Ironically enough, the day we went peach picking a couple of weeks ago at Fishkill Farm, we came home, had an impromptu barbecue with our friend Alison, and opened a jar of last year’s peach salsa (rather than boiling a big pot of water, peeling peaches, and making a fresh batch). While it is still quite tasty after a year on the shelf, the salsa has definitely mellowed (it seemed just a bit too sweet and not nearly spicy enough) and the tasting gave me an opportunity to tweak this year’s recipe with shelf-life in mind. I am still learning to remember about the mellowing phase of certain preserves, salsas, chutneys and mustards in particular; i.e. if I make them perfectly-spicy/tart/sweet going into the jar, they will not be perfect by the time I get around to eating them. So, while it is somewhat counter-intuitive to me, as I am very much a adjust-to-taste kind of cook, it is fun to experiment and then see how things behave following storage time on the pantry shelves.
This year I tried to cook the salsa a bit less, to retain more of the fresh peach taste & texture; but I don’t like watery salsas, so I drained the peach juice off, reduced it first, then added the sliced peaches and vegetables. I also upped the spice factor by including all the jalapeno seeds and adding in a small amount of habanero pepper. I swapped green & Cubanelle peppers in for red bell pepper (which I can never seem to find locally until very late summer/early autumn), added in a little bit of tomato and some lime juice to up the acid, and remembered to include the garlic. I’ll let it mellow for a while and we shall see how it goes.
Adapted from Peach Salsa in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry & L. Devine, eds
Peach Salsa for Canning (2010)
- 1 cup cider vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
- 9 cups peaches, peeled, pitted, and finely chopped (about 6 lbs gross, 5 and 1/2 lbs net)
- 1 and 1/2 cups red onion, chopped
- 6 jalapeno peppers, minced, seeded as desired (about 3/4 cup; I left all seeds in. Wear gloves to chop.)
- 2 small green bell peppers and 2 Cubanelle peppers, seeded, ribs removed, chopped into 1/4″ dice (total of 2 cups chopped)
- 1/2 lb red tomatoes, sliced on the equator, juice & seeds squeezed out, hulled and chopped
- 1/4 cup minced, frozen cilantro, firmly packed ( or 3/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro, loosely packed)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp minced habanero pepper (fresh or frozen)
- 2 tbsp lime juice (fresh or bottled)
- 2 and 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or dried, ground local chile pepper
- If canning, prepare canner, jars & lids.
- Add vinegar, chopped peaches, onion, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, cumin, salt and cayenne pepper to a large (8 quart) stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Fill hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Yields about 7 pints.
- Because of the strange peach phenomenon of rock-to-rot this year, these peaches ‘marinated’ in cider vinegar for a couple of days, peeled, pitted and broken into chunks, in the refrigerator before I could turn them into salsa. Vinegar protects from browning, but inevitably some peaches float above the vinegar; those peaches turned a very unappetizing shade of brown; safe to eat, but ugly. (I skimmed them off and discarded.) If you must store your peaches peeled as I did, make sure to weight an inverted plate over the bowl so as to keep the top peaches submerged and protected from browning.
- As my peaches had been marinating and releasing juice for a couple of days, I drained the liquid off of the peach chunks before chopping and adding to the stockpot. I reduced this liquid, over high heat in a small saucepan, to a thin syrup, then added it to the peaches in the pot. In this way I could cook the salsa for less time without canning a watery product.
- I chopped the peaches and all the vegetables in a food processor. While hand-chopping yields a more consistent texture, for this large batch size, I don’t feel it’s worth the extra effort. I hand-chopped last year and the chunks seemed too large to me this year when eating the salsa. This year I chopped everything a little bit finer in the food processor; we shall see how the texture is once this batch has mellowed on the shelf for a while.
- Other changes from last year: after about a year of mellowing on the shelf, I found last year’s batch a little sweet and not very spicy; hence I eliminated the honey and added some habanero pepper. Red bell peppers never seems to be available, locally, until the very end of the summer; hence I went with green & Cubanelle peppers this year, and added a couple of tomatoes for color.
- As with any recipe that includes a mix of acidic and non-acidic ingredients: you may safely decrease the amount of onions or peppers in the recipe, but do not increase, in order to ensure a safely acidic salsa. You may safely increase the amount of peaches, vinegar or lime juice, but do not decrease.
- The proportions of the original Ball recipe, scaled to 9 cups of peaches: 3/4 cup white vinegar, 9 cups peaches, 1 and 7/8 cups onion, 6 jalapeno peppers, 1 and 1/2 red bell peppers, 3/4 cup loosely packed cilantro, 3 tbsp honey, 1 and 1/2 garlic cloves, 2 and 1/4 tsp ground cumin, 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper.
- The recipe can be 100% local with the omission of cumin: but I find cumin essential for good salsa. I think it’s worth the exception.
Store fresh, cooked salsa in the refrigerator for about a week. Peaches will start to lose color and texture after that time. Store canned salsa for up to 1 year in a cool, dark place. (Ambient light will cause the color of the salsa to fade).
Peaches are in season in late summer.