficial effect on insulin levels. Subjects fed a meal containing accayenne chile blend had less insulin in their bloodstreams after eating, meaning something in the chile helped clear the insulin from their bloodstreams after it did its job. Since high insulin is a risk factor for a lot of things, that's a good effect. The researchers think that the active ingredient responsible for the effect is capsaicin. And by the way, the results were even more dramatic in the subjects with the highest body weights.
These peppers were available at last week's
market at TR Greenhouses.
We all know that fresh peppers are good for you... their vibrant colours mean that they're chock-full of antioxidants. Their crunch and their juicy (yes juicy) flesh is delicious. Both sweet bell peppers and their spicy, thin-walled jalepeno and red chile counterparts have capsaicin. So clearly, both sweet and spicy peppers are very good for you.

The Southwest Edmonton Farmers' Market has TONS of beautiful looking peppers crying out to make it to your family's lunch & dinner plates! And what dish has them in abundance? Why salsa, of course!

making spicy salsa
Salsa is one of those easy, go-to recipes that for me, defines a vibrant, fresh tasting summer meal. In our house it comes about in one of two ways...
  1. It is made up quickly with fresh ingredients and served on tostados or refritos or eggs. It's also delicious on fish and even on a bed of lettuce with a sliced, barbequed/grilled chicken breast.
  2. It is cooked up in a huge batch each summer or fall and canned and put away to be pulled out in the winter and eaten with baked tortilla chips, turned into nachos, put in and on meatloaf, etc.
Canned (homemade jarred) salsa tastes infinitely better than any salsa that you can buy in the store. And it is both far less expensive to make up a batch at home... and far more nutritious!

I have included two recipes here. Fresh salsa is quick and easy to make. There's really nothing to it. Canned salsa takes an investment of time... there's lots of chopping and a good hour or more of cooking to get it nice and think and to get the flavours blending, and then there's the bottling and processing. But that investment of time is SO well worth it and you have access to a bit of bottled summer bliss in the depths of winter!

Fresh ingredients for both salsa recipes are pouring into the market now that the summer growing season is upon us. See our vendors for their spectacular produce...
  • Holden Colony has hot house tomatoes, red & green peppers and onions, and they will have field tomatoes to come soon.
  • T.R. Greenhouses has hot house red & green peppers, spicy red chilies, beautiful deep green jalepenos and many varieties of tomatoes to choose from (Tena recommends the fleshy roma tomatoes for cooked, canned/jarred salsa).
  • Dargatz Family Farm is starting to have field grown tomatoes. And if you want to try growing your own peppers, they have full grown potted plants for your garden or deck, hung with peppers... they had bell peppers, spicy long red chiles this past week.
fresh salsa
The fresh jalepeno here is key... it gives it heat and crunch... chop it finely, using disposable gloves if you want to avoid getting the chilli oil into your eyes or stinging any cuts you may have on your hands. The other thing that makes a world of difference is using fresh squeezed lime juice rather than bottled juice... once again, the overwhelming nutritional differences aside, there's a world of difference in taste when you go fresh with all of your ingredients.
½ c. cilantro leaves
1 c. chopped tomatoes
1/4 c. chopped red pepper
1/4 c. finely diced red onion
1 small jalepeƱo pepper, seeded & finely diced
2 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
Mix all salsa ingredients until everything is thoroughly melded. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

making bottled/canned salsa
I had this recipe for the first time over 15 years ago in my good friend, Kathy Toogood's, backyard, and I've been making it every year since. I usually double it and use a huge canning pot to hold & cook it all.

The number of jalepenos here are approximate... you'll need to adjust to your taste. Start with the lower number if you like very, very little heat. I usually put all 6 in, but if you like things quite spicy you will want to put more in OR switch to the spicier Thai chilies or little orange habenero peppers... they're very powerful little heat bombs, so be careful!!! As a general rule with spicy peppers, the smaller the pepper the more spicy heat it packs, so don;t be fooled into thinking you need to swap them volume for volume!

The cooking process definitely reduces the peppers' spicy heat, so half way through cooking, you'll want to taste the salsa and see if it is as hot as you'd like it to be. You can always add more spicy chills, but you can never remove them.
4½ lbs ripe tomatoes (18 med... or as many as you can jam into a large sized ziplock freezer bag)
3 chillies, diced finely (or a tin)
1 lg. red onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, diced
1 large red pepper, diced
2-6 jalepenos
1 sm tin tomato paste
3/4 c. vinegar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1T pickling salt
2T paprika
Put tomatoes in the freezer overnight in a large ziplock bag. When you're ready to make the salsa, remove them from the bag and place the tomatoes in a sink of very hot water. The skins will easily slip off and the tomatoes are super easy to chop up with a sharp knife when they're frozen like this. Discard the skins. Roughly chop the tomatoes (they will break down when they are cooking).

Boil all the ingredients together in a large pot, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn, uncovered for 1 hour. Place into sterilized jars (200F 20 minutes in oven). Wipe rims with clean cloth before putting lids on. Process in a boiling canner at a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Remove and set on the counter overnight. Check their seals once cool and store  in a cool, dry place any with lids whose dimples successfully popped. Refrigerate any that don't seal.

Fresh Salsa Recipe from The Healthy Kitchen, Page 217
Cooked Salsa Recipe from Dr. Kathy Toogood, Principal with Edmonton Public Schools and dear friend of mine
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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee

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