I have never “canned” in the traditional sense of canning. No steam bathing, no wax, no pressure cooking (I once had a bad experience with a pressure cooker…they scare me.) To preserve things around here we lacto-ferment. It sounds funny, but it is easy to do and a good way to not only preserve it but also give it a nutritional boost (much in the form of healthy gut flora.) Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon is my go-to book for lacto-fermentation though I would like to get my hands on a copy of Wild Fermentationto see if it is my cup of kombucha (anyone get the pun?)
All of the ingredients are garden fresh organics from our CSA (minus my own cilantro.) The recipe uses whey, not a common kitchen ingredient, though I bet you have some and didn’t think about it. I get my whey from our home-made yogurt. I line a sieve with a piece of muslin and pour some yogurt in. Back in the fridge it goes for a couple hours to drain. The remaining yogurt cheese is usually put into a smoothie or popsicles and the whey is used for fermenting. The whey is important as it gives a boost to the good guys in preserving your product.
The salt we use is Real Salt with all kinds of good extras in it. If you salt is nice and white it isn’t as good for you as it could be. Celtic Sea Salt, Real Salt, Sea Salt, whatever you use it should have flecks of good extras in it. To think all this time people have been taking what is good for you out of the salt! The salt is important as it inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria for the days you let your product ferment until enough lactic acid is present to preserve the veggies for months.
Lacto-fermented condiments can be kept in a cool, dark place. Cellars are ideal. We do not have one, so I keep a box of stuff packaged and in our crawl space for winter. In the heat of summer what I have left that is fermented is kept in the fridge. Makes for a small fridge along with all the summer produce. Some day I’ll have a better set-up, though for now it works.
Here’s the process with pictures courtesy of my husband.
You need to start with washed produce, notice how unperfect my homegrown goodies are and please do not look too hard at my horrible knife skills. I think after I take a photography class I should take a knife skills class as well….I know I’m dangerous.
I use my Cuisinart to help chop so I start by quartering my two onions. Here I placed them all in, don’t do that…one at a time works much better. Pulse about 5 times and then once at a time checking consistency. You don’t want them pureed, just chopped.
Do the same with a green pepper or two (I like to do this with yellow peppers just for more color variety, but alas green was all I had.) Add to the bowl and mix as you go. You’ll want to find a good mix for yourself. Some people like mostly tomatoes, some want lots of peppers. I’m not sure where we fall, but I know we like it how I make it. This is a good time to add garlic, three healthy sized cloves went into this batch.
Tomatoes are best done by hand, they get too mushy and watery in the Cuisinart. Core your six tomatoes and cut them in half at the equator. Use your fingers to scoop out some of the seeds and juice leaving the flesh behind to chop up and add to the bowl.
Keep mixing it up to make sure it’s looking tasty to you. Be sure to save your scraps for your compost pile.
Another lesson for you. See me slicing those jalapenos without gloves all nice and slick. Didn’t feel so slick when hours later I rubbed my eyes. Wear gloves, I did a sink full of dishes and scrubbed with the veggie brush right after this photo. Next time I’m wearing gloves. 6 jalapenos went into this batch, adjust according to your heat preference.
Cilantro, one of my favorite herbs. You need LOTS of cilantro for this. I had two good sized fist-fulls of it and in tasting the end product I wished I had more. Rinse well and dry (salad spinners are great for this part) before chopping up and adding to the mix.
Next you need to add your whey, lime or lemon juice, and salt.
Taste it to make sure it’s good, but know that your flavors will be individual at this point. It takes time for the flavors to get to know one another and mix well. These things don’t just happen at first meeting you know. If you think it’s the heat you like and your pleased with it, ladle it into clean jars. I have 3 quart sized jars waiting for this batch. You want to be sure to leave an inch at the top as this will be fermenting and might build up some pressure. The vegetables should be covered by their juices, if not add a little filtered water to cover them.
Ooops, it looks like we sampled a little too much! That is the price I pay for having husband take photos for me. He’s worth it though.
Fermented Mild Salsa
- 2 large onions
- 6 large tomatoes (peeled if you like, but I just don’t have it in me to peel them)
- 2 green peppers
- 3 big cloves of garlic
- 6 jalapenos or to taste (seeded)
- lots of cilantro
- juice of three lemons or limes
- 1/2 cup whey
- 2 Tablespoons of Real Salt
- water if necessary
Chop all veggies and combine in a bowl. Add juice, whey, and salt. Stir well. Put in jars leaving an inch at the top. Make sure juices cover top of veggies, adding a bit of water if necessary.
Let set at room temperature for 2 days before placing in cool storage.
Keeps for months, though the longer it keeps the more flavor it has. Our jars we opened at the end of winter left a bit of a fizzle on your tongue…interesting but still very tasty!
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