It started out innocently enough. My brother-in-law, returning from New Mexico, called to ask if we wanted a bag of chili peppers. He had more than he could use. I pondered whether Tammy Wong’s salt and peppers recipe could be adapted to use Hatch chilies instead of cayenne peppers. In the meantime, our CSA box had yielded two dozen tomatoes that we dutifully lined up on our kitchen counter while we decided their fate. Pan bagna sandwich? Tomates à la Provençale? Summer orzo salad?
It didn’t take long to realize the obvious solution, the one that would use both chilies and tomatoes: salsa.
Off we went to the St. Paul Farmers’ Market to buy more tomatoes — 30 pounds — (“Bring the box back next week,” the farmer called after us) and some onions. And some more chilies. Upon returning home, weighing it all out on the kitchen scale, and doing some arithmetic to calculate how many pounds of chilies goes with 30 pounds of tomatoes, we dashed to Whole Foods for more chilies.
What happened to all our pint jars from last year? Given as gifts, apparently. Off to Frattallone’s Ace Hardware for more pint jars (note: Wide-mouth jars take more room in the canner; go for the regular-mouthed jars). No time for an excursion to Fleet Farm, our preferred source for canning supplies, this is just a quickie canning project! Round up our canning supplies, the essential disposal surgical gloves, jar lifter, lid lifter, and plastic ruler (to measure head space). Run the jars through the dishwasher while seeding peppers; blanching, skinning, and coring tomatoes; and chopping, well, everything. Our biggest vessels, the water bath canner and our pressure canner, would both be in use, so we combined the chopped vegetables, vinegar, salt and pepper in the orange, five-gallon beverage cooler from which we serve lemonade at backyard barbeques.
We set a big pot of water on the stove to boil for sterilizing jars and a small pot of water to sterilize lids and bands. We used our giant pressure canner as a water bath canner.
After four batches in the canner, nine hours of shopping, chopping, washing, boiling, and re-washing, we are 32 jars of salsa richer.
(yields 32 pints)
30 lbs tomatoes
6 lbs onions
6 tbsp salt
12 lbs chile peppers
6 c (5%) vinegar
1 tbsp pepper
32 pint jars, lids (must be new), and bands