As frost permeates both air and earth on our little homestead, I take inventory on the stacks of baskets, heaps of buckets, and enamelware burgeoning with garden glory. I never can quite seem to let the green tomatoes go to frost. I think maybe I am holding on to the hope in the green, the promise of ripening. This has been a tough tomato year in our homestead garden. The extreme and wet weather was not a friend to my beautiful heirloom plants. We enjoyed several meals with the freshly sliced tang of sunshine on our tongues accompanying as a side dish. However, I was only able to put up about eight quarts of our thick country style tomato juice. This contrasts to closer to 100 quarts most years.
Naturally, I was anxious to preserve as many of the green tomatoes gifted from our friends’ garden as possible, so I decided to give a green tomato salsa a try. You can make green tomato relish, why not salsa? Tomatillos are green, I reasoned.
So I got to work.
I had about thirty pounds of green tomatoes to work with, a beautiful bounty. I am so glad our friends called before the last hard frosts this past week because this fire-roasted green tomato salsa is superb. I loosely used my mom’s salsa recipe, which is fabulous by the way, with a couple of modifications to account for the acidity of the green tomatoes.
Roasting the green tomatoes on the grill enhanced the flavor and gave additional sweetness to the chartreuse globes. The gentle char gave the perfect amount of smokiness to the overall flavor profile of the salsa. Roasting all the vegetables whole also made for a quick and easy way to blast my way through a very large amount of produce.
This is a creative recipe. Be loose with it, it’s a basic guide ready for customization. It’s a fun time to spend together in the kitchen, and a good project to share with friends, or your teenage boys. It is not tedious, there is not a ridiculous amount of chopping, the food processor and the grill carries the burden of the labor. Just be sure you have plenty of tortilla chips available…especially if you are creating with teenage boys!
I encourage you to taste as you go. Start with the basic roasted veggies, whirled in the food processor, and taste them before you add any seasoning. This will give you an idea of the base flavor you are working with and give you a starting place. This is your canvas. The flavors you add will enhance and bring more color to those that you begin with. Taste after each addition of herb or seasoning, and allow the flavors to slowly build as you simmer and create together. Enjoy the process, make it an event, maybe even a salsa making party!
It’s that good, and a great way to celebrate the bounty of the harvest!
Fire-Roasted Green Tomato Salsa
makes about 5 pints
5 lbs. green tomatoes
2 cups yellow or white onion, quartered or halved
2 cups mixed peppers, sweet, red, jalapeno, etc.*
1 head of garlic, cloves, separated, peeled, and left whole
1/4 cup fresh, cilantro leaves, washed and removed from stem
2-4 Tablespoons lime juice
2-3 Tablespoons salt
1/2-1 teaspoon black pepper
Wash, core, and remove any bad spots from green tomatoes, place on large baking sheet. Preheat grill to approximately 400 degrees, and turn down to low, to maintain heat.** Place baking sheet of green tomatoes directly on the grates.
Roast for 25-35 minutes or until tomatoes are fragrant, have a nice char, and are slightly soft to the touch. (Be careful not to burn yourself! Use a spoon, or utensil to press into the side of the tomato if you have any concerns.)
Remove from grill. Allow to cool while you roast the peppers, onion and garlic.
While the tomatoes are roasting, wash and prepare onions, peppers, and garlic. Place on large baking sheet.
Roast onion, pepper, and garlic mixture on hot grill 20-30 minutes, until fragrant, nicely charred, and slightly softened.
Remove from grill. Allow to cool slightly.
With a slotted spoon, lift the cooled, roasted green tomatoes into the food processor, and process 30-60 seconds, until tomatoes have a relish consistency, or is the consistency that you and your family likes. We all have a preference as to how chunky we like our salsa!
Pour processed tomatoes into a large kettle, 6-8qt, gives you plenty of simmering room. Continue processing until all roasted veggies are processed, (add cilantro leaves to your onion, pepper, and garlic mixture when you process), and added to the kettle.
Place kettle on stove over medium high heat. Bring to a slow boil, turn down heat to medium low to maintain a nice slow simmer. Taste.
Add minimal amount of lime juice, salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust according to your liking.
Simmer 45-60 minutes, tasting and stirring occasionally so salsa doesn’t stick and scorch.
Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Keep warm.
Warm lids in small sauce pan until bubbles begin to form on the rubber edges. Do not boil. Turn off heat and keep them in hot water in the saucepan, until you are ready to seal your jars. Set rings aside, but keep them at the ready.
Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Place hot lid on jar, secure into place with ring. Keep jars in a warm place. Repeat until all jars are filled.
Place jars in a boiling water canner, process for 15 minutes, adjust for altitude, if needed. Turn off heat; remove lid, and let jars stand 5 minutes.
Carefully remove jars with a jar lifter from canner, place on a clean dishtowel on the countertop, and allow to cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not pop or flex, when center is pressed down.
You may also pressure can this recipe following manufacturer’s instructions.
*adjust the heat of your salsa by adding more or less hot peppers, such as jalapeno, habanero, etc. The heat of the individual peppers may vary, so taste and decide how hot you want your salsa to be. That is why I do not include an exact measurement of jalapeno, or hot and spicy peppers here. Heat is variable to people, make this your recipe, add what tastes good to you. Just remember that while the salsa is cooking the peppers won’t have quite as much heat as they do as it cools down, leave a little margin for the final heat of the salsa to rise.
**I use a gas grill. Times and temperatures will vary with any grilling experience. Adjust accordingly for what type of grill you have, and how you use it.