Green Tomato Salsa


The time has come. A killing frost finally shut down my tomatoes last Thursday, while I was again out of town. Thanks to my daughter-in-law, however, I have pounds and pounds of fruit she picked and boxed up, ready for me to use.

The first order of business was sorting. I took the best of the best and put them in single layers in flat cardboard boxes, covered loosely with newspaper. These went directly to my “root cellar”–my unheated garage that is  tucked under one wing of the house, a  perfect temperature for keeping fruits and vegetables well into the winter. If these do as well as prior years, I can expect to still have tomatoes ripened for our holiday meals in November and December.

Another group of tomatoes was picked out because they looked most likely to develop spots quickly.  These would be handled immediately, in salsa and perhaps a try at fried green tomatoes. Finally, the remaining greenies would also go into the garage, ready for a batch of green tomato mincemeat and some other new recipes after I get back from one more fall weekend away.

For now, the house is redolent of cumin and peppers and onions and cilantro–a wonderful warming fragrance that cries out for some fresh tortillas rolled around some refried beans and topped with salsa verde! Hope you were able to salvage a few green tomatoes to try this recipe too.

Green Tomato Salsa–Mild to Medium
Step 1
2 lb green tomatoes
4 oz yellow onion
3 to 4 medium to large green chile peppers–or more!
3 to 5 cloves garlic
1 1/2 t salt
3/4 t cumin
3 T water
1 T olive oil
Coarsely chop the four vegetables and combine with remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes, until tomatoes are just starting to get tender. If the tomatoes are very green and not juicy, you may need to add just a small amount of water, but avoid if possible.
Step 2
1 T lime juice
1/2 t lime zest
2 t sugar or to taste (see NOTE)
1/2 c chopped cilantro, including stems
Stir the lime, sugar and cilantro into the first mixture. Adjust lime, sugar and salt to taste. If you desire more heat, you could also add a finely chopped jalapeno or more finely chopped chiles at this point. Return to heat and cook another 5 to 10 minutes at most.
For the sake of your processor, allow the salsa to cool for a few minutes. Pour the mixture into the processor and pulse until just barely chopped. If desired, a tablespoon or so of chopped cilantro may be stirred in after processing. (If you don’t have a processor, you can use a blender, but you may have to divide the mixture into two or more batches.)
Chill and store the salsa in the refrigerator for up to a week. The salsa can also be frozen, but be aware that  some peppers change in their “heat” level upon freezing—sometimes hotter, sometimes milder. 
NOTE:  “Green” tomatoes can be a loosely descriptive term, since some of the tomatoes you will try to save from frost will be almost ready to turn red (or yellow, depending on variety), while others will be bright green and as hard as little green apples. The greener ones will be much more tart and often are more strongly flavored. Some will look green on the outside but will really be very close to ripening–as the picture below illustrates. 

If you have a choice, try to include some at various stages of ripening in your salsa, as illustrated by the ones I used today. Then, be prepared to add more sugar or lime, depending on how “green” your tomatoes really are.  
Hotter Variations and Other Substitutions
Increase the number of chiles, don’t remove the seeds and/or ribs, or use other kinds of peppers to your taste–jalapeno, serrano, anaheim. This is a recipe that is easily adaptable to all tastes. 
If you don’t have any fresh chiles, you could add a can or two of diced chiles or jalapenos after the cooking is complete.
If there are no fresh or canned peppers available hot enough for your taste, add a few drops (or more) of a good Mexican hot sauce. Our family likes the Valentina brand that is available in both supermarkets and Mexican food stores even here in the Midwest.
If you don’t have a lime, lemon juice and rind can be substituted, but the lime will give this a much more “authentic” flavor.

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