Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Just Peachy! Part One, Cooked Peach Tomato Salsa For Canning (or not)
I love peaches. LOVE them. That smell alone just makes me happy. So the last couple of times I've been to the farmers' market, I've come home loaded down with a box full. I cut a bunch up and flash froze then vacuum sealed them, so I can have fresh peaches to put in smoothies or cook with long after their picking season has come and gone, but when it comes to peaches, there's so much more you can do.
I've had really good success with a couple of different peach salsas this year, and wanted to share them. The first one is a cooked peach-tomato salsa that I processed in jars for storage, and the second one is fresh and raw. Both are totally delicious. I'd recommend the cooked version for topping chicken or pork or adding to tacos, etc., and the uncooked version ROCKS on tortilla chips. I'm doing a separate post for each one, starting with the cooked salsa.
You'll notice lots of "ranges" in my ingredients list, partly because I was winging it, and partly because taste is so subjective. You might like things more spicy, or less salty, or loaded with garlic and onions. Taste it and go with what you like.
Peach Tomato Salsa
Yield: At least 8 pints
4-5 cups chopped tomatoes (skinned and seeded)
9-10 cups chopped peaches (skinned and pitted, duh)
1-2 cups chopped onion, depending on your taste for onions (I used two Vidalias)
3 large Bell peppers, any color (I used one each red, yellow and green)
4-6 fresh jalapenos, chopped, or more if you like heat
1 cup white wine vinegar
A bunch of cilantro, fresh or dried (since I was gonna be cooking it anyway, I used dried) to taste
1/3 cup honey
Juice of 2-4 limes
3-6 cloves garlic, crushed then chopped
2-4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2-4 tsp cumin
Salt to taste (or not at all)
You need about 15 medium-sized tomatoes: enough to make 4-5 cups of chopped tomatoes once they've been skinned and cored/seeded. Here's the easy way to do that. Even better if you have a kid around.
While you get a big pot of water boiling, fill a huge bowl, or your sink, with ice water. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water. Watch them, and when their skins start to split, take them out, and immediately plunge them into a bowl or sink full of ice water until they're completely cool.
Might as well take advantage of that already-boiling water, and give the peaches the same treatment. Only this time, you're not waiting for their skins to split--time it, and give them about 60 seconds. Do them in batches to avoid overcooking any (I think I used about 20 medium-sized peaches). The skins should be just slightly "loose."
After they've cooled, all you have to do is gently rub the tomatoes and peaches, and the skins will slip right off. This is a perfect job for a child who keeps begging, "Let me help!" but who you mightn't want handling giant pots of boiling liquids.
Yay, nekkid fruits!
Then the boring part: You get to core the tomatoes and squoosh out all the seeds, and pit and chop the peaches. Kids are good for the squooshing (and can just tear the cores out with their hands) while you handle the knife work on the peaches.
If your peaches are going to be sitting around for any length of time, go ahead and squeeze the limes over them and mix well, to keep them nice and bright. Otherwise, you can add the lime juice at any time.
This is the point at which you decide how chunky you want your salsa (and how much time you want to spend standing at a cutting board chopping stuff up--or slaving over a food processor, whatever). For presentation purposes, having everything chopped uniformly, and kind of chunky, is definitely the most visually stunning choice, because of all the colors. Personally, I like my salsa un-chunky. I wound up splitting the difference and chopping the peaches, but pureeing everything else. Any excuse to use my Kitchen Ninja. I love that thing.
Get it all in a heavy non-reactive pot (no uncoated iron, no aluminum), add your honey, herbs, vinegar, and spices, and cook it just briefly...bring to a boil and let it bubble for, say, 6 or 7 minutes. This is where you can adjust your seasonings, add salt, whatever.
All done! You can chill some to serve right away, package it in freezer jars or bags, or go ahead and process it to store in jars on the shelf, or even give as gifts (if you're insane). I know if you've never done it before, "processing" sounds scary, and you're afraid you're gonna give everyone botulism. But if I can do it, anyone can, and water-bath canning is not that intimidating. All it really is, when you get right down to it, is funneling your salsa into piping-hot sterilized jars (you can sterilize them in your dishwasher on the hot setting, boil them, or heat them in your oven), covering with a hot, sterilized lid, screwing on that ring, then placing the filled jars on a rack in a ginormous pot of boiling water for ten minutes. That's it. Really.
When you take your beautiful jars out and place them on a clean towel on your counter top, drying the tops, the best part soon follows...listening for that magical "POP!" that tells you you did it right. I love that pop.
Next post will be a quick, easy recipe for a fresh raw peach-tomato-cucumber salsa you can throw together in minutes, and WOW whoever you feed it to. You gotta try it.