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Homemade Salsa - A Summer Sensation

Homemade Salsa – A Summer Sensation

 

    Homemade salsa has become one of our many summer staples –joining watermelon, ice cream and strawberries as foods we associate with summer. Just a few years ago, salsa even surpassed catsup in popularity. Not only is salsa tasty, it's also nutritious. A two-tablespoon serving generally contains about 10 calories and 0 grams of fat plus ample vitamin C and other nutrients.

          There are many reasons to add tomatoes to your menu. Tomatoes, particularly in cooked products like spaghetti sauce, may reduce risk for certain diseases. Lycopene, a carotenoid pigment and powerful antioxidant, is responsible for the red color of tomatoes and protective effects. According to several research studies, lycopene may offer protection against certain types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer. Lycopene in cooked and processed tomatoes (canned salsa, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and spaghetti sauce) is more easily absorbed than lycopene from raw tomatoes. Lycopene absorption also is enhanced by eating some fat, like olive oil, in the same meal as tomatoes.

          When preparing salsa, always start with high quality ingredients. The quality of your end product is only as good as the quality of the starting ingredients. Fresh salsa can be made to suit your taste, so experiment with other ingredients. Some ingredients in fresh salsa, such as onions and garlic, store fairly well with little sacrifice in flavor. Other ingredients, like tomatoes, peppers and cilantro, are best used as fresh as possible.

          Any salsa recipe can be safely frozen, but slicing tomatoes will produce salsas with a more watery consistency. Follow research-tested recipes and procedures if you plan to can salsa.

          Making salsa is a great excuse to put that food processor to work! Use it to puree half or all of the tomatoes in your recipe (many people prefer to keep some of the tomatoes chunky).  A food processor can also make short work of herbs and garlic; you should toss these ingredients into the processor before you add the tomatoes.

          For most other ingredients, chopping by hand gives more control over the size and shape of the pieces--and the finished product will look nicer. Dice the onion by hand though: food processors tend to pulverize the onion, releasing so much juice that the flavor becomes overpowering.

 

 

          The type of tomato used will affect the quality and texture of salsa. Paste/Italian tomato varieties such as `Roma' will produce a thicker salsa, while slicing tomatoes will yield a more watery, thinner salsa, particularly if you freeze the salsa. Or for a thicker salsa, use a recipe such as the one below which includes tomato paste.

 

 

Tomato Paste Salsa

 

Yield: 16 pints

 

3 qt. tomatoes, peeled and chopped

4 c. green peppers, chopped (about 2 large bell peppers)

12-oz jar jalapeno peppers (in vinegar, drained)

1 c. long green chilies, seeded and chopped (about 3 chilies)

3 c. onions, chopped (about 3 medium)

3 c. celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 12-ounce cans tomato paste

2 c. bottled lemon juice

1 Tbsp. salt

1 c. sugar

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

 

          Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue boiling for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot salsa into hot pint jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims. Cap with properly pretreated lids. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

 

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