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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Fire Roasted Peach Salsa

Fire-roasted Jersey Peaches - peaches from Schober Sons, Inc
With the Farmers' Market Season hitting stride, we are seeing a lot of fabulous produce and fruit coming to the stands.  I opened my refrigerator to grab my lunch this morning, and I looked like the inside of the old fruit trucks that used to traverse the streets of my old South Philly roots - it was chockablock full of good, fresh-picked and local food.  I even have stuff from my boss' garden and mother-in-law's garden.  Local to NJ, Amber, PA and Bethlehem, PA.  When I have this much stuff, it makes me want to a) eat healthier and lighter; b)preserve; and c) make salsa!
Roasting all the ingredients makes this salsa have a deeper and smokier taste
There is a foodswap coming up this weekend in Hammonton, NJ, organized by my friends at The South Jersey Swappers, I wanted to create peach-themed foods for our Peach Festival in Hammonton.  Last week I put up Peach and Tomato Chutney.  This week I've created a sweet, tart and kicky peach salsa, sure to liven up meals and snacks.  I fire roasted all of the vegetables and the peaches.  The only thing that didn't hit my grill were the cilantro and limes- heck I could have done the limes too come to think of it.

You can can, freeze, or just refrigerate this salsa.  It's twice cooked, so it will hold for a week.  Frozen, this will hold for months.  Canned, it holds for a year, in a cool dark place.  Once a can is opened, refrigerate and use within a week or two.  I can in smaller jars, so the salsa never lasts long.

This batch has a real fiery kick because I upped the amount of jalapenos to the mixture.  In years past, I've lamented that I haven't had enough spicy/hot peppers and never enough cilantro.  This time, to yield 4 pint jars, 8 1/2 pint jars and 2 small sample, 4-ounce jars, I used three very large-ish jalapenos, 6 limes and three bunches of cilantro; one was a large bundle and then I added in two smaller bunches.  My wish came true. This salsa batch has the sweet and the heat I was looking for.  The recipe is a variation of others I've posted, like my grilled mango salsa, or my fresh peach salsa cruda, or the standard, garden salsa.  One could say, I really love salsa.

This recipe will yield about 3-4 pints total.  I essentially tripled the amounts for my canning.  I like to cook by the seat of my pants. You can chop everything by hand but this takes a while.  I prefer to use a food processor and pulse my ingredients, CAREFULLY! Leave some chunks; you don't want a puree of everything, otherwise you are making gazpacho!
Charred and blistered - onions and Peppers from various
Collingswood Farmers' Mrkt vendors as well as from my mother-in-law's garden

Fire Roasted Peach Salsa Ingredients:
Tomatoes- Viereck Farms

  • 4 Plum, Roma or even Jersey Tomatoes - cleaned, grilled and seeded. cut into small dice
  • 2 or 3 Fresh Ripe Peaches - Cut in half, pit removed; grilled, then small dice (keep the skins on for color)
  • 1 Pint Cherry, Grape or Sun Gold Tomatoes - optional (I used them because I had them and they added more sweetness to the salsa) - kept whole, do not grill
  • 1 Medium Onion - grilled and small dice
  • 2 Medium Bell Peppers (red or green) - grilled, then seeded and cut small dice
  • 1-2 Small/Medium Jalapeno - Grilled; CAREFULLY remove ribs and seeds and cut into small dice (for hotter salsa, keep the ribs and seeds intact)
  • 1 Medium Bunch Scallions - whites and greens; grilled and small dice
  • 3 Garlic Cloves - grilled then minced
  • Zest and Juice of 2 Limes - zest finely grated
  • 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
  • 1and 1/2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin
  • 1 Cup or 1  Bunch of Fresh Cilantro - loosely packed; cleaned and roughly chopped
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper - to taste
  • Hot Sauce - 4 Dashes or to taste

All the pureed/chunked Veggies and
the seasonings
  1. Preheat a grill or a grill pan to high heat.  Clean all your vegetables and fruit but keep everything whole, except the peaches.  Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits.
  2. Place the vegetables and peaches on the grill, EXCEPT THE CHERRY TOMATOES (if you are using them); char everything until you achieve blistered peppers, charred, but not burnt, onions, scallions, jalapenos, tomatoes, peaches, and if you can, grill the garlic cloves.  A grill wok or grilling basket is helpful, if you have it.
  3. Set everything aside onto sheet trays and cool all the vegetables until they are cool enough to handle.
  4. Peel the charred skin off the peppers, being careful when you peel the jalapenos.  Do those last, because the seeds and membranes will burn your hands!
  5. If using a food processor, add in the vegetables, one kind at a time and pulse, keeping most of the ingredients chunky.  
  6. Add all the chopped or pureed/chunked ingredients into a a large mixing bowl.  Rough chop the cherry tomatoes. If chopping by hand, dice all the vegetables as indicated adding each diced vegetable and fruit to the mixing bowl as you cut them - the tomatoes through the cilantro.  Add everything to a large stockpot and cook, bringing the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and bring to a constant simmer.
  7. Add in finely grated lime zest and juice, vinegar, cumin, and cilantro, stir to combine.  Stir occasional to keep the mixture from scorching.
  8. Season to taste with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper and the hot sauce. Cook for at least 1/2 hour, or longer if you are canning the mixture.  When canning, I let the salsa cook while I prepare my jars, so the salsa cooks for an hour and a half, at a low simmer.  The longer the salsa cooks, it reduces the water content, concentrating the flavors.  Cook for no longer than two hours.

  9. CANNING STEPS: Purchase pint or half-pint jars with bands and lids. Wash canning jars, lids and bands in hot soapy water.
  10. Dry bands and set aside. Place cleaned jars and lids (but not the screw bands) into a large stockpot of water. Bring to a simmer – 180º and maintain at 180º.
  11. Carefully remove 1 jar at a time and ladle hot salsa in to hot jars, leaving ¼-inch head-space. Keep the food contents below the rim of the jar, using the top portion of the jar as your guide.
  12. Wipe jar rim clean with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  13. Place lid on jar with sealing compound next to glass. Screw band down evenly and firmly until a point of resistance is met – fingertip tight.
  14. Continue filling jars until all the salsa is used.
  15. Process the filled jars for 15 minutes back in the water-bath stock pot, then let the jars sit for 5 minutes, off the heat, in the water-bath.
  16. Yields about 4 pints.
  17. To double or increase the recipe, make sure you adequately increase the vinegar ratio. The acid is needed to act as a preservative. If you are using larger jars, such as quart jars, increase the time by 5-8 minutes for the water bath portion of the canning process.
  18.  Remove jars from the water-bath and set them on a heat-proof table, undisturbed.  Jars should seal and you will hear a popping sound within a few minutes of being removed from the water-bath.  If a jar doesn't seal, meaning if you press down on the top of the jar and it springs back up, then that jar isn't sealed properly.  Refrigerate any unsealed jars and use the contents within one week.  Let the jars sit for up to 12 hours to cool down.  Once the jars are cool, label, date and store in a cool, dark place.  Use within one year.  Once opened, refrigerate and use within 1-2 weeks.

This recipe is so easy, fresh and fast and can be made as hot or mild as you like.  For more canning tips, see my salsa canning entry from several summers ago here.
  • If you make a large batch of the salsa and you don't want to can it, it can be made as a cruda or a raw/fresh salsa.  Just grill and chop the ingredients, put everything into a bowl and let sit for 20 minutes or longer for the flavors to develop.
  • Quick cook the salsa according to the directions and then add the finished product to a 3 or 4 quart sauce pot.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, keeping the salsa at a low simmer.  Cool the salsa and taste and adjust the seasonings - vinegar, lime juice and salt and pepper as needed.  The cooked salsa will hold for up to 1 week.
  • The salsa can also be turned into a gazpacho.  Puree all but a quarter of the salsa in a food processor or blender, until the mixture is thoroughly pureed but not perfectly smooth.  Add back some of the reserved salsa to the puree and serve cold, immediately.  The gazpacho will hold for up to 2 days.  At the third day, it may start to ferment.  If it tastes "off' or "fizzy" it's time to toss it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Peach and Tomato Chutney

I cannot believe it's taken me a year to post this chutney recipe.  Last year, when I was working at Sur la Table, my very first class was a canning class.  We made two types of fruit preserves (sweet) and a tomato chutney (savory).  I liked all the recipes a lot, finding them all to be easy to follow and fool-proof - perfect for a novice level class.  The recipes impressed me so much that I made all of the recipes at home; one I made that same day.

Over the course of last summer, as the fruits came and went from the farmers' markets, I experimented with the tomato chutney.  I made the original recipe, which was super simple and had only a handful of ingredients and seasonings.  Then, me being me, I tweaked the chutney just a tad, adding in some onions, cutting back the sugar, and once, when I was gifted a gallon bag filled with heirloom tomatoes, I made a new batch - a once-in-a-lifetime batch that probably cannot be duplicated.  Cest la vive.

This year my tweaks include using first of the season Jersey peaches, early-season plum and grape tomatoes, red onion, green onions/scallions, and one of my own homemade curry blends.  I can successfully report that the tweaks work and that you will be able to whip up personalized batches of your own tomato chutney.  It'll be sweet, tangy, tart, jammy, tomatoey, and good.  This is great on sandwiches, on hamburgers, with grilled meats or fish, with a nice piece of grilled tofu, along side a cheese board (it's great with bleu or goat cheeses), or straight out of the jar, on a spoon, as a dip or snack!

The Collingswood Farmers' Market has several great fruit vendors, I picked up a 1/2 quart of small peaches for $7 - yielding around over 28 peaches! Quite a deal.  Tomatoes were a good price too,  $3 for a quart of grape tomatoes and under $4 for several pounds of plum/Roma tomatoes.  When I did my market shopping last weekend, I spent a total of $40 on all of my produces and fruit, and that included buying Nate a muffing from Springdale Farms.

It really is best to use fresh ingredients, from local, trusted farmers, while the produce is in peak season. The taste is fresher, sweeter, with none of the off-tastes or flavors that you get from tomatoes and peaches trucked in from hundreds of miles away, gassed to ripen and then chilled to keep fresh.  If you're using supermarket produce, you pay more per jar of preserves and it won't be worth the taste in quality.  Do yourself a favor, get out to one of your local markets or make friends with someone who has a lot of produce to share from their garden!

Equipment Needed:
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Cutting Board
  • Chef and Paring Knives
  • Canning Jars, bands and lids
  • Canning - Water-bath Pot
  • Jar lifter
  • Spoons
  • Ladle
  • Spatula
  • 8 quart sauce pot
  • Pot holders
  • Towels, wash cloths
Peach and Tomato Chutney Ingredients:
  • 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil - or other neutral, light oil
  • 1 Large Red Onion - peeled and medium dice
  • 1 Bunch Scallions - thoroughly cleaned, use whites and most of the greens - small dice
  • 2 Tablespoons Freshly Grated Ginger - if using a microplaner, there's no need to peel the ginger, just grate it
  • 2 Tablespoons Curry Powder
  • 3 Pounds ripe Plum or Roma Tomatoes - washed, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 quart Cherry or Grape Tomatoes - washed
  • 1 - 2 Pounds Fresh Peaches - skins removed, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon or 1/2 Cinnamon Stick
  • 1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

  1. Wash and prepare all the vegetables, dicing, chopping, mincing, etc. and set aside. To peel the skins off the peaches, wash them, then cut an "X" onto the top of the peach.  Place the peaches into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds, then remove the peaches with a slotted spoon. Plunge the peaches into an ice-water bath or run cold water over them.  The skins will slip right off the peaches once you handle them.
  2. In a 8 quart sauce pot (stock pot), heat the tablespoon of oil over medium high heat until the oil shimmers, then add in the diced red onions.  Saute the onions until they become translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add in the chopped scallions, stirring to combine and saute for another minute, then add in the minced ginger and the curry powder. Stir and saute for one minute longer.
  4. Add in the tomatoes, peaches, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, salt, sugar and vinegar.  Stir the mixture to combine and bring the mixture to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture until it becomes thick and jam-like, reducing down in volume.  Take a wooden spoon or a potato masher and crush the tomatoes and peaches until they break down and become chunky.  Cook the chutney for 1 1/2 hours over low-heat.  The chutney can cook while you prepare your canning jars and water-bath. video
  6. Prepare your water-bath canning pot by filling it with water and bringing the water to a boil.  Prepare and sterilize your canning jars, lids and screw bands.  Dry the band and set them aside.  Place the lids into a small saucepan and cover with water; place saucepan over low heat and bring the water to a bare simmer. Put the jars into the waterbath pot to sterilize while you prepare your chutney mixture.  The water should be at a simmer, with a few bubble popping up now and then.
  7. Process the jars: Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars, one at a time from the water-bath, carefully pouring the hot water out of the jar and back into the pot.  I use a beer-cozy to wrap around the jars as I fill them, to keep my hands from burning.  
  8. Ladle the hot chutney into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch-headspace (keep the ingredients below the screw-band line inside the jar).  Remove any air bubbles in the jar by sticking a chopstick down the side of the jar.  Fill all the jars, then carefully wipe off each jar with a damp paper towel to remove any reside or spills.
  9. Place flat lids and bands onto jars, tightening each band to just finger-tight.  Return the jars to the water-bath pot, making sure that they are covered by hot water by 1 inch.  Bring the water back to a boil and process for 15 minutes.  When the timer is up, allow jars to sit 5 minutes in the water-bath with the heat off.  Remove jars and place onto clean dishtowel and do not disturb or dry off.  After 2 hours, check to see if the lids have sealed.  You should hear a popping sound within a few minutes after removing the jars from the water-bath pot.  Press down on the center of the lids to see if the lid gives.  If it makes a clicking sound when pressed, it hasn't sealed.  Refrigerate any jars that haven't properly sealed immediately.  Allow jars to cool up to 12 hours before storing.
  10. Processed jars that have properly sealed should be stored in a cool, dark place and kept for up to one year.  Label and date all your jars - this way you'll know what' in them, and when it was made.  Once a jar is opened, use the contents within 2 weeks.  
  11. Yields 10 - 8-ounce jars or 4 pints.  I put my batches up in smaller jars, using the 8-ounce jelly jars and a few 4-ounce jars for "samples" at foodswaps or when I want to share with someone at work. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Salsa Contest at The Collingswood Farmers Market

The first Salsa Contest was held at the Collingswood Farmers' Market took place, this past Saturday, July 9th, and it was a hot hit.  There were over 20 entries of salsas, with categories ranging from Traditional Red, Fruit, Verde, Salsa Cruda (Uncooked), and Freelance Vegetable.  I was invited to be one of the judges, among the group of Collingswood Farmers' Market "bloggers".  Eight of us were in attendance as judges, including Collingswood Restaurant, TheTortilla Press Chef/Owner, Mark Smith, as well as Christine Clarke (The Coveted Kitchen); Natalie Winch, (Food Empowerment; Donna Hutchinson, (My Tasty Journey); Susan Lynch‘s daughter (Yellow Room Upstairs); and Alan Fishman, Longtime Friend of the Farmers’ Market.  Also joining us to sample/judge and declare a winner, was Ryan Harrison, owner of Preservation Gourmet Foodery, from just up the road in Westmont, NJ.  All of us got our chips ready and eagerly scooped into the salsas.  

Collingswood Board Co.'s donated skateboard,
the Salsa Board!

Winners in each category were awarded Collingswood Farmers' Market cash, ribbons for their placements, and the grand prize winner won a hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind skateboard made and donated by Collingswood Board Co., appropriately named, The Salsa Board!  This skateboard, made by Lee Ballauer and Erin O'Donnell, was a most coveted prize.  We had several "skate-punks" enter the contest, eager to win this board.

Grand prize tally board
tally board
It was a tough competition in some categories, the salsa cruda and the fruit salsa categories were the most popular, having more than five entries in each.  For the salsa cruda I was very taken with Jersey Gina's "Spechie Freshie Salsa", one that reminded me of a Texas "Caviar", which was a multi-bean salsa with diced vegetables and tomatoes.  Another bean and vegetable salsa won third place, created by James Smith.  He called it his Summer Sweet Salsa. He and his wife both took home ribbons for winning entries!  

There were several family team entries, including team relatives Debbie and Nick, who each submitted their salsas in different categories. Nick's was a fiery red Traditional Red, and Debbie's, Saucy Muffin Salsa, was a Salsa Cruda that incorporated capers and kalamata olives, making it a unique mediterranean sauce.  Another mother and son duo, Karianne and Luke Lindner,  entered a peach salsa, called, "The Babe Salsa", into the fruit salsa category.  Even judge Ryan Harrison's mother, Gina Harrison,  got into the mix - entering her salsa on the down-low.  Son Ryan had no idea his mother was a participant - making sure there was no nepotism!

Ryan Harrison, of Preservation Gourmet Foodery,
with his mother, who unbeknownst to him, entered into the contest!

Cody's Mango Salsa
Other younger contestants were impressive with their offerings as well as their cooking skills. Outstanding in the fruit category was Cody W's, Monroeville Mango Salsa, made original by his use of a splash of balsamic vinegar to add a sweet and tangy note to his salsa.  He took first place in the fruit category and 2nd over-all in the grand prize judging.  Cody is a Farmers' Market long-time vendor family.  Many Friends of the Market have watched Cody grow up over the years.

Lindsay, Coley with son, Caesar, and Cody.
Coley's Strawberry
and Avocado Salsa
One of my favorites for the fruit salsa was my friend, Coley's, salsa, a strawberry and avocado salsa that was tangy, sweet, unctuous and for me, addictive.  It was the kind of salsa that would be one of those ever-evolving creations all spring, summer and fall, changing with the seasons as fruit comes in and out of ripeness.  Coley's salsa took third place in the fruit category. I didn't know she had entered the contest - which was a good thing, I wasn't  making a biased choice when I voted her salsa as my over-all favorite!

Most of the judges took their time, shoveling, um, I mean thoroughly enjoying all the entries multiple times so that I could be sure of the ones we enjoyed best!  Some salsas were clear winners to me, while others were so nuanced that I had to re-taste to discover new sensations.  I took copious notes, and I think I was the last judge to submit my votes.  In the end, while we had strong opinions and divergent ideas on who should take the category prizes; our votes were tallied and the winners were announced.  Some clear winners, some as no surprise, and others were called in a tie-breaking run-off.  We had to have two run-off votes!  All the judges were tied again, so we split the salsa cruda contest first place entry between two offerings  splitting the prize.  The Fruit Salsa offerings also had a tie for first place, but Cody's Monroeville Mango Salsa won in the tie-breaker, leaving Lindsay's pineapple salsa to take 2nd place.

Sunshine Urbiniak's Summer Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Grand Prize winner and Salsa
Verde winner, Sunshine!
When we got to the grand prize judging, the winner was clear, Sunshine Urbiniak's, Salsa Verde entry was deemed the best.  Gorgeous to look at, piquant, tangy, and mildly spicy, this green salsa tinged with tomatillos, cilantro and red onions was the forerunner of all the entries from all categories.  
Salsa Board winner, Sunshine Urbiniak with her son, and their new
Collingswood Board Co. skateboard

Here's how the winners stacked up:

Salsa Cruda

  1. Nicole C's - Jersey Fresh Salsa
  2. Gina Harrison's Spechie Freshie 
  3. James Smith's - Susies' Sweet Salsa 

Fruit Salsa
  1. Cody W's - Monroeville Mango Salsa
  2. Lindsay T's - Pinacasalsa - tied for 1st (I loved her presentation, putting the salsa into a pineapple "boat" for serving! Bonus points for that Lindsay!
  3. Cole M's - Summer Sweet Salsa
  1. Sunshine Urbiniak's - Salsa Tomatillo Salsa Verde
  2. Lindsay Wettstein's - Verde Salsa
Traditional Red
  1. Nick C's - iConnick (which was an amazing fiery red salsa with a great kick!)
  2. Barbara W's - Smooth and Sassy 
Freelance Vegetable - only one entry!
  1. Sarah's - Spicy Surprise (which was the use of carrots and cucumbers; would have made a fantastic gazpacho!)
Grand Prize Winner
  • Sunshine Urbiniak's - Summer Tomatilla Salsa Verde
Getting to be a judge for the first ever-salsa contest was a lot of fun.  I could see how this is a coveted job.  With the season of fruits and vegetables beginning to hit the peak of freshness, I am looking forward to making and preserving a lot of salsas, as well as my other canned specialties.  I'm also hoping that I'll get to be judge in the upcoming Peach Pie contest that will take place at the Collingswood Farmer's Market later this month.  As for next year may there be  double the amount of participants in the salsa contest.  It'll be fun to see how many of our younger contestants evolve and grow their culinary skills.  Great job to everyone. 

For more photos, details and winners, as well as a nifty video created in Facebook of my own photos please visit these links:

Also go to see photos by Tricia Burrough, of the Collingswood Friends of the Farmers' Market Facebook page  Tricia has gorgeous shots of the salsas, the contestants, of course, the judges!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Salsa making contest at the Collingswood farmers market

Ground cherries or gooseberry salsa fixings!

Saturday, July 9th - I'll be one of the judges for the salsa making contest at the Collingswood Farmers' Market, 10 am, in Collingswood, NJ.

CONTESTANTS MUST REGISTER. Salsa Contest at the Market SAT JUL 09. 
Register Here: REGISTRATION FORM for SALSA CONTEST:Registration Form:

The categories to choose are: