Friday, November 8, 2019

Salsa Verde Schools Me

The kids had off school due to elections, the sun was shining, and a real freeze was bearing down on us.  Clearly time to put the garden to bed.

When we were done stripping the tomato jungle that afternoon, I had a heaping dishpan full of little green tomatoes as well as a basket of bell peppers and a handful of berries.   

So I recalled a conversation with a market farmer back before life took a turn into crazy with sports; I was listing all the problems I had experienced with canning salsa and declaring that was IT, no more canned salsa, when she said simply that she'd never had a problem with tomatillo salsa, salsa verde.  Then she said she uses Marisa's recipe from Preserving by the Pint, which I already own and love. I use green tomatoes and tomatillos pretty much interchangeably - my research tells me they are cousins, and I know from experience they have a very similar flavor and texture.

Now staring down the heap of green tomatoes in my kitchen, I plunged in.  First I recruited Ben to take my Visa (no cash, wanted the points, knew the standholders and guessed they'd be ok with it) and go back to market for me to get cilantro, garlic, onions, and poblanos. Then on the way to pick up Genevieve from a friend's house, I stopped at the Latino market and got 20 limes for $2. I know that canning recipes specify bottled lime juice for the acid predictability, but I couldn't bear to drive further to a grocery store and buy plastic packaging with my lime juice. Marisa's recipe did not have cilantro in it, and I do love cilantro in salsa verde, so I grabbed a recipe online from Montana Homesteader. 
Photos with  me in them taken by Ben - good job, buddy!

I used a red poblano to make a batch of Marisa's salsa verde. Then I made the rest of the tomatoes into Montana's recipe with green poblanos, running the food processor like a crazy woman and getting Phoebe to pull some stems off tomatoes. 

I sent Ben to the basement for more wide-mouth pints; he came back with a measly one jar.  Certain he just wasn't looking, I sent Genevieve down (all the while pushing buttons and heating up leftover supper and watching the boiling water vat on the stove), and she came up totally empty-handed.  People, I used up all my wide-mouth pints! I thought I was over-supplied with jars! I finished up the canning with half-pints. 

The first canner-load had a jar bust in it, and I thought darkly of the salsa curse, but the rest of the jars sealed beautifully.

And then I snapped back to reality: I had not measured the lime juice, nor had I used bottled lime juice, and I had canned it in a water-bath.  Botulism visions danced in my head! I was so angry at myself for not doing more research, for not measuring the lime juice. I can low-acid foods in my pressure canner to negate botulism!  Why oh why didn't I find a salsa verde recipe that was pressure canned?  I decided I had to freeze my beautiful salsa verde, treat it like fresh, not canned, food.

But first, I talked to Rebecca, who listened to my woes and recriminations and seemed not all worried about it ("Are you sure it's a low-acid salsa? Green tomatoes are tart!"), but shrugged and said, why don't you pressure can it if you're worried?  The heavens opened and a light of reason shone on my head.  So I carefully broke the seal on all my salsa verde jars and pressure-canned their butts.

Here are my take-away thoughts:
find a salsa verde recipe before next fall  that uses cilantro and the pressure canner and not lots of lime juice to keep botulism fears away. Roast or grill the poblanos for a hit of smoky flavor.


Becky said...

Salsa verde is the best.
Glad you overcame all the obstacles in your way to can that salsa!

e said...

As we say in my family, 'It's a SAVE!'
You will enjoy the salsa verde all winter long. Such a good use for small green tomatoes!

Margo said...

I think this is my favorite way to use the green tomatoes!

Sarah Barry said...

ha ha. What a great story. Glad it all worked out in the end and you gained some wisdom for next time.

Marisa said...

Do you have a copy of So Easy to Preserve? I wonder if there might be something there (I will also check when I get home).

Margo said...

I don't have it - in fact, I'm not familiar with it. I am hoping I can find a recipe that uses maybe some fresh lime juice and maybe some vinegar to keep it tart enough for water-bath canning. . . or is geared for pressure-canning. Just wanting to be zero-waste with ingredients when I can :)