Saturday, January 26, 2013

Salsa- Cheap, Easy, Fresh and (oh-so) Good

My family LOVES salsa. My kids eat it as a snack with some chips. They'll eat it with quesadillas, tacos, nachos, fajitas and anything else they can imagine. Have you ever priced it? Usually a 12 oz. jar of a popular brand runs for around $2.50. That 12 ounce jar would last about a day in my house so keeping the kids in salsa could be a pretty expensive proposition. Once you get it figured out, it is actually quite easy to make, which is what I did. Now I make it by the gallon, yes literally, the gallon. Usually, if we are lucky, this gallon will keep the horde at bay for about a week. I figure the cost for a gallon of homemade salsa is about $4. That's a pretty good savings for me.

I re-use gallon pickle jars for storage of dry goods and also for a few other items like the salsa (read more about food storage here). Here is my recipe and keep in mind that we like it a bit spicy, but not burn your face off spicy. You can adjust to suit your tastes.

Into a gallon pickle jar add all of these items:

3- 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 quart jar of pickled jalapenos, roughly chopped to about a small dice. SAVE the vinegar juice
1 or 2 medium onions, diced
6 oz. apple cider vinegar
4 oz. dairy whey from live cultured product (kefir or yogurt)***
salt and pepper
3T garlic, either fresh or powdered (depends on your taste)
1T ground cumin

When all of these ingredients are in the jar, close tightly and shake (or you can stir) the contents until well mixed. You can add more vinegar or you can add some of the vinegar from the canned jalapenos if you find the salsa is too thick for your tastes. Be aware the jalapeno vinegar will add more heat to the salsa. Allow a day or two, three is better, in the fridge for the flavors to meld and come together. Adjust seasoning as desired. I apologize for the ambiguous recipe, but the taste is really subjective, so you really need to taste to get the amounts just to your liking.

A few notes and additional tips when making this:
Jalapenos- I either buy canned pickled jalapenos or I buy fresh jalapenos at the Spanish grocer, usually on the produce markdown rack. If purchased fresh wash and slice the jalapenos. I use enough so that when sliced they fill 3/4 of a quart jar. I then add to this 1/2 a carrot diced and 1/2 a medium-sized onion, plus 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Then, boil a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water. Pour boiled mix over the veggies in the jar. Cover and put in fridge for 3 days. They should be well pickled at this point and can be used. I have bought a bunch before and done this and they keep for months in the fridge. Read here for more tips on cheap produce.

Dairy whey- I get this from draining the whey off a batch of freshly made yogurt or kefir. The yogurt/kefir becomes a cream cheese like mass and the drained off whey is used for making fermented vegetables, baked goods or salsa. The cheese can be seasoned and used just like cream cheese. Why add whey? The whey acts as a preservative. The live cultures and the vinegars help to keep any bad bacteria and molds from taking hold and spoiling the salsa. Read here go get more info on kefir.

Garlic- You can use fresh garlic in this recipe but if you do, go light. A little goes a long way and we eat a ton of garlic a year, so believe me when I say to go light. The granulated garlic has a more subtle taste that doesn't over power the salsa, but flavors nicely.

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