Saturday, September 22, 2012

Canning Salsa

This last Thursday I attempted to make and can homemade salsa. We have a plethora of beautiful veggies that was given to us by my mom-in-law, who happens to be an amazingly talented gardener. Every year she grows heaps of herbs, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, carrots and peppers. My husband isn't really a tomato person, and we had too many for me to finish on my own, so I was very excited about the idea of using some to can salsa.

I wasn't really sure how it would turn out. I'm really much more of a fresh salsa kind of girl. I love to just chop up fresh tomatoes and pepper, add a bit of cilantro, garlic and onion, add a splash of fresh squeezed lime and I'm in heaven.

I started out with these cute little tomatoes. Mind you, this is only about half of what I used in the recipe and maybe a quarter of what we have still in the refrigerator. In the end I used probably close to seven cups of these little tomatoes. To prepare the skins for removal I boiled them for 45 seconds and then let them sit in ice cold water. Removing the skins was very easy, but it was also quite time consuming due to the tomatoes miniature size.

After removing the skins, I squeezed out as much of the tomato juice as I could, so that the salsa would not be runny.

I chopped up two green bell peppers, fresh from farmers market.

Here are some of the peppers that my mom-in-law gave us. I'm still not even sure what all of them are. Every cooking show I have ever seen has said to remove the seeds. In my fresh salsas, I like to leave them in because I like a bit of extra heat. I figured though, that since this was my first time making cooked salsa I should probably try to follow the rules just this once.

I cored each of the peppers and removed the seeds (as sloppily has I could to leave a few behind). Look at that beautiful rainbow of pepper!

I Chopped up some fresh cilantro too. I was pretty bummed that I couldn't use my own. I accidentally over harvested a few weeks back and am probably going to have to replant. I chopped one whole onion, one clove of garlic, added some salt and squeezed the juice from one lime.

I then threw the the whole mess in a frying pan and started cooking on high heat.

After just a few minutes the salsa began to cook down and release its juices. This made the house smell amazing.

After everything was cooked through, I threw everything in the blender for about 30 seconds to make a prettier prettier and more even consistency. I then poured it all back into the pan for several minutes of cooking.

Canning the salsa was easy enough, though I had the hardest time finding advice on how to pressure can salsa. Almost all salsa recipes are processed using the hot water bath method, and and as such include either vinegar or lemon juice to increase the acidity. My own recipe included lime juice, but probably not enough to make this type of canning safe. I looked up each of my ingredients and found the necessary pressure cooking time for each. The only one I couldn't find was cilantro, I decided this would probably be considered a "green" and would require one hour of cooking at 10 pounds of pressure. I realize this was probably going way overboard for salsa, but I would much rather be safe than sorry.

Here's the result. I haven't opened either jar yet, but I tasted the salsa before I stared canning. Its much sweeter than I expected due to all of the cooked peppers. I must admit that I was disappointed about the level of heat. I like my salsa with quite a bit more kick, so next time I will not be removing any of the seeds. Still, it should go nicely over chicken or inside enchiladas.

I will let you know how my next batch goes.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Homemade Jam

Well we did it. We finally took the plunge and tried it. We made and canned our own jam. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I expected, and so far the preserving has been a piece of cake.

I did the first batch on my own, early last week. I wanted to take it slow and read through the instructions as I went. Even so, I still ended up a little confused.

At this point I have about four home canning instruction/cook books, plus the original booklet from my 1977 MirroMatic Pressure cooker, and of course the internet in all of its vast and unending glory. Needless to say I had a bit of information overload. In the end I used simple pectin free recipe that I found online and combined information on preserving from everything else.

The first step was to gather and wash all the supplies. This is what I thought was all the supplies before I started. Add a couple spoons, frying pan, ladle, cooling racks, paper towel, magnetic wand, hand towel, huge pot, small pot, jars, lids and sealing rings, and then maybe you have everything. Lucky for me I had everything, just not in the picture.

The next step was measuring out ingredients. I don't mind raspberry seeds at all. some people might prefer to have them removed, but I think they're just fine. I just squished them up by hand and measured it out.

Then I added sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. Almost all of the sugar in our house.

This is what it looks like after being cooked for a bit. Beautiful gem tone jam. I was a little worried that it was too fluid, but it thickens as it cools. There was a bit of foam, but that was removed easily by using a spoon and scooping it out.

While the jam was cooking I did some serious mulitasking. I had jam cooking to perfection on the lower right burner, jars sterilizing on the lower left, lids and rims sterilizing on the upper right and pressure cooker boiling on the upper left. Whew!

Filling the sterile jars with jam was actually really fun. Really messy and sticky, but fun. I don't have pictures of this step because 1 I was trying to be as sterile as possible and didn't want to touch my phone that I drag everywhere ( I didn't want sticky fingerprint on my phone either) 2 I really didn't want pictures of my stove top splattered with jam drippings floating around the internet. Trust me though, this part was really fun.

So next I loaded up the pressure cooker with the filled jars of jam, sealed it and let it do its thing (while cautiously peeking around the corner from the next room). I admit I'm still not completely comfortable with this device. I just about bit my husbands head off the other night for just touching the pressure control without having properly read the instructions first. It hasn't exploded yet though, so I guess we're doing okay.

After processing and having released the pressure, I removed the jars and let them cool. I'm not sure how long it was, it seemed like no more than ten or fifteen minutes later, I began to hear the sweet sound of little tinks coming from the kitchen. The lids make a little popping sound as they cool, but only if the jars have sealed properly. I think this sound put a smile on my face that was a mile wide.

After a few days of waiting for the jam to settle and searching thoroughly for signs of spoilage, we tested it out...and it tasted like jam! pretty good jam too.

My husband really wanted to help with the blackberries. He loves blackberry jam. We made two more batches yesterday with the blackberries. One recipe included just a bit of lemon. The second we added a bit of orange juice since the last of our blackberries weren't quite as ripe as they could be. My husband insisted that we remove the seeds from these since they tend to be a bit more noticeable.

We used a food mill to remove the seeds and any insides that wouldn't taste as sweet. It worked out really well. The process for the blackberry jam was pretty much the same as that of the raspberry, except it went much smoother since I wasn't double checking my sources every step of the way.

The fruit of our labor!

Five and a half jars of blackberry jam and six jars of raspberry (Some is already in our fridge). Turns out I really like canning stuff. This week I will be trying to can green beans from farmers market, and then in October we can look forward to apple butter from the tree in our back yard.

If you're interested in trying it yourself, here are the recipes for raspberry and blackberry jam that we used.