Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Preserving the Harvest and Canning Tomatillo Salsa

This year, I've had the luck of happening into cucumbers and tomatillos for free.  (These kinds of things sometimes happen when you live in a rural area.)  So, I immediately set about preserving them for use.  I love green salsa, so getting a bunch of tomatillos was a huge windfall.

My own tomatillos are still blossoming, which makes these excellent enough to create a salsa I can enjoy now.  When my four tomatillos produce fruits, I'll be able to make some more.  Or maybe I'll just use them in one of my Mexican-type dishes.

Waterbath Canning

Of all the canning, waterbath canning is probably the easiest and cheapest to accomplish. Basically you need a waterbath canning pot and canning jars, lids, and rings. The important thing is to have a canner that works.  The cheapest is the stovetop variety.  It sits on the stove filled with water and you put your filled jars covered with the lids and rings and boil the water for the prescribed amount of time plus any time extra for higher altitudes.

I live at about 4000 ft, which requires me to process roughly an extra 10 minutes.  This is because at higher altitudes, water boils at lower temperatures. The lower temperatures cause cooking to take longer, and since you're pasteurizing when your waterbath can, you're trying to hit the magic time of 161 F throughout everything to ensure there are no nasty microbes in your food as well as heat the jars and lids enough to make a firm seal. This article gives you the times you need to use as well as an explanation as to why you must increase the time.

As I said, most waterbath canners are the stovetop variety, but Ball has created a nifty electric type that will plug in like a crockpot. I kind of like that, since it doesn't take up a burner.

The Recipe and Notes

In the past, I've used a recipe a farmer gave me.  I still defer to parts of it, but I mostly use Ball's Tomatillo Salsa recipe.  The recipe that the farmer gave me was basically tomatillos, lemon juice, salt, garlic, and cilantro.  With the Ball recipe, I will substitute lemon juice for the lime juice and sometimes the vinegar.  I eliminated the onions. If I don't have hot peppers, I'll add Tabasco's jalapeno sauce. If I'm out of garlic, I'll use granulated garlic powder.  In the past, I did not use cumin.  This year, I tried some cumin, but I'm not sure if I will continue using it in later recipes.

Be sure to use fresh lids (you can reuse the rings and jars) and wash them thoroughly.  Lots of recipes say to sterilize the jars, but in most cases that's not needed because you'll be getting rid of the bad bugs when you process the food in the canner.  Plus, you'll never get the food sterilized.  If you're really concerned, boil the jars in the canner.  I usually keep the jars warming in the canner anyway to avoid breakage, which when they're exposed to that much heat pretty much kills off any pathogens on the jars.  I pour hot water on the lids to keep them warm so they don't have issues when I get the canner fired up.

I had so many tomatillos, that I doubled the recipe and still ended up with six and a half pints.  Sometimes you just get that. So, I have a bunch of green salsa which is awesome.

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