September is a time for, to paraphrase that Greg Brown song, putting the taste of summer in a jar. This time last year we were swimming in tomatoes, bring flat after flat to market, and cheering on customers' work freezing, canning, saucing, and salsa-ing vats of red summer goodness. This year, it's a little bit different. We are still crossing our fingers and covering our rows in hopes of a September ripening pulse for field tomatoes, but this may not be the year of red salsa. But that's ok. This year, our tomatillos are booming and we have officially declared this to be the winter of salsa verde.
Funny story about salsa verde...I grew up in rural Oregon before the region had the benefit of much Hispanic presence and culture. Think Farm Bureau picnics stocked with 15 kinds of potato salad and corn on the cob; maybe someone got exotic and made the taco salad that included crumbled tortilla chips and ground beef cooked with chili powder over iceberg lettuce. So, I felt pretty worldly when my 7-th grade Spanish skills accurately analyzed "salsa verde" on the menu of the one Mexican restaurant in the area to mean "green salsa." But for years, I assumed it was made with green (as in un-ripe) tomatoes. I might even have tried making it that way once, with predictably not-so-good results.
I don't know exactly when I first learned that the key to good salsa verde was good tomatillos, or in which garden I first grew these sprawling, hardy, prolific little plants, but I do know that now I am hooked. Tomatillos are a relative of tomatoes, but grow to a smaller size, meaning among the things that they tend to ripen sooner, and will generally just keep popping fruits through the first few frosts. They offer a sweet-tart taste and texture that is so much better than un-ripe tomatoes, and I am always grateful for how tough they can be through fluctuating temperatures, watering, and often a good bit of neglect.
We have been selling small salsa packs at market with all the ingredients needed for a quick and easy fresh salsa verde to make and eat in small batches. As we head into fall, with cases of tomatillos piling up, it was clearly time to find a good recipe for folks looking to stock up and can (and we need to do some of that ourselves!). To keep yourself well supplied with local salsa through the winter, we recommend this simple roasted-tomatillo recipe published by Ball (the canning jar company). If you are freezing the salsa, you can play around with adding or substituting ingredients and altering the recipe with abandon. If canning, please stick with the recommended quantities, as this will give proper levels of acidity for safe preservation.
Roasted Salsa Verde Canning Recipe
makes about 6 pint jars of salsa
8 lbs tomatillos, husks removed
4 medium-sized white onions, each cut into 8 wedges
4 jalapeno, serrano, or Anaheim chilies
12 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup lime juice
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
4 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
- Preheat oven to 450 F. Arrange tomatillos, stem side down, on a large rimmed baking sheet or casserole pans. Place onions, peppers, and garlic on baking sheet or dish. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes or until garlic is softened. Remove garlic from baking sheet. Bake onion and tomatillo mixture 15 more minutes or until onion is tender and tomatillos and peppers are slightly charred. Remove from oven and cool slightly. When peppers are cool enough to handle, remove stems and seeds (can include seeds by putting them back into he mixture for a hotter salsa).
- Process roasted vegetables and garlic, in batchs, in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a large stainless steel or enameled saucepan. Stir in lime juice and remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
- Ladle hot salsa into a hot har, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band, and adjust to fingertip-tight. Place jar in boiling-water canner. Rep[eat until all jars are filled.
- Process jars 20 minutes (25 minutes for our altitude, if you are making this here in Hamilton). Turn off heat; remove lid, and let jars stand 5 minutes. Remove jars from water bath and allow to cool.
Enjoy through the winter as a salsa or an enchilada sauce!
Recipe from: The Best Ball Home Canning & Preserving Recipes, Spring 2016 edition