Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Roast

My tomatoes are finally starting to catch up with the productive hot peppers.  In celebration, and with a contribution of some hot peppers and tomatoes from my friend Trudy's garden, I decided it was time to make a batch of my most favorite, spicy and flavorful hot salsa:  Roasted Tomato Salsa.

This salsa is not for the faint of heart, as I combine fresh hot peppers with roasted dried peppers.  It also requires roasting of the onions, garlic, and tomatoes that come together to make an epicenter of culinary goodness.  A slosh of this on a plain old bean burrito or cheesy quesadilla makes a quick meal something extraordinary.  I found the original recipe in the Ball Book, but have modified to make it a bit more...potent.  You could make your version more so, by changing up what varieties of hot peppers you use in your combination.

Habaneros, anyone?

Roasted Tomato Salsa

You'll need:  roughly five pounds of tomatoes, plum or mixed varieties; two medium onions, your choice of color (I used one large white, one small yellow, and one small red); two heads of garlic, cloves separated; 20 dried chile peppers; six to eight fresh hot peppers (I think I actually put in 12 or so, a mix of Hot Wax, Jalepeno, and Cayenne); two cups boiling water; two cups vinegar (your choice of cider or white); two teaspoons sugar; two teaspoons salt.

Start up your broiler, and prepare roasting pans (I use cookie sheets with wire cooling racks across them).  Core tomatoes and place on pans.  Peel off outer onion skin, and place onions on pan (you can halve them if you like).  Place fresh peppers on pans, as well as cloves of garlic.  Pop under the broiler until blackened, about 10 minutes.  Remove from broiler, and put the tomatoes and peppers into paper bags to cool (close the bags, too).  Cool the onions and garlic. 

While you're broiling away, preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat until very hot.  Toss in the dried chiles, and toast them until they get pliable and look oily.  A note of caution:  the hot dried chile peppers will release an odorless, noxious gas that burns your breathing passages and eyes.  I recommend doing this step under a fume hood on high, while wearing goggles and a breathing mask.  I never remember to do this, and wind up remembering why this is good I cough and hack and flee the kitchen.  The gas lasts quite a while in the air, so perhaps, do as I say, not as I do.  Anyway, once they are toasted, pop them into a large bowl and pour the boiling water over them.  Stick a small plate into the bowl and use it to squish the peppers below the water level.  Allow to sit for ten minutes, then pour water and peppers into a food processor.  Whirl until completely pureed.

You should be able to peel and chop the roasted tomatoes about now, as well as the peppers.  I leave all the seeds in the peppers, which makes this salsa very hot.  You can remove some of the seeds if you like (you wimpy person, you).  Chop the roasted onions, and squeeze out the roasted cloves.  Put everything into a large nonreactive pot, along with the vinegar, sugar and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  After cooking for a few minutes, I break out my immersion stick blender and give everything a good whirl.  This is supposed to be a rather liquid salsa, but a few chunks are okay too.  Continue to boil for about 10 minutes, to thicken the sauce a little bit.

Transfer hot salsa into hot jars, and top with a hot lid.  Tighten the bands, and place into a water bath canner.  Process 20 minutes for pints, and 30 minutes for quarts.  I got about 6 pints of salsa from my batch, with about a quarter of a pint remaining that is "aging" in the fridge.

If you hear distant screaming and see smoke coming from this direction, you'll know that I tried it and it was hot enough.

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