We've had a weird year. So we have record snowfall all through winter, and I was pretty sure that there was no way that all that snow was going to melt away. I had morbid visions of throwing snowballs in the summer! And then, almost like magic, all that heavy snow just melted away, leaving us with a peek at the first spring shoots arriving everywhere. At first it was a beautiful spring, hot and sunny, which of course led us all to believe that it was going to be a gorgeous summer. Well, nature is not that kind, and it was a mixed bag of a summer. At first I felt like I hadn't left England, it was cold and wet and miserable, and I was seriously considering upping stakes and migrating back to India.
And then... that glorious month that was September gave me the summer my mind and body had been craving. I loved the fact that I could go out without bothering to take a jacket, and in the middle of the month Aditi and I even went for a couple out outdoor swims in the newly built and absolutely gorgeous Queen Elizabeth Pool. Even if it did get a bit cooler for a few days, I was still happy that I got to see Mr Sun, and top up my naturally existing tan :-)
All this funny weather, however, did play havoc with Kay's tomatoes. Our cherry tomatoes didn't work out, and we have no idea if it was us or the fertilizer we used. We replanted them twice, but they died both times :-( We had also planted a normal tomato plant and another heirloom one. The way the summer went, we were pretty sure we were going to have no tomatoes. And then in the middle of August, they started showing up... little by little, both plants started producing tons and tons of tomatoes. But... it was almost September, and Kay was nervously keeping an eye on the weather warnings for the month. We didn't want to lose our little beauties. So we were lucky enough that September was so warm, because it meant that at least some tomatoes ripened enough for us to enjoy them in salads and bruschettas.
Fresh BC peppersThis weekend was harvest weekend for us. Kay picked the garden bare, and I washed and prepared all the vegetables for cooking or canning. The herbs were potted so we could bring them inside, and everything else was cut down and cleaned out. Our garden has been bedded (ha ha) down for winter. We were lucky enough to get a big batch of ripe or nearly ripe tomatoes which went into paper bags to ripen completely, but as a result of that topsy turvy summer, we also have a huge, and I mean huge, glut of green tomatoes that has resulted in me frantically looking for recipes to use them all up.
My first one was this spicy green tomato salsa. I knew that I didn't want a gooey salsa, or one that had to be pureed. My aim was to keep the fresh, tangy taste, but add an unexpected spicy element to them. I was inspired by this recipe here, as I quite liked the texture of her salsa. I did adapt it very heavily though, and the end result, while not gooey, had no wateriness to it. I used a shortcut canning method, as I usually keep all canned stuff in the fridge or my cold pantry, but please use the full canning method linked to in the recipe, if you're planning to keep the salsa for a longer time.
Both Kay and I loved the salsa. We both like spice, and this one was a fantastic blend of tangy tomatoes, sweet red peppers and the heat of the chillies coming through beautifully, with the ocasional fresh taste of herby oregano and coriander. Pretty much most of the produce in this recipe was from the garden too, can't get more local that that. Kay was pretty impressed by the first ever attempt of mine, and I think I've definitely hit on a winner.
As is my habit, I put aside a little bit for us to eat straightaway before canning the rest and we experimented with having the salsa with not just tortilla chips, but also as part of a canape made of teeny buttered toast pieces, homemade canned salmon made by Kay's brother with the fish caught by him too, and this salsa. The combination was just terrific, and I am so pleased with myself (insert self-satisfied smirk and a request for pat-on-the-back here please :-))
I can tell you I was pretty tired at the end of this day. We ended up on the couch in the evening, with these fried green tomatoes and those nibbles I mentioned in the paragraph above, and erm... watching 'Bridesmaids' (poor Kay, indeed!!)
Spring onions from the garden
Fresh oregano from the gardenThis recipe is heading to the inaugural edition of Lyndsey's Sweet Heat Blogger Challenge. The theme for this month is 'condiments'. How lucky did I get?
2.5 lbs green tomatoes, diced 2 large onions, white or yellow, diced
4 red peppers, diced
¼ cup, pickled jalapeno peppers, finely chopped *see note
7 - 8 hot green bird's eye chillies, finely chopped (or to your spice tolerance)
4 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup lime or lemon juice
Scant ¼ cup white vinegar
1½ tbsp or to taste, coarse salt
½ tbsp sugar
4 - 5 spring (green) onions, chopped
Around ¼ cup, loosely packed fresh oregano
Around ¼ cup, loosely packed fresh coriander (cilantro)
Combine the green tomatoes, onions, red peppers, jalapenos, bird's eye chillies and chopped garlic in a large pot. Add the lime/ lemon juice, vinegar, salt and sugar. Stir and place on a medium heat.
Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, then add the chopped spring onions. Continue to cook for an additional 15 minutes. The salsa will be quite thick at this point.
Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Stir in the fresh chopped oregano and cook for another 5 minutes. Then add the coriander and stir well. Take off the heat.
To bottle the salsa, prepare 3×500ml (or 32×500ml and 2×500ml like I did) Mason jars. Wash the jars in hot water, then pour in hot water to fill about a quarter of the jars. Place the jars (without the lids) in an oven heated at 200 F (95 C) for about 30 - 40 minutes. I do this first, then start the salsa.
Next, wash the lids and rings in hot water, then place in a saucepan. Cover with water, then heat until just boiling (but not actually boiling).
When the salsa is ready, very carefully take out one jar at a time from the oven and pour out the water inside it. Place the jar on a heatproof surface, then using a funnel, ladle in the hot salsa. Clean the rim of the jar. Using a lid lifter, if you have it, very carefully place the lid on top, then screw in the ring to fingertip tightness. Fill the other jars in the same way. Leave undisturbed for 24 hours. Check to see if the lids have sealed (you won't be able to pop the middle of the lids if they have sealed properly) Store in the fridge.
You can find more information on canning here.
I used pickled jalapenos for this recipe, but they are not as hot as fresh jalapenos. If you're using fresh jalapenos reduce the quantity used. Remember that bird's eye chillies are also used in the recipe, so increase or decrease the spice level to your taste.