Tomato envy

This week, I am remorseful that I didn’t stick a tomato plant in a pot a few months ago. There’s nothing quite like plucking a tomato right off the vine and slapping it onto two pieces of bread with some bacon and lettuce. Yum!

But this year I didn’t get a tomato planted, so I have to rely on our local farmers market producers for my tomato stash. At the moment, there’s a small pile of red fruits sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting to be turned into a batch of fresh summer salsa.

At this time of year, we consume at least a batch of salsa a week. It’s become a challenge to see if I can make a batch that Bryan will admit is hot. To my taste buds, each batch seems spicier and spicier, but I think his taste buds are desensitized to the heat. At a recent farmers market, one of the vendors handed me a pepper that he guaranteed would make it plenty hot. My fear is that if I finally make it hot enough for my husband, I won’t be able to consume it at all.

It’s been a few years since I’ve shared my fresh salsa method – it’s much more a method than a recipe, as it can be changed up to suit personal preferences or what you have on hand. For instance, I like to use the fire-roasted variety, but any canned tomato product could be substituted, including the Rotel tomato-pepper blends. You can cut down on the sweetness by reducing the amount of brown sugar. Bryan and I aren’t cilantro fans, so I put in chopped fresh basil instead.

I have a Magic Bullet blender, which is easier to get out of the cupboard and clean up afterward than the bigger appliance, so I usually process the tomato base in two batches.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

In a blender, combine one 16-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, 2 scant tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and one or two (depending on heat preference) dried or fresh red chiles. Blend until smooth, then pour into a large covered bowl.

Seed and dice four (or more, depending on size) tomatoes and one small onion; add to tomato puree. Based on personal preferences, you can also add finely chopped red or green pepper, jalapeño pepper, canned green chiles, cilantro, parsley or other herbs. Experiment and see what you like.

I know those people out there who DID plant more than one tomato plant this year are looking for ways to preserve the bountiful harvest that has finally begun following such an uncommonly cool summer. I happened upon this canned salsa method, which yields a chunky end product. If you also have an abundance of chile peppers, this will use up some of those, too.

Chunky Tomato Salsa

Seed, core and coarsely chop about 16 medium tomatoes to yield about 15 cups of tomatoes; place in large colander and let drain for about 30 minutes.

Place drained tomatoes in a 7- to 8-quart heavy pot; bring to a boil and reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, for about 1½ hours, stirring occasionally. Add 2 cups seeded and chopped fresh Anaheim or poblano peppers; ½ cup seeded and chopped fresh jalapeño peppers; 2 cups chopped onion; ½ cup lime juice; ½ cup vinegar; 1/3 cup tomato paste; 5 cloves garlic, minced; 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and crushed; 1 teaspoon salt; and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Return mixture to boiling; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Stir in 3 cups grape or cherry tomatoes (any color), quartered; and ¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro. Remove from heat.

Ladle hot salsa into hot, sterilized pint canning jars, leaving a ½-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes. Remove jars and cool on racks. Makes 5 or 6 pints.

On the heels of tomato season comes apple season. I’m putting together a feature page of apple recipes and would love your input. What’s YOUR favorite apple recipe – tried and true or new find? Please, please, please consider sharing! Recipes can be emailed to brickers@dglobe.com; or sent via regular mail to Beth Rickers, Daily Globe, Box 639, Worthington 56187.

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