Thursday, July 25, 2013

Smaugs Smoking Hot Salsa!

Hello!  It has been too long since my last post.  Sorry about that.  With the holidays, work, being sick, and my poor time management skills it just didn’t work out.  Then believe it or not, after the holidays things got even crazier!  But I do have something delicious for you today!  And I guess I am inadvertently sticking with The Hobbit/Lord of The Rings theme because today I bring you Smaug’s Smoking hot Salsa and From the Fires of Mount Doom Salsa.  This is what we gave most of the family for Christmas.  Money is tight this year, and honestly what a better gift than food!  Everyone needs food!  I couldn’t believe, as my husband and I are buying all of the ingredients for two batches of salsa, the sweet little cashier goes “wow…what are you guys making?”   “Salsa!  It’s our Christmas gifts this year”
She looked up at us with this look on her face like we just told her we were hobbits “Wow, I’ve never heard of anyone making their own salsa before”
ARE YOU KIDDING?!  It’s one thing to have never made your own, it is a bit of work, but never heard of anyone doing it?  Wow, bafflement (yeah, I said bafflement).
Then she says, this year is the first year she has heard of anyone making food as gifts for others for Christmas.  She had a guy earlier that day who was making banana bread (Yum! Feel free to send me some for Christmas next year!  Or any time really)
She was so bewildered, we were bewildered at her bewilderment. (why do I keep adding -ment to everything? Too much eggnog!)
So here it is folks.  I got this recipe from a lady at work, but because it’s pretty much impossible for me not to mess with things, I changed it up a bit!  (I have learned by this point though, to trust my instincts, when I do follow recipes to a T ((what the hell does that even mean!?)), they never turn out as well as when I use the recipe as a guideline)

16 Medium to Large tomatoes
3 cups Chopped Onions
4 green Peppers
2 Tsp. Black pepper
2 Tsp. Garlic Powder
3 Tsp. Cumin
2 1/2 Tbsp. Salt
2 1/2 Tbsp. White Sugar
1/3 Cup White Vinegar

For a mild sauce: use 5 Jalapenos or 1 Habanero with seeds removed

For a medium sauce: use 2 Habanero peppers including seeds and/or 10 whole jalapenos
For a Hot sauce: use 3 Habaneros with seeds and/or 15 whole jalapenos

You can feel free to play around with these ratios.  if you don't like the taste of jalapenos so much, put in less.  You can use fresh or the jarred ones.  I used the jar and it turned out delicious.  

Start a large pot of water on the stove on high, put a lid on to boil faster (or two if you want/can/wish/yougetthepoint)
As that is working its way up to a boil, grab your veggies and give them a good wash in cold water.  Then take your tomatoes and with a good pearing knife, cut out the stem.  Don’t just chop the green off.  Down underneath the stem is nasty stalky stuff.  So dig down, at an angle around the green about half an inch, I take it and go around the green in a circle with the knife.  Then pull it out.  You can feel the stalky stuff with your finger.  If you still feel some, cut out a bit more.  Not the end of the world if you don’t get it all, it’ll most likely be boiled into oblivion anyway. Just easier to get most of it out now.  Grab a slotted spoon, something wide enough and with enough scoop that you can easily grab a tomato.  Set up an ice bath, I like to put my bowls right in the sink, a bigger bowl underneath with cold water and ice, then a strainer in the big bowl, all set right into my sink, less mess! Hopefully by time you’ve washed and got your ice bath set up your water should be boiling.  Take a few of your prepped tomatoes and toss them gently into the pot, watch for splashback, it hurts.  Soon you’ll develop a technique, it’s hard to explain though, you’ll get it though, or you can use a spoon to gently lower them in.  But I prefer doing it like jumping into a pool JUST JUMP! Catch them by surprise.  Now that they’re in the pot, don’t run away just yet, you’re needed shortly.  You can watch it, as if by magic, the tomato skins will split.  I like to give it a minute to split in multiple places, 
Like So

Grab your slotted spoon, pull them all out, and dump them in the ice bath.  

Now toss a few more in, repeat until all of your tomatoes are split and have had a turn in the ice bath.  The skins almost peel themselves.  Congratulations you have now successfully blanched tomatoes.  You have hit your first save point!

Next you'll peel and dice the tomatoes.  The skins on most of them will fall off with one gentle pass through your hand.  Sometimes a little bit will get stuck on, I just peel it off with some help from a paring knife.  

They look kind of creepy like a bowl full of alien eggs or something...I don't know, But I do know they feel weird too.

Now run them through with your knife,  It's okay if they're different sizes.  I think this gives the salsa more texture.  But dice to your preference, if you like more of the restaurant style salsa you'll probably want to dice them pretty small and not drain them so much for a saucier runnier mix.

I like to put mine in a strainer after they're diced with some salt on top and let them drain just a bit.  

While they're sitting, gather the rest of your veggies, green peppers, onions, jalapenos and habanero's.  I suggest doing the jalapenos and habanero's very last as the spice seems to get into the air and make it pretty spicy in the kitchen.  You can dice everything as large or as small as you want. 

After about 10 minutes of draining, toss the tomatoes into a pot and put on the stove, bring to a boil for 10 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer. 

   Simmer for at least 20 minutes.  If at this point it looks delicious to you! Go ahead and begin your jarring and canning (if you have never canned before, please do some research as some recipes - salsa in particular can be a bit risky to can up due to ph levels and all kinds of fun stuff. I really never knew there was such a science to it!) 

I let mine simmer for a while longer.  This batch went for about two hours, it looked like this.

This was somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes.  We made the mistake of tasting it now...and we probably ate about a pint as it was cooking alone. But goodness it was deliciously addicting!

This is at about two hours.  The colors have gotten much duller but the flavor is pretty spectacular!

This is when I started my canning process.  When in doubt cook it less the first time, next time you can play with it more.

Here is our finished product!  We divvied everything up into jars and each family got one of each flavor.  

We attached a small card on top to make sure they all know that it could be pretty spicy for some people. But if you're not a huge fan of spicy you can always tone it down with a fresh tomato or two. I enjoy spicy but this is super good when you add in a diced tomato! It brings in a fresher flavor that is just awesome!
I would recommend trying it both ways!  

I hope you guys enjoy this recipe!  It did take quite a bit of work and time in the kitchen but find a friend (or in my case, my very best friend - my husband) to help and it makes it even more fun and spreads the work load out a bit!
The family enjoyed it and I sure hope you will too! 

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