Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sometimes, It's Easy Being Green

That is, if you're a tomatillo.

My tomatillo trees are starting to set fruit, just not very many of them.  I picked three today...and there isn't much that you can do with three tomatillos.  Make a tablespoon of dipping sauce?  I don't think so.

Luckily, today was Farmers Market Day.  The dogs refused to be left behind, so I stuffed them into Lucille Laverne and off we went.  Halfway there, I realised that I should have brought a jacket.  Some random cold front blew in from Canada, and the temperature dropped (I kid you not) 10 degrees from the time I left the house to when I arrived at the market 20 minutes later.  Brrrr.

For all that it was chilly and windy and grey out, the market was packed as usual.  I had to elbow some old woman who tried to cut in front of me in pursuit of some garlic.  Back off, b*&%h, those cloves are mine!  This may seem unnecessarily unruly to some of you, but when it is the height of canning season, it is all about who gets first dibs on the veggie perfection-selection.  I pack cash, and plenty of it, and I'm not afraid to say the words every farmer wants to hear: "I'll take it all."

I swear, their eyes glaze over with sheer joy.  They can hardly believe their ears.  Really?  She really wants to buy this glut of tomatoes I carted all the way from Shell Lake?  Wooohoooooooo!!  My favorite little Hmong family almost ran each other over in their excitement to pack and weigh all the plum tomatoes they had in their van.  I wound up with thirty pounds worth, plus some garlic and cherry bomb hot peppers.  They made me take a sackful of jalepenos as well, and kept trying to ply me with kohrabi and carrots.  I just love them:  Mom and Dad and a handful of kids of various ages, all so sweet and friendly.  Sometimes Grandma comes along too.  She doesn't say much, but she and I are kindred spirits in our love of the humble turnip.

I bought the lady next door out of her tomatillos.  I couldn't resist them, and besides, I needed to add a few to my three that I picked this morning.  I wound up with ten pounds worth.  Well, like I said:  I needed to add a few.  Ten pounds is a few, right?

After a stop off at my friendly bakery stand for a snack, some bread, and a fancy-dancy lemonade, it was time to head home and start putting up my gardeney goodness.  I opted to make some salsa verde, possibly my favorite sauce on the whole planet.

Next to ketchup.

It's a super simple recipe, and when it cooks down for about an hour, you end up with pints and pints of this:

Ooooh.  Ahhhhhh.

Super Easy Salsa Verde

You'll need: a few pounds of tomatillos; onions; one head of garlic; hot peppers*; vinegar; water; salt; cumin; coriander; cilantro or flat leaf parsley; oregano.

This is not a quantity specific recipe, because it is hard to come by many, many tomatillos.  I lucked into a buttload, but you may have less luck.  Anyway, say you at least find two pounds of tomatillos.  Husk them and put them into a large nonreactive pot.  Decide how much onion you want to add.  I recommend at least one whole onion, chopped up fairly small.  Again, decided how much garlic you want in the mix--at least a couple of cloves, smashed and peeled and flung into the pot.

*Here's the hard part, where you have to decide how hot to make this.  Feeling meek?  Maybe put half a jalepeno in there.  Feeling wild?  Get a serrano, jalepeno and possibly a little habanero in there.  As for myself, I whacked up a couple of hot wax peppers, a couple jalepenos, and three or four cherry bombs.  I think it will have a good rounded level of heat.  Of course, I may have overestimated things and wind up with a Green Heat Wave, but I think I can live with it.

 Add your salt, cumin and coriander (ground is best).  Maybe a half teaspoon, maybe a whole teaspoon?  You decide.  Take a handful of fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley, and a smaller handful of fresh oregano.  Chop them up pretty well, not exactly minced but close to it, and toss them in.  Now, decide how much liquid you want.  I recommend three parts vinegar to one part water.  So, say you want to add four cups of liquid total: that would be three cups vinegar and one cup water.  Add it to the pot.

Bring your heat up to a good boil, and then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.  After the time is up, your tomatillos should be soft and squishable.  You can either transfer to a blender or a food processor and whirl until smooth, or use a stick blender like I did and smooth everything right in the pot.  Return to an active simmer for another fifteen or twenty minutes, so sauce can thicken slightly and the flavors can get all happy together.

After you've done the simmering thing, ladle the salsa into hot pint jars, top with a hot lid, and process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool, then check your seals and store in a dark place.  This goes great on top of burritos, nachos, or on pastor-style pork dishes.  It is also good on chicken, so knock yourself out experimenting with its many uses.

Using ten pounds of tomatillos, I wound up with 8 pints and one quart of salsa verde.  I hope its enough....

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