August 13, 2012 — Catawba River District Voices

These dog days of summer actually put me into a frazzled state of mind.  There’s so much to get done in the garden as we prepare for the fall crops, but all the while trying to preserve summer’s produce for winter eating.

Tomatoes are a biggie around our house and I try to can or freeze them as much as possible. Sometimes it’s hard to stand over a pot of salsa or sauce on a 100-degree day. One trick I’ve found is to freeze the tomatoes now and then … later in the fall when you feel like getting back into the kitchen … make the salsa or sauce with those frozen veggies.

Tips for freezing tomatoes

To freeze tomatoes, select firm, ripe tomatoes and plunge them into hot, boiling water.  After 2 minutes transfer them to ice water. When you can touch them without burning yourself, you should find the skins pull back easily from the flesh of the tomato. Once the skin is off, core the tomato and put it in a freezer bag. I try to get about 10 in each quart size bag before placing them in my freezer.  It’s easiest to lay the bags down flat on a shelf so that you can stack them on top of each other. Pull a bag out later in the year to make your tomato product.  It’s like money in the freezer.

I’m sharing a canning salsa recipe from my friend, Veronica. It’s not as tomato pasty as one’s I’ve used in the past. If you want it spicier, just add more jalapenos. Or use bolder peppers such as habaneros or ghost peppers.  Just be careful!!

Veronica’s Salsa

30-35 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

4-5 bell peppers (any combination of green and red)
10 cups of chopped onions (use a food processor!! Even with that I was crying up a storm)
10 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped jalapenos
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups vinegar
2 tsp. pepper
8 tsp. pickling salt or sea salt
2-3 small cans of tomato paste
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Simmer for 1/1/2 hours, stirring often to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pot. If you like cilantro, add 1/2 cup chopped at the end of the cooking time. Ladle salsa into sterilized pint-size canning jars.  Attach lids and process in a canner for 35 minutes.  This recipe makes anywhere from 12-16 pints depending on the size of your tomatoes.

Pass the chips and enjoy!

First time canning? Cooperative Extension Service can help you

The NC Cooperative Extension Service is a great resource for many home and garden activities, including how to can all kinds of fruits, vegetables and meats.
Proper food preparation is crucial to ensuring that your canned produce keeps safely for a long time.
Earlier this summer both the Mecklenburg and Gaston Cooperative Extension offices offered classes in hot-water canning needed for Veronica’s Salsa.
Fortunately you also can get easy-to-follow instructions anytime at the Extension Service website. You also can find out about all sorts of courses available throughout the state.