"LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! Life's a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death"
attributed to Mame Dennis

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yes, I CAN!

     At the peak of tomato season, I made some roasted tomato salsa that came out with a little too much of a kick for general consumption. I could have roasted some more tomatoes, or added some fresh tomatoes to the mix, but decided on peaches instead. Their sweetness turned out to be just the thing to balance the smoky heat from the chipotles in adobo. The combination is moreish, and I'd love to be able to eat it all year long.

I'd been reading up on home food preservation, and picking the brains of my friends-who-can for advice. With windowsills full of tomatoes and 12 plants still producing, this was a perfect opportunity to give it a shot. I carefully followed the steps laid out in the Ball Complete Guide to Home Preserving, constantly cross-referencing the manual to my pressure cooker. Canning can go very wrong, and one doesn't want to risk any contamination.

Once the jars and lids were prepared, I set up a one person assembly line prepping the ingredients. An assortment of Romas, Early Girls and Cherry Tomatoes from my garden were cored and quartered, then roasted with red onion and garlic. A peck of peaches  (from Indian Creek Farms in Ithaca) were blanched, peeled and cut into chunks. A big bunch of cilantro was roughly chopped. A chipotle pepper was taken out of it's tin, deseeded and pureed with a cup or so worth of the roasted tomato mixture. If you're sensitive to the pepper heat, start with half a chipotle and go from there. I like to add a spoonful or so of the adobo sauce for extra smokiness. The remaining roasted tomatoes, onions and garlic are cut into pieces and added to the puree, along with the peach chunks and cilantro. Tortilla chips were handy for tasting all along. Once the proper balance was achieved, the salsa then went into the jars.
I bought my pressure cooker for fifty cents from a neighbor that Pat's known for ages who was moving, complete with the weight and owner's manual. This method of canning feels safer, because of the high temperatures reached while processing. Using it for the first time was a little scary.

Luckily, Patrick's mother (also know as Cook Cook) canned all the time when he was growing up, so he was able to reassure me that all those noises were normal.

I haven't opened any of the jars yet, but there they are in my pantry, vacuums holding tight, promising to bring a little summer warmth to the central New York winter.

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