Sunday, August 22, 2010

Open quickly...I'm burning up in here

Salsa is the Spanish word for sauce, but the food predates the Spaniards by many centuries. The history of Salsa sauce originated from the Inca people. Salsa (combination of chilies, tomatoes and other spices) can be traced to the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas.  Aztec lords combined tomatoes with chili peppers, ground squash seeds and consumed them mainly as a condiment served on turkey, venison, lobster, and fish. This combination was subsequently called salsa by Alonso de Molina in 1571.

Did you know that tomatoes are a member of the: Nightshade (Solanaceae) family of flowering plants, many of which are edible, while others are poisonous (some have both edible and toxic parts). The name of the family comes from the Latin Solanum, “the nightshade plant.” Other edible members include capsicum (the chiles), Chinese lanterns, eggplants, garden huckleberry, ground cherry, naranjilla, pepinos, peppers, potatoes and the tree tomato. One thing that sets these nightshades apart is their alkaloid content. Alkaloids are harmful nitrogen compounds which, in high quantities, are toxic, causing nausea, diarrhea with vomiting and headaches. In extreme cases they lead to unconsciousness and convulsions to the point of respiratory paralysis. That’s why the tomato was considered poisonous by Europeans and not eaten for 200 years following its discovery. Alkaloids exist in tiny, non-harmful quantities in the nightshade foods we eat. Tobacco and the petunia are also members of the family, as well as the Datura or Jimson weed, the mandrake and the deadly nightshade or belladonna.

So, now that we have roughly 50,000 tomatoes on the vine the thought of fiery homemade salsa to carry us through the cold days of winter is a warming thought.

Making salsa is a task. The cooking down is what takes so long. Then, of course, you have to process the jars to make a seal.

Here is the recipe I used can adjust the "hotness" of it by adding more jalapeno peppers.

Traditional Salsa

7 cups diced, seeded, peeled , cored tomoatoes (about 5 lbs.) I do not peel them. I do take the stems out and take the seeds out. Then I run them through the food processor to get whatever "chunkiness" you want.

6 green onions, sliced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced (yeah right!  I used a half a dozen or so!)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs. minced cilantro
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vinegar, 5% acidity
2 tbs. lime juice
4 drops hot pepper sauce

Combine all ingredients in large saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. 

Carefully ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe jar rims clean. Place lid on jar with seal next to glass. Screw band down evenly and firmly just until a point of resistance is met-fingertip tight.

Process in boiling water 15 minutes. (make sure the water is up over the jar by 1 inch)

Makes about 4 pints. (if you are lucky)

Bring on the tortilla chips!

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