Last month, I wrote about my first experience canning, making Cathy Barrow’s (mrswheelbarrow.com) Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce, and how gratifying it was to make something that had a shelf life. Here in Santa Barbara, produce traditionally associated with the summer months — cherries, peaches, nectarines, etc. — began arriving in our Farmers Market a few weeks ago. Taking advantage of the abundance of stone fruits, and a steady supply of raspberries, I canned White-Peach Raspberry Jam last week. The recipe? Cathy shared the proportions of fruit to sugar to flavoring (Meyer Lemon juice in my case) via Twitter and off to the kitchen I went. My modest project yielded three jars of this pretty, not-too-sweet, floral-smelling jam, adding to this canner-in-training’s larder.
Matthew suggested I step up my game and give salsa a try. My primary concern was canning safety. After assuring me that cooked fruity salsas are straightforward — similar to jams and preserves — Cathy steered me to her Peachy Spicy Salsa recipe. I’m always drawn to fruit salsas, finding them versatile (a great accompaniment to grilled fish, for example), and complex in flavor — sweet and tangy with a beat or two before the heat kicks in. Cathy noted in her recipe that this salsa is equally satisfying made with a combination of fruit and tomatoes, which is exactly the combination I had in mind.
I know we’re ready for summer when Burkdoll Farms of Visalia sets up its stand at the Farmers Market on Saturdays. Last week, I filled a small bag with fragrant apriums (a cross between apricot and plum) and Brooks Cherries. This week, I couldn’t resist the yellow-and-blush Rainier Cherries and the heavy, red-and-orange nectarines.
I buy my plum tomatoes from Beylik Family Farms of Venture County, fourth-generation farmers who sell their produce from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles. One of the women who works at the market every week told me that plum tomatoes are her choice for roasting as well as for cooking salsa, so I bought a few pounds of the bright red, oval beauties.
While it’s best to set aside about two hours from start to finish for this salsa, all of the steps are straightforward. First, I filled my stock pot with water and set it on the stove to boil. This pot was used to sterilize the jars as well as process the jars of salsa after cooking. I put another pot of water on the stove to boil; this would be used to blanch the nectarines and tomatoes, making it easier to slip the skins off before cooking (after blanching, the fruit is quickly dropped in a large bowl of ice water, before peeling). While the second pot was coming to a boil, I did a rough chop on a peeled, large red onion and a red pepper, and removed the ribs and seeds from one jalapeno pepper (I opted for a mild salsa rather than a fiery one, so I used only one jalapeno). The Bug peeled garlic and picked cilantro from our garden, adding them to the food processor. She pulsed the vegetables in one-second intervals, stopping when she had a fine chop, but not a liquidy mix.
We mixed the fruit, apple cider vinegar, honey, a generous amount of cumin and a modest amount of cayenne in a large pot on the stove and added the onions and pepper mixture to the pot, cooking the salsa mixture at a simmer for 25 minutes. I ladled the hot mixture into half-pint jars, sealed them and then processed the jars for 15 minutes before removing them from the water bath to cool. A few minutes later, I heard one ping after the next, until it was clear all six jars had been processed successfully.
While I made dinner, we dipped salty tortilla chips in the cooled salsa and scooped up the sweet-and- tangy sauce with crunchy carrot sticks as well. The cumin and cayenne add a spicy warmth and heat to the fruity mixture, and we loved the piney, lemony flavors that the cilantro lent to the sauce. We’ve earmarked half of our batch for friends, which means The Bug and I will be back in the kitchen soon to make another variation — spicier, next time — of this versatile, flavorful salsa.
I’ve included my spin on Cathy’s recipe below. Here is a link to her post.
- 3 cups ripe nectarines, peeled, pitted and cut in ½-inch pieces (5-6 nectarines)
- 3 cups plum tomatoes, peeled and cut in ½-inch pieces (8-9 tomatoes)
- 1-1/4 cup red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers, ribs and seeds removed or intact, according to your taste (I used just one jalapeno, and removed ribs and seeds)
- 1 sweet red pepper, seeds and membranes removed, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, leaves removed from stems
- ¾ cup cider vinegar
- 4 Tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne (boost to ½ teaspoon for more heat)
- In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the nectarines for 30-60 seconds, depending on the size of the fruit. Do the same for the tomatoes. Have ready a large bowl of ice water. Remove the fruit and tomatoes from the hot water and drop it into the ice water, letting it rest in the water for a minute or two. Slip the peels from both the nectarines and tomatoes. Remove the pits from the nectarines and cut into a ½-inch pieces; dice the tomatoes in ½-inch pieces, too.
- Add the nectarines to a 5 qt. non-reactive pan. Add the cider vinegar, honey and spices and stir well. The vinegar will keep the fruit from discoloring.
- Put the onion, peppers, garlic and cilantro in the food processor and pulse until everything is cut up quite small, but not liquified in any way. (If you don’t have a food processor, chop by hand, but make sure the pieces are smaller than the pieces of nectarine.
- Add the chopped vegetables to the nectarine-and-tomato mixture and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring gently so the nectarines do not break apart.
- Put hot salsa into 6 hot ½-pint jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.