Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
My friend Jeanne Ritter agreed to share her secret salsa recipe with me, and for a decade or so we made salsa every summer. As we began to wind down in salsa-making energy (every other year, then every third), she agreed to let me publish the recipe, one that is worth repeating now because the tomatoes are GREAT this year.
I get my tomatoes from the Okagawa fruit and veggie stand at the Farmer’s Market – it’s best to order a box of tomatoes, which they will have waiting for you the following Saturday (or give them a call in Grand Junction). I get my roasted chili peppers from the stand next to city hall, roasted right there on the spot.
This is the recipe for one “batch,” which makes approximately 16 pints or 8 quarts of salsa. A box of tomatoes makes two batches. Canning jars are available at Alpine Hardware. Not absolutely essential but definitely handy (and inexpensive) is a canning pot, which is handy for sterilizing the jars beforehand and cooking the jars of salsa afterwards.
Step one is to cram your jars (16 pints or 8 quarts or a combination of the two) into the canning pot, with water 2-3 inches from the top (the jars do not need to be totally submerged), and boil them for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat; they will remain hot. Put the two parts of the lids in a separate pot of hot water, set aside.
Meanwhile, into your very big cooking pot, place the contents of a large can of tomato puree (sauce will not suffice), 1.5 tablespoons of salt, 1.5 tablespoons of garlic powder and 2 tablespoons of chili powder. It is a good thing to do this first, lest you wonder at the end if you put in the salt.
In no particular order, chop the following in a Cuisinart:
5 or 6 onions, peeled deep, chopped into quarters
8 cloves of garlic 3, 4 or 5 raw jalapeno peppers, seeded unless you have a death wish.
Add these, as you go along, to the pot.
Peel and chop VERY FINE, 6 roasted chili peppers with the red twisty on the bag, meaning HOT.
Peel and hand-chop into quarter-inch pieces, 6 or 7 Medium hot chili peppers, add to the pot.
Drop briefly into boiling water, core and peel half a box of tomatoes (20-25 depending on the size). Hand-cut them into bite-sized pieces.
As you’re nearing the finish of filling the cooking pot, bring the pot with the lids to a boil. They do not have to be sterilized, but must be hot. The idea is to have EVERYTHING hot at the point of canning.
When the cooking pot reaches a roiling boil (careful not to scorch the bottom, stir gently) you’re ready to go.
Get the sterilized jars out of the canning pot (do NOT throw out the hot water!), fill the jars leaving a half inch space at the top, clap on the lid and screw on the screw top. Repeat and repeat. Rubber gloves are advised for this operation.
To avoid watery salsa, strainers or slotted spoons may be employed, but you don’t want the salsa to be TOO dry, either. Experience is the great teacher.
Place the jars into the canning basket that comes with the canner – it holds seven jars, either quarts or pints. Lower the basket (you may have to bail) into the hot water, bring to a boil and boil for 45 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the jars.
If you have the stamina, repeat the whole process for a second batch, which goes much faster because you can chop everything while the first batch is cooking.
I know it sounds very labor-intensive, but once you have the equipment (you must train anyone receiving a gift of salsa to return the jar, so you only have to buy lids), you’re set. And it is so good.
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High Points: Now I don’t want to be an apologist for the Aspen Skiing Company, but to me $199 to ski the crown jewel of American skiing during the height of what is traditionally the busiest time of year is a total bargain.