The perfect condiment to make with late summer’s ripe tomatoes and peppers, salsa is simply Spanish for sauce. The Maya people of Central America and Mexico made the first salsas by pounding together peppers, onions, and tomatoes or tomatillos. Using a food processor simplifies this task, making it possible to turn out an alarmingly good fresh salsa (salsa fresco) in 10 minutes or less. When properly acidified with lemon juice or vinegar, cooked salsas are easy to can in a water bath or steam canner.
Garden-to-Table Fresh Salsa
If your experience of salsa is limited to commercial products in jars, you are in for a delightful surprise when you taste the real thing. My own palate is often suspicious of dishes that include raw onion, but here it is both essential and delicious. Do take the time to drain the chopped tomatoes for 30 minutes to remove some of the excess juice, and use more hot peppers if you want to turn
up the heat. Enjoy this fresh salsa with chips, over eggs, or on tacos.
- 6-8 small tomatoes, or about 1.5lb (680g), chopped and drained for 30 minutes
- 1 green onion, cut into four pieces
- One-quarter (or less) of any medium onion
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 small sweet pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, halved
- 1 lime, juiced, or 2 tablespoons lime juice
- ½ teaspoon each chili powder, cumin, salt and sugar
- Several sprigs cilantro or parsley
Directions: Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse at 3-second intervals for a total of 10 to 12 seconds. This salsa will keep in the refrigerator for about three days.
Great Green Salsas
Traditional versions of salsa verde, or green sauce, are made with pleasingly tart tomatillos, which are a fun and easy crop to grow where summers are warm. Or perhaps you have an abundance of almost-mature green tomatoes? When handled like tomatillos, they make a versatile green sauce to accompany fish, enchiladas, omelets or beans. Green sauces like this one will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks. Canning in small jars is an option provided you don’t fudge on the lime juice, which is necessary for proper acidification.
Before the Frost Green Salsa
- 12-15 tomatillos or 10-12 small green tomatoes, cut in half
- 2-3 jalapenos or other hot green peppers, halved and seeded
- 1 medium onion, cut into wedges
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ cup (120ml) lime juice
- ½ cup (120g) cilantro, parsley or oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
Directions: Place the tomatillos or green tomatoes, peppers and onions on a sheet pan, cut side down. Broil under a preheated broiler until the tomatillos or tomatoes collapse and the skins begin to blacken, about 7 minutes. While the tomatillos or tomatoes cool, place peppers, onion, garlic, and lime juice in a food processor and chop fine. Add the herbs, spices, salt and tomatillos or tomatoes. If the skins of tomatillos are very tough, remove them and squeeze the pulp into the salsa. Chop the mixture about 20 seconds, or until thoroughly blended. Chill.
Garden Salsa for Canning
A wonderful way to save the harvest, canned salsa can be processed in a water bath or steam canner provided you don’t skimp on the vinegar. If you don’t have meaty paste tomatoes, allow your chopped tomatoes to drain in a colander for an hour or so to reduce excess juice. This recipe is from my book Homegrown Pantry (Storey Publishing, 2017).
Year-Round Garden Salsa
- 8 cups peeled, diced paste tomatoes
- 2 cups chopped peppers (mixture of sweet and hot)
- 2 cups chopped onions
- ½ cup (120ml) cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- ¼ cup (65g) chopped fresh herbs (oregano, cilantro, parsley)
- 1 teaspoon each cumin, chili powder and salt
Directions: Mix all ingredients in a large pot, and slowly bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent and some of the liquid has evaporated. Spoon the simmering salsa into clean, hot jars. Process pints in a water-bath or steam canner for 20 minutes.