BY AMY PENNINGTON
PHOTO BY DELLA CHEN
I started making this salsa at home when I overplanted tomatillos in the garden one summer and ended up with far too many. It’s an amazing garnish for stewed black beans and can easily be used as a dip for chips. Often, I’ll pour some in a small sauté pan and crack an egg in, effectively poaching the egg. It also makes a spicy and colorful stewing sauce for pork. With tomatillos as a braising liquid the meat will come out fork tender with a hint of heat from the peppers.
In order to make this salsa pantry-safe, acid should be added. Tomatillos, while a more acidic fruit, vary significantly and therefore do well with the addition of lemon juice. Store-bought lemon juice is the way to go as the acid levels have been tested, unlike in fresh fruits. Because there is so much lemon juice, this sauce needs time in the cupboard to mellow. If you want to make a fresh salsa verde, just omit the lemon juice and store in your fridge. The sheer versatility of the final preserve and ease of preparation make this a great one to try for a novice canner. It’s a tasty savory addition to any well-stocked pantry.
[twocolumns]Concord Grape Jelly
Makes about 6 half-pints | start to finish: 3 days
This recipe was not inspired by a glut of produce, but rather by the irrational need to have ‘real’ grape jelly. One smell of these fragrant grapes, and you too will desire it immediately. Concord grapes have thick, deep purple skins and smell just as they taste—sweet, floral, a bit earthy. The trick to keeping this flavor intact is slow cooking and patience. Grapes, by nature, do not contain a lot of pectin—necessary for a nice set to jellies. To supplement, lemon and apples (both high in natural pectin) are added to the pot, but only to macerate with the fruit. They will be left out of the final preserve. Also, this jelly is made in various stages, so while start to finish will take days, time spent in the kitchen each day is minimal.
4 pounds concord grapes, stemmed
6 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 lemon, juiced and rinds reserved
1 whole apple, quartered, skin intact
Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and set over medium high heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, until grapes start to soften and release their juice. Pull off the heat and cover, then set the covered pan in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, place the pot over medium heat. When fruit is warmed through, about 5 minutes, remove the lemon halves, first squeezing to release any liquid. Cook over medium heat 20 to 30 minutes until the apple is soft, but not falling apart. Remove apple quarters. Pour grape mixture into a food mill and turn until all liquid has been pressed from grapes. This is a labor intensive process, so don’t give up! All that juice is important. Grape skins and seeds will be left behind. Pour the mixture though a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, cover and set in the refrigerator overnight.
On the third morning, put a saucer in your freezer. You will use this later to check the set of the jam. Pour the grape mixture into a large saucepan, being careful not to allow any of the sediment from the bottom of the bowl to slide into your preserving pot. If desired, you can pour this mixture through cheesecloth to catch any sediment. Set the pot over medium-low heat and cook, stirring often to make certain you don’t burn the jelly. While jelly is cooking, start the water bath for your jars. Check the jelly set after about 30 to 40 minutes of cooking. To check the set, place a small spoonful on the cold saucer and let sit for 30 seconds. If the preserves wrinkle when pushed with your fingertip, jelly is set. If preserves do not wrinkle, continue cooking and checking the set every 5 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
Pour into preserving jars. Using a damp, clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars, and top the jars with lids and rings. Process in a water bath for 5 minutes. Remove each jar with tongs and let cool on the counter. Once cool, make sure seals are secure. Sealed jars may be stored in a cool dark cupboard for up to one year.
Makes about 2 pints or 4 half pints | start to finish: 1 hour
2 1/2 pounds tomatillos, papers removed
2 poblano or pasilla peppers
1 jalapeno pepper
1 medium red onion, outer skin peeled and sliced into rings
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cups lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss peppers and onion rings in olive oil to coat and place on a sheet pan. Roast in oven until charred and cooked through, about 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Add to bowl and cover to let steam and cool, about 20 minutes. Remove stems and seeds from peppers. Peel out skin of peppers. Roughly chop peppers and onions and set aside in a small bowl.
Meanwhile, cut tomatillos in half. Heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat until pan is hot. In dry pan, place tomatillos in a single layer, cut side down. Don’t move them around in the pan, just let them sit and get charred, about 8 to 12 minutes. When fully charred, add tomatillos to small bowl and cover to let steam until soft. Add garlic cloves to the pan and char in the same fashion. Continue charring tomatillos and garlic until all are cooked and softened through.
In bowl of a blender, add peppers, onions, tomatillos, garlic, cilantro, lemon juice and salt. Blend at low speed until all ingredients are just combined. Pour into preserving jars. Using a damp, clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars, and top the jars with lids and rings. Process in a water bath for 15 minutes for half pints, 25 minutes for pint jars. Remove each jar with tongs and let cool on the counter. Once cool, make sure seals are secure. Sealed jars may be stored in a cool dark cupboard for up to one year.