Saturday, August 14, 2010

Salsa Canning Session

We held our annual Salsa Making Workshop here today - of course it was a hot and humid day as it usually is when food canning takes place!  The heat of the day is just breaking now with a late evening thunderstorm, and I'm heading out to the back porch shortly to cool off in the refreshing rainy night air.

For the workshop we used a very tasty and simple Spicy Salsa Recipe from Bernardin's website, which included loads of fresh jalapenos, dried chilies soaked and pureed into a paste, minced garlic, red onion, and cilantro.  Bernardin, for those of you who may not be familiar, is the major name in Canada for most of the mason jars, canning lids, pectin and other canning supplies - and these products are usually found in grocery stores or the local hardware shop.  They also have very thorough resources and recipes related to all manner of food preserving (i.e. jams, jellies, pickles, sauces, salsas, chutneys, etc).  Other books I recommend are "The Busy Person's Guide to Canning & Preserving", and "Small Batch Preserving"

A few quick canning tips:
- always start with high quality fruits and vegetables
- when reusing mason jars, always check for chips or cracks
- second hand stores can be great locations to find mason jars or even canning equipment 
- never reuse the lids, though rings can be used multiple times unless they have rust on them
- follow your recipe regarding ingredients, acidity, and processing times (in particular tomato products need enough vinegar and/or lemon juice to bring up acidity to a safe level)
- if using heirloom or low acid tomatoes make sure to adjust the acidity levels by adding enough lemon juice
- sugar in fruit canning or jams helps retain colour, texture and sometimes flavour of the fruit, but can be substituted with honey or left out entirely (depending on what you want your finished product to look like)
- a wonderful low sugar pectin like Pumona is available and still allows the fruit to gel properly
- crunchiness in pickles can be helped by adding grape leaves, oak leaves or black currant leaves to jars, plus scraping away the "blossom" end of each cucumber
- always check that your finished jars have sealed before storing!

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