This is one of my favourite times of the year. I hate that the nights are getting longer and the days shorter. I hate that the weather is getting cooler, but I LOVE all of the fresh produce that I can buy from my local farmers. I love making my family nutritious and delicious foods. It's funny because every fall I turn into Mother Earth. I want to put down stores for the winter. I want to can everything in sight (sometimes this is successful and sometimes not so much).
Half of my family love salsa (heaven should forbid that everyone should all like the same thing and make life easy). For my salsa lovers I buy jars of salsa at the store. I pay around $4.00 a jar, and it does two snacks. My guys like it, but I have no idea what is in there. I know that it is probably full of sodium and ingredients that I can't even pronounce. I always think about what a healthy choice "that could be".
This year I drove past Loghrin's vegetable stand, and saw the big beautiful baskets of tomatoes for sale. http://themiddleagedwomanwholivedinashoe.blogspot.ca/2013/08/the-loghrin-family-vegetable-stand.html It occurred to me that maybe I could attempt my own salsa again. I have tried unsuccessfully to make salsa in the past. I feel like I should clarify this last statement, the making of the salsa was successful, it was the canning that was unsuccessful. I had looked proudly at my beautiful jars of salsa. They looked so pretty. I was so excited about all of that beautiful salsa. I envisioned giving it as Christmas gifts in lovely baskets, very Martha Stewart. A week or so after I had made the salsa, Christopher came upstairs from the basement (where I felt like preserves should be stored), he looked shell shocked. In his hand he held a half of a glass jar in shards. "Your salsa exploded." He just had this shocked look on his face. "The jars that didn't explode are full of this gross looking white mould." I wanted to cry. All of that hard work for nothing.
This year when I announced to Christopher that I wanted to make salsa, his face took on a distant look, and his voice seemed far away "Are you sure you want to.... remember what happened last time?" I like a challenge, it was full speed ahead. My family would not get botulism from this batch, oh no!
I began to wash my tomatoes while the water in my dutch oven began to boil. I had purchased the "canners". "Canners" are the tomatoes that are just as good as the pretty ones, but well, not very pretty, like the ugly ducklings of tomatoes. I was not going to be admiring them, they were getting peeled and chopped up.
Carefully I dropped my huge and imperfect (o.k. they were really ugly) looking tomatoes into the rolling water. I watched them as their skin began to crack. As they cracked I quickly plucked them out of their hot bath and put them into a bowl in the sink filled with cold water. I had this really great feeling of accomplishment as I looked at those bald, vulnerable looking tomatoes.
I peeled the skin off all of the tomatoes. Who knew that the acidity in tomatoes would burn your hands? I peeled and peeled until I had a whole bunch of skinless tomatoes all lined up, ready to be chopped. I chopped the tomatoes into large pieces because my plan was to make an extra chunky salsa. I then chopped up my green peppers, and onions. I took great delight in grating my garlic in. That gorgeous garlic was a gift from our friends Glenda and Troy Flieler. I love the smell of fresh garlic. The ingredients all cooked together, looking lovely, and smelling even better.
One hour later there was salsa. I ladled off the water on the top (those were watery tomatoes). I boiled my jars, carefully ladling in my chunky salsa. I put the hot seal onto the top of the jar and carefully tightened that lid on, using a tea towel to hold the roasting hot jar. My counter top was lined with the hope of salsa. I had made sure to set aside a sampling for Christopher to try. The sample met with his roaring approval. Although it met with Christopher's roaring approval, he was trepidatious. What if this batch wound up like the salsa of years ago? What if this Salsa exploded? We watched and waited, day by day. Every day I would peek at the top of those jars, no mould, no explosions. At the end of the week Christopher opened up a bottle, desperate to try it.
HE DIDN'T DIE OF BOTULISM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That batch of salsa was a huge success! With one batch under my belt, I decided to go for the gold. I made three more batches. Loving the feeling that I was putting down stores for the winter (who am I kidding, I will have to watch them like a hawk. First opportunity, they will wipe out my glorious supply of salsa). I know that the snack that my kids and husband will be enjoying is really good for them. I know the people who grew the food that my family was eating (well not the brown sugar or white vinegar). This salsa was not just a dip, oh no it was a triumph of the human spirit! O.k. triumph of the human spirit may be a little overly dramatic, but I do feel really good about my salsa. I feel really good about what is going into my family.