Southern Cookin' Makes You Good Lookin'

Random Rantings about Food and Such

Plum Crazy Salsa

Remember the old Pace Picante Sauce commercials?  “This stuff was made in New York City!  NEW YORK CITY?!  Get the rope.”  Love that!  Well, at my house, the best salsa comes from…West Virginia.  Eek!  I know, i know.  My Texan ancestors are turning over in their graves.  Have to put a caveat on the previous statement.  The folks in this house who say that it’s the best salsa are also very prejudiced.  Very.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that i’m getting to where i can different batches of salsa so that everyone gets what they want.  For Michael and Stef, it’s not super hot and more pureed than chunky.  For Ash, i make what i call “Bam!”  Habanero hot.  She likes the glaze to melt off the dishes when the salsa touches them.  So, anyway, back to salsa.  We were in dire need.  The last jar had been gone through and i’ve been waiting for the maters to get to the point where there were enough to start salsa production for the year.  One of the things about living in WV versus down South–it takes a lot longer to get tomatoes each year.  (Insert heavy sigh.)  BUT…batch number one made its debut today!

I have a standard salsa recipe that i use because it just works.  Now, as i said, i tweak it to match the tastes of my family but it’s the same basic recipe.  Today, we did something a little different.  What a shock, huh?  Yeah, yeah.  I may not be the most stimulating conversationalist but you can’t accuse me of being a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to the kitchen.  Back to business.  Today’s cast of characters totally changed the look of the salsa we usually have around here and a comment from the cashier at Orr’s Farm started my evil recipe-tweaking brain to thinking.

Here’s what we had.  Yellow tomatoes.  Yup, those are tomatoes, not peaches.

Purple bell peppers.  Aren’t they gorgeous?

Jalapenos–sorry, they were the standard green color–and what i think were Blushing Beauty bell peppers.

 And here’s where we took our walk on the wild side–plums, basil and Greek oregano.  Yep.  Seriously.  Oh, and i used part apple cider vinegar with the white vinegar and applesauce instead of tomato paste.  :0)  Guess what?  It turned out good!  A slightly fruitier sweetness to it than the traditional.  And an interesting color too.  Not what you expect from salsa.  I’m going to include the standard salsa recipe and today’s Plum Crazy Salsa before i forget how i did it.  Because i will.  Forget, that is.  Salsa is a little time consuming, but, children, it is worth your time.  Forget that stuff from New York City.  Unless you live in New York City and then you’ll have to come up with your own thingy.  Maybe you could say, “West Virginia?!  Get the rope.”

Traditional Salsa

36 medium tomatoes, skinned and chopped

4 green bell peppers, diced

3 large onions, diced

2 cans (12 ozs) tomato paste

1 3/4 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1 medium sweet red pepper, diced

15 garlic cloves, minced

4–5 jalapenos, diced (the fewer seeds you leave, the less heat)

1/4 cup canning salt

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. hot sauce

Cook tomatoes over medium heat, uncovered, for twenty minutes.  Drain, reserving 2 cups liquid*.  Return tomatoes and reserved juice to kettle.

Stir in all other ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for one hour, stirring frequently.

Ladle into sterilized, hot jars, leaving 1/4″ space at top.  Process in water bath for 20 minutes.

Yield: 10 pints

*I use my “leftover” tomato stock to use in place of water to cook a Mexican-style rice or when cooking beans.

Plum Crazy Salsa

28 medium yellow tomatoes, skinned and chopped

8 medium plums, skinned and chopped

4 purple (or green) bell peppers, diced

2 tsp. onion powder

6 ozs. applesauce

1 cup apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup white vinegar

3/4 cup cane sugar (Sugar in the Raw) or white or brown sugar

3 Blushing Beauty or other small sweet peppers

1 1/2 Tbs. minced garlic

2 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped or 1 Tbs. dried basil

2 Tbs. fresh Greek oregano or 1 Tbs. dried oregano

4–5 jalapenos, diced (the fewer seeds you leave, the less heat)

1/4 cup canning salt

Same drill.  Cook the mateys and plums together before draining and adding the other goop.  Stir and cook, stir and cook, stir and cook.  Process.  Done!

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Peach Salsa and Raspberry Chipotle Sauce

I can can.  You can can.  Everybody can can.  So get on your petticoats and your black stockings….

No!  Not that can can.  You can can food!  I’m serious!  It’s true.  Yes, you can.  You can can.

I was fortunate to grow up watching Mama and Granny can all sorts of things but didn’t actually try it on my own until i was in my thirties.  While we lived in Kentucky–where you can find some wonderful apple orchards–i made apple jelly.  Didn’t have all the canning paraphernalia that I have now but you really can make do with things around your kitchen.  A couple years ago i resumed canning and have gotten rather fanatical about it.  It can be time consuming but it’s also very rewarding!  On that note, i’d like to share with you two recipes that i’ve made in the last 24 hours that are perfect for first time canners.  Unlike jams and jellies that you have to worry about “setting up” (in other words, jelling!), these are very simple.  I’ll explain the canning terminology as we go.

The first recipe, Peach Salsa, is very easy to do and looks so beautiful with the variety of colors!   It would make a wonderful gift.  Your biggest obstacle is cutting up the fruit and veggies.  Once you’ve done that, it’s just a matter of throwing everything into a large pot, like a stockpot or Dutch Oven, and cooking.  After it’s cooked, you’ll fill your jars (which you’ve sterilized either in the dishwasher or by cleaning and filling with boiling water.)  You’ll wipe off the rims, just in case of spillage, and place canning lids and rings on them.  You’ll need to have sterilized the rings and lids as well (after washing, i toss mine into a pot with water and get them to a low boil.)  If you have  a canner, that’s great.  If not, get the largest pot you have and fill it with enough water that, once you submerge your jars, their lids will be covered by an inch of water.  Get the water to a rolling boil and add the jars. After a set time (10 minutes at my altitude; 5 for  very low altitudes and 15 for very  high), your jars have been processed.  I let the jars sit in the canner for an additional 5 minutes after turning off the heat.  When you remove the jars, they’ll need to be placed on a wooden surface or on a towel on a hard suface.  It’s also best to leave them for 24 hours.  If you want your jam/jelly/sauce/etc for later that day, just put some in a bowl or container and refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it.

It may sound a little daunting but i promise with these two recipes, you’ll get the hang of it in no time!  I’m rooting for you!  And if you don’t want to try the whole canning bit but do want to try the recipes, skip the pectin in the Raspberry Chipotle Sauce and just scale back the ingredients to make a batch that is more manageable for you.

Peach Salsa

6 cups peaches, diced

1 1/4 cup red onion, chopped

4 jalapeno, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup white vinegar

2 Tbs honey

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. cayenne

Simmer ingredients together for 5 minutes.  Pack into jars and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

Raspberry Chipotle Sauce

5 cups mashed raspberries

2 tsp garlic

2 Tbs. chipotles in adobo sauce (can be found in cans in the Hispanic section of the grocery store)

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

3 cups sugar/Splenda/other sugar substitutes  (I did half and half)

1 box fruit pectin

Crush berries.  Puree chipotle peppers with garlic and vinegar.  Mix pectin with 1/4 cup of the sugar (this helps keep the pectin from clumping when added.)  Mix berries, chipotle mixture and pectin in a large pot.  Cook on medium-high to high heat until it reaches a full boil.  Add remaining sugar and boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Fill jars with sauce and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

*Note:  This does have a bite to it, which i think is wonderful, but if you like things a little less hot, you might cut back a little on the chipotle.  Also, if you’re unable to get raspberries locally, you could try frozen berries or substitute fresh strawberries.

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Blueberry-Lime Jam

Don’t you just love colorful, inventive, descriptive names?  The name of the jam is pretty straightforward (although the taste isn’t!); but the name of the blueberry farm which was the source of  the blueberries is not.  Frog Eye Farm.  Isn’t that funny?!  Beautiful place too.  Stephanie’s BF Paul doesn’t live too far from it and he said he never knew it was there.  One of those places you have to look quickly to see the sign or know to look for it.  I”m including the website because 1) locals may want to check it out (20 varieties of blueberries and it was full when we were there) and 2) the owner asked us to tell folks and we promised we would.

We easily picked 22 pounds of gorgeous fruit which meant a lot of berries to be dealt with when we got home.  Half of them are now frozen or shared; the other half became six–yes, six–batches of Blueberry-Lime Jam.  That will eat up several hours of your day, but, honey, is it worth it!  By now you’re tired of me ranting about jams but this one is delicioso too.  The lime helps cut the sweetness and gives it a little tang that’s surprising and wonderful.  The recipe only yields 6 half-pints/3 pints, so you’ll probably need to make more than one batch, especially if you share. :0)

Speaking of frogs…my Grandaddy Smith had a saying that i assume he got from his Scottish-born father that aptly fits this jam: it’s “Fine as Frog’s Hair!”  This prompted Ashley to say we need to come up with “Frog In A Blender” Jam.  Don’t get too alarmed–that’s strawberry and lime.  We’re thinking, folks, we’re thinking!

Blueberry-Lime Jam

  • 4 1/2 cups blueberries
  • 1 package dry pectin
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  1. Crush blueberries one layer at a time.  Combine crushed blueberries and pectin in a large saucepot.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  2. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Stir in grated lime peel and lime juice.  Return to a rolling boil.  Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.
  3. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head-space.  Process 15 minutes in a water bath.
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Dark Cherry Almond Conserve

Heavens above!  Just when you think it can’t get any better, POW!  Right in the ol’ kisser.  Our dear friend Jewel had more cherries than she wanted to deal with and very kindly shared.  The girls had already eaten a couple gallons, i think, but we did manage to save some to can.  In my never ending search for all things cool sounding and unique, i ran across a recipe for Dark Cherry Almond Conserve.  Cherry plus almond equals yummy in my book so this was a must try.  Oh, honey!  Let me tell you!  We had planned to make two batches and then try to make a cherry salsa but after one taste it was “Salsa Shmalsa!  Let’s make three!”

This really is an easy recipe to do except for one thing…it’s the pits.  No, really.  Pitting the cherries is the longest part of the putting it together (of course all the stirring and the time of the water bath process are lengthy but you expect that.) Fortunately  my canning buddy, Ashley, was there to help and we listened to an audio book of “The Silver Chair” from the Chronicles of Narnia.  Plus we had two kitty Muses (or Mews in Ninja’s case–that kitten likes to talk!) to inspire us.

We were only able to get 3 pints out of each batch so this stuff is going to be hoarded big-time!  Trust me, though, it is worth every penny and every minute.



Dark Cherry Almond Conserve

3 cups pitted cherries, about 1 1/2 pounds (we used sweet cherries)
1/2 cup  lemon juice
1/2 cup tart dried cherries (substituted dried cranberries)
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 box fruit pectin
4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup lightly toasted sliced almonds

Place cherries, lemon juice, dried cherries, water and allspice in a 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottom saucepot. Add pectin.

Place over high heat and bring to a FULL ROLLING BOIL (a boil you can’t stir down), stirring constantly to prevent scorching.  Stir in sugar and, as soon as the full rolling boil takes place again, start timing and cook jam for 4 minutes.  Immediately stir in the extract and toasted almonds.

Remove from heat and fill jars. Process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes (with this method jam will keep for up to 1 year stored at room temperature), or cool and refrigerate jam for up to 3 months.

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Strawberry Jalapeno Jam…cha! cha! cha!

Now some of you are thinking, “Is she insane?”  Possibly.  Quite possibly.  Given my family tree, my spouse (did i say that?) and the world we live in, who’s to say?  But when it comes to this jam, I say “Noooo.”  (You Tim Hawkins lovers know exactly which comedy bit i’m eluding to.)  Think Sweet and Spicy.   Smooth and Fiery.  Penelope Pussycat and Pepe LePew.

The naysayers are thinking, how could this possibly be used?  Imagine a block of cream cheese nestled on a nice serving dish surrounded by a ring of crackers.  Now imagine said cream cheese smothered in a beautiful, vibrant red glaze.  You slather a tasty-but-rather-plain cracker with the creamy, sweet, but spirited concoction and voila!  Your mouth has suddenly become a party zone.  It’s also wonderful on wraps, as a glaze for meats, and yes, I’ve even tried it with a peanut butter sandwich.  And i liked it.

This is the recipe I used so I know it works, but it’s not diabetic-friendly.  I’d be happy to share my Strawberry Jam with Splenda recipe with anyone and would bet you could add jalapenos to it and have favorable results.

Strawberry-Jalapeno Jam

  • 4 cups crushed strawberries
  • 1 cup minced jalapeno peppers
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 (2 ounce) package powdered fruit pectin
  • 6 cups white sugar
  • 8 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
Boil strawberries, jalapenoes, lemon juice, and pectin in a large saucepan over high heat. Once simmering, stir in the sugar until dissolved; return to a full boil and cook for 1 minute.
Pack the jam into hot, sterilized jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the top.  Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any jam. Top with lids and rings.
Process in a water bath for ten minutes.  Turn off heat and allow jars to remain in pot for five additional minutes.  Remove jars and place on towels or a wooden surface (I invert jars for 10 minutes to insure that they seal.)  Wait for 24 hours and check lid to be sure it has sealed.