Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

So I did end up making salsa this week... though I only made two batches since it's so much harder to get things done than it was pre-baby and essentially took me a full day to get each batch. But I did get it done, just with many breaks between each step. I ended up going to Marché de l'Ouest and got a huge box of slightly damaged tomatoes (perfect for cooking with) for only $10. Which got me 18 jars of salsa, plus a few toasted tomato sandwiches.

A tip about how to quickly peel the tomatoes. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Core the tomatoes and cut an x into the bottom of the tomato. Place tomatoes in boiling water for one minute. Remove and let cool. The skin will then easily peel off, starting from the x.

12 C chopped, peeled tomatoes, about 24
3 cans corn
2 cans black beans
1 pkg. Bernardin salsa mix
1 1/4 C cider vinegar
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Wash, core, seed and chop tomatoes; drain off excess liquid. Measure 12 cups.

2. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine Bernardin salsa mix and cider vinegar. Add tomatoes, black beans, corn and cilantro; mix well. Bring to a boil; boil gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

3. Ladle salsa into a hot jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Using a nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles. Wipe jar to removing any stickiness. Process for 20 minutes.

Makes about 8-9 500mL jars.

Some tips on canning:

The jars need to be sterilized prior to placing food in them in order to eliminate possible bacterial growth. Wash jars and then place in a 225 degree Farenheit oven for at least 20 minutes. You then spoon the hot salsa into the hot jars, using a canning funnel, if you have one. You then need to get the air bubbles out of the jar prior to sterilizing, again, to prevent bacterial growth. You can buy a kit that has a tool to help get the bubbles out, a funnel, lid lifter, headspace gauge and jar lifter for about $15 at Canadian Tire. Alternatively, you can use a spatula to coax the bubbles to the top.

You then need to measure the headspace for the recipe you are making. Headspace is the unfilled space above the food in a jar and below the lid. This space is needed for expansion of the food as the jars are processed, and for forming a vacuum to preserve the food, once the jars are cooled. Again, you can get a headspace gauge to easily judge how much space to leave (1/2 inch, for this recipe).

The next step is to prepare the snap lids, by placing them in hot, but not boiling water and leaving them there until you use them. Recommendations used to be to boil them for 5 minutes, but they no longer recommend placing them in boiling water. You then place the lids on the cans, using a lid lifter, so that you don't burn your fingers. Then screw on the screw tops just until you meet resistance, being careful not to overtighten. Note that you can reuse the screw tops, but cannot reuse the snap lids. Also, be sure not to tighten the screw top once you have processed the jars, as this can affect the sealing process.

Once the lids are placed, bring water to a boil in a waterbath canner, which is a huge black pot used for canning. These usually come with a canning rack, so that you can get the jars in and out of the boiling water without burning your fingers. You should probably start the water boiling way before you are ready for it, as it takes quite awhile for such a large quantity of water to boil. I often start boiling the water well in advance and then top it up by adding a few kettles full of boiling water.

You need to process the jars while they are still warm, otherwise they will crack when they are placed in the hot water. Alternatively, you can place the jars in the water while it is still cold, but I find that it takes forever for the water to come to a boil this way. You then need to leave the jars in the water for 20 minutes (for this recipe), once it has come to a boil again after placing the cans in it. Also, be sure that the water covers the top of the jars. Once they have been processed long enough, take them out, being careful not to burn yourself as I did this week (as the scab on my stomach proves!).

After the jars have cooled, inspect them to be sure that the snap lids have sealed. If you press on the centre of the lid, it should not pop back up. If it does, you need to reprocess them again in the boiling water so that the lids seal (or alternatively, put that jar in the fridge and use it immediately). And that's it. It all sounds complicated, but it's actually quite easy and lets you enjoy fresh, homemade, delicious salsa year-round.

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