tomato bliss

The garden has set  a new record. It’s the 24th of October and I’m still (gleefully) processing tomatoes. Canned, roasted, frozen, dried, you name it. I’d say I’m almost tired of them, but I know better than that. In the height of the tomato frenzy, my friend Michael came for cocktails, bearing with him our regular delivery of fresh goat cheese and milk. If I recall, that week’s delights included feta, chev, and queso fresco. Michael hand crafts these amazing cheeses with milk from his herd of 20 some dairy goats in Herbster, WI. I am plain giddy to have this incredible cheese and milk produced just up the shore from me. But, back to the tomatoes. Since September my kitchen has been a war zone of chili peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos. So the rows of salsa laden jars lined up like soldiers and the pressure canner canner on the counter sparked an unusual cocktail conversation topic for us – botulism.

I love my Montgomery Wards, No 7-16 Magic Seal pressure cooker. I consider it one of my prized possessions – which I have my mother to thank for. She scooped it up for a song at an estate sale years ago. I’ve never been a fan of the vinegary tasting salsa that boiling hot water baths yield. Which is where my love affair with the Magic Seal comes in. It absolves my salsas of vinegar and lemon juice – and hopefully botulism. The problem is that it is nearly impossible to find salsa and chutney recipes developed specifically for pressure canning. Which has left me to crossing my fingers and winging it. Armed with the 1950’s era recipe book that came with my canner as my guide, I have created a handful of recipes that I feel fairly confident will not kill anyone. Still, Michael brought that little lingering question of doubt that lurks in the back of my mind to the forefront, forcing me to scour the internet once more for some “approved” pressure canning recipes. Turning up empty handed yet again, I put the latest batch of salsa away in the pantry with a slightly raised eyebrow. But they have to go somewhere, I rationalize.  I need the counter space for the next basket of tomatillos waiting to be turned into salsa verde.

My favorite, and less riskier way to make use of these late season tomatoes is roast them.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

I cut the small to mid-size tomatoes in half and quarter the larger ones. I put them in a single layer, skin side down on a heavy baking sheet. I then drizzle them with olive oil, followed by a second drizzling of honey (probably a couple of tablespoons of each I’d guess). Topped with some sea salt, ground black pepper, and if I’m feeling really fancy, some fresh thyme leaves scatted about. Then I roast them pretty much all day in a preheated 200ºF oven. I check on them everyone and a while, but for the most part I just let them be. Once they look gooey and caramelized (anywhere form 4 to 8 hours) I take them out and let them cool before bagging them for the freezer. Not of course without eating several spoonfuls fresh. For an even more savory tomato treat, I accidentally discovered the merits of baking them on a roasting sheet that had previously cooked the Sunday morning bacon. Oh my. These gems got a special asterisks on the freezer bag and will be used to flavor rich soups and stews this winter. The rest of them will go on pizza, into sauces, or be eaten on a good chunk on bread with a smear of that delightful chev.

And although it is probably a little late in this year’s season for canning, here are two salsa recipes – one tomato based and the other a tomatillo hot sauce – that I have made and pressure canned (without incident!) for years. But since I am not a USDA food science specialist, and nor can I find any concrete information to back up my recipes, I can’t in good conscious tell you to do the same. I can say however, that these are perfectly safe for the freezer! But for those of you with pressure canners who know what you are doing, I’ll just mutter under my breath 15 minutes at 10 PSI. I stress that any sort of canning (hot water bath or pressure) is not something to take lightly. Being quick, sterile and conscientious is critical at every step. Don’t mess around. Period. I highly recommend investing in a copy of the Ball Blue Book – a thick magazine like book available for about 8 bucks. In addition to loads of recipes it has very thorough instructions for both hot-water and pressure canning.

Thirteen Pepper (plus one more) Salsa

10 pounds of high quality tomatoes
1 pound onions
3 tablespoons salt
13 serrano peppers
1 small habeñero pepper
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and dried

Bring a large stock pot of water to boil. Carefully drop in the tomatoes and let simmer for about a minute. Pour off water and let the tomatoes cool until you can comfortably handle them. Slip off their skins, remove any core and cut the tomatoes into fairly large chunks. I do this right over a colander so any excess seeds and juice drain away. As the colander fills up, drain off as much juice as you can and empty the tomatoes into your cooking pot (I use a stainless 6 quart). Once all the tomatoes are chopped and in the pan get them simmering gently, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, chop the onions and add to the tomatoes along with the slat. Continue to let everything gently simmer, stirring occasionally. I use my trusty Cuisanart food processor to chop my peppers. I remove the stem with a knife and roughly chop them before whizzing them up – seeds and all. If you prefer a more mild salsa, you might want to remove the seeds and ribs from some or all of the peppers and omit the habeñero. I would recommend donning gloves for this job. Pulse the peppers to your desired size. A spoonful of tomatoes from the pot will help this process if you want to get the pepper chunks particularly small. Add the peppers and chopped onions to the tomatoes and simmer until you reach your desired consistency. Depending on how much time I have I will sometimes cook them down a bit for a thicker salsa, or, if I am short on time, I settle for a slightly thinner salsa. Both have their merits. Bring the mixture to a good boil and stir in the chopped cilantro just before putting it in jars (or freezer bags). Yields about 6 to 7 pints, depending on how far you cooked it down)

Dragon’s Milk Hot Sauce
(also known as “AH·HOO·AH” Sauce – a sound that my father coined and is often times involuntarily emitted through one’s lips after eating)

3 pounds high quality tomatillos
2 – 3 medium onions
4-6 cloves garlic
1 small organic lime (juice and zest)
15 hot peppers (I use a variety – jalepeños, orange thai, chillipeños, hot wax, etc.)
5 – 25 habeñeros
1 tablespoon salt

Peel the husks from the tomatillos and arrange them in a single layer on one or two baking sheets. Roast them in a preheated oven at 325ºF for about 25 minutes. I like them oozy and a little bit charred here and there.While the tomatillos roast, you can begin preparing the peppers. (Again, remove the seeds and ribs if you like, but bare in mind that you are making hot sauce after all). Using a food processor or blender, whiz the garlic, lime juice, lime zest, and peppers together. You can also puree the onions in this mixture, but I prefer larger pieces of onion in the finished sauce, so I add them directly to the cooking pot. Once the tomatillos are roasted you can begin dropping them into the puree and pulsing to your desired consistency. I like a fairly smooth hot sauce. The tomatillos will be hot and juicy, so take care not to get spattered. Start transferring the mixture to your cooking pot (I use a stainless 6 quart) when the processor gets full. Once everything is processed to your liking and all in the cooking pot, bring it to a simmer. Add the onions if you haven’t done so already. Bring it to a nice hot boil before jarring (or freezing). Yields about 5 to 6 half pints (since this is hotter and people generally tend to use less of it, I preserve it in smaller portions)

* You can also turn this into a more mild mannered tomatillo salsa by cutting way back on the hot peppers. I think the habeñeros contribute the best flavor, so I would use 4 or 5 seeded peppers total.

3 Responses to “tomato bliss”


  1. 1 Kim Inson February 20, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Actually I just have a few questions about your canner because I just received one today and it has no instruction manual. It’s different from my Presto and there is no info. on this canner on the internet. Hoping for some answers if you have a few minutes to e-mail. Thanks!


  1. 1 gussy up! « Garlic Pig Trackback on November 8, 2010 at 10:35 pm
  2. 2 bacon symphony « Garlic Pig Trackback on April 13, 2012 at 11:21 am

Any Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s





%d bloggers like this: