Green beans and cukes are done; kale, collards and chard are perfect right now. The new plantings of broccoli rabe and arugula are slowly coming up. With daylight hours on the wane, the remaining tomatoes are not ripening, and frost is an increasing risk. I picked a few to ripen in the house but most will go to waste, unless I pick them all now. It’s time to put away the benches, barrels and hoses, to mulch the garden beds ahead of the falling leaves. But first I have a harvest of about 15 pounds of green tomatoes to deal with.
What I had in mind as I started was guasacaca (wah-sah-kaka), the hand chopped Venezuelan salsa made with green tomatoes, avocado and vinegar instead of lemon or lime juice. Friends Liz Swan and Scott Britton gave me my first taste in a version that went with their pulled pork dinner for our Woods Hole vacation pig roast. Since I’m canning this batch I’ll reserve the avocado to add right before serving – but even without embellishment, you still have a good green sauce for chip dipping or nachos, or served with bbq or grilled meats.
In past years I’ve used late season unripe tomatoes in sweet jams, sometimes spicy with peppers, sometimes with lemon and ginger, but we never seem to eat enough of the jam. Yet all winter I buy jars of salsa for quick lunches of quesadillas or tortillas filled with melting cheeses, salsa, and whatever roasted vegetables or leftover meat we have from the last evenings’ meals. This winter instead of Newman’s red we’ll have our own salsa, spicy with a little heat, bright, tart and green: Salsa Verde.
Most salsa verde recipes call for tomatillos but I’m using what I have plenty of – unripend tomatoes. Combined with a handful of neighbor Jim Kunstler’s abundant crop of habaneros and jalapenos (using the ripe red jalapenos for flashes of confetti) and my late planting of cilantro, I should have enough green salsa to see us through winter.
The recipe inspired by Liz and Scott is for a large batch, intended for canning. Half or quarter this recipe to eat right away. Fresh salsa, without the cooking and canning, can be refrigerated without the addition of avocado, eat it within the week. For the final prep: dice ripe avocados and mash into the salsa verde. Adjust seasonings. To hold the salsa until serving, place the avocado pit in the middle of the bowl of guasacaca to prevent browning. Remove pit before serving, and serve as soon as possible.
Yields 14 – 6 oz. jars. Do not double, as the batch gets too big to work with.
10 – 12 c green tomatoes, trimmed if needed, halved or quartered.
2 c sweet onions, peeled and quartered (alt: replace 1 c with chopped scallions, white and light green parts)
4 – 6 peppers (go for moderately hot jalapenos or Serranos, though I used one habanero and 5 jalapenos. Or use a mix of peppers for greater complexity.)
1 – 2c cilantro chopped
1 c flat parsley chopped (optional)
6- 8 cloves (freshest garlic you can find) chopped
½ c lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
½ c lime juice (about 3 lines)
1/2c white vinegar (5%)
2/3 c sugar
2t sea salt
approximately 4 avocados
With a heavy mortar or on a cutting board, smash and pound the garlic and salt into a paste.
Trim the peppers, removing the seeds and membrane.
You can prepare the salsa by hand for a more traditional chunkier version. Using a food processor – it may take 3 or more batches depending on the size of your processor bowl. If the tomatoes are large, cut them into quarters or 8ths. Process the garlic paste with the chopped onion, chilies and tomatoes, parsley and cilantro. (I like to add parsley to cut some of the intensity of the garlic.) Process to a coarse consistency, to your liking.
(If you don’t intend to preserve your salsa by canning, you can now stir in the rest of the ingredients and set it aside to meld the flavors. Skip the remainder of the directions. Add avocado and enjoy!)
As you complete each batch, dump the processed salsa into a large stockpot. When you have all the tomatoes processed, stir to combine well. Add the sugar, juices and vinegar to the tomatoes and heat on medium until sugar dissolves, bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Check flavor – spiciness will develop over time but it should have a bit of heat with the first taste. You may wish to add a little more salt, sugar or vinegar. As it cooks the color of the salsa will change from bright to a duller green.
** If this is your first attempt at canning please go to some expert sites to read up on the recipes, rules and risks: For more on canning check out the Ball jar website: http://www.homecanning.com/
And the National Center for Home Food Preservation: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_home.html
Prepare jars: Jars should be washed then sterilized in a pot of boil water. Keep jars hot until ready to use. Lids should be kept heating in a small pot (not boiled). Fill jars, tapping the salsa down to remove air bubbles, leaving at least 1/2” at the top. When all the jars are filled you will have juice leftover – add a little juice to each jar to cover the surface of the salsa, but being sure to leave space at the top. Wipe edges clean and dry, then cap each jar with a sterilized lid and seal with the screw on ring. Heat salsa jars in the hot water bath covered with a lid for 20 minutes. Remove to cool.
My pot holds 8 jars at a time so I process in two batches. Leave jars to cool on the counter. The jars are sealed when the button in the middle of the lid is depressed. If some jars don’t seal you can still use them – refrigerate and enjoy within a couple weeks. Store in a cool dry place for up to a year.
To serve: add one 1 ripe avocado per 6 to 8 oz. jar.