Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Peach Salsa

When we lived in Philadelplhia, we had a dear friend whose house, next door to a bar in the heart of South Philly, had come with a mature, extremely prolific peach tree in the postage-stamp-sized backyard.  Each year she would send out the call to her friends and acquaintances in the area: "I've made as much peach pie, peach cobbler, peach ice cream and peach butter as I possibly can, and the tree is still going strong.  Come get peaches!"

She didn't have to tell us twice.  Her peaches were delicious and blemish free, despite a completely "organic" system of management (which is to say, no interventions whatsoever beyond some cursory pruning).  We had this experience with other city-grown fruit, as well; little to no agriculture (or vegetative growth of any kind) in the area means no pests, so ironically, the easiest place to achieve that most elusive of goals -- organically grown, market-quality fruit -- may be in the midst of an urban landscape!

To cut a long story short, I first made this peach salsa out of a desperate need to use up large quantities peaches from Emily's tree before they went bad.  It's wonderful fresh -- green and red hot or sweet peppers and a red onion will make for a beautiful bowl of salsa!  Cooked, it cans beautifully, and will be a treat this winter.

Though we don't grow peaches at the Big Red Farm, they are locally available, and this is the time of year to get them.  If you're lucky enough to have a tree and are casting about for something other than pie or cobbler, try some salsa.  It's great with fish or grilled chicken or just about any meat; also great on chips.

from Jake & Emma's kitchen

makes about 4 cups

3-5 peaches, preferably skinned (about 1 1/2 lb)
1 jalapeno pepper (or hot pepper of your choice) 
1 sweet pepper (red is prettiest)
1 medium onion (again, red is prettiest)
juice and zest of 1 lime
handful mint leaves, chopped (optional; cilantro would also be tasty)
salt and pepper to taste

For fresh salsa:  Cut peaches into 1/2-inch chunks.  Remove seeds and membranes from hot pepper (unless you really like your hot peppers hot) and mince.  Cut sweet pepper and onion into 1/4-inch dice.  Combine all ingredients with lime juice and zest and cilantro, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

For cooked salsa:  Chop onion and peppers finely.  Put in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not brown.  Meanwhile, skin and pit peaches and cut into slices or chunks (they will break down some when they cook, so it doesn't really matter).  Add to the saucepan together with lime juice and zest.  Cook until peaches are soft and broken-down, and salsa is simmering (you can leave it just like this, or puree for a smoother salsa). Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve chilled (stir in the fresh mint once it's cool), or can hot.  (Note: I often, but not always, omit fresh herbs when I'm canning this.  They don't hold up as well over time.)

To can cooked salsa:  Sterilize your jars and lids (jars in simmering water for 10 minutes, or a 225-degree oven for 20 minutes, or run through the dishwasher; place clean lids in a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water over them) and put your water bath on the stove to heat before you start the salsa.  Ladle hot salsa into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace.  Top with sterilized lid and band, not tightening the band all the way.  Lower jars into boiling water bath (water should cover jar lids by at least 1 inch) and process for 10-15 minutes.  Remove jars from water bath and allow to cool fully before tightening bands.

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