Emily Barrineau, High Rocks, Hillsboro, WV– Though tomato vines have long been frozen and cleared away and we are only beginning to lay the groundwork for many more bushels in 2016, here at High Rocks we are still in the midst of canning season! I have been working on a salsa fundraiser project, with an entire chest freezer full of tomatos and peppers waiting to be canned. Our goal is to make salsa that we can sell to the public, serve at our youth centers, and feature on the menu for our new food trailer. We have jumped through many hoops, and still have a few to go. The first thing we had to do was find a recipe. We started with one from the Ball® canning cookbook. Our first round of salsa making was with a group of college students from Haverford College and some Grow Appalachia participants. We spent about six hours making about 30 cans of salsa. The salsa was good but there wasn’t anything that made it stand out. And the amount of hot peppers would be too much for people who have a low spice tolerance. We used tomatoes, hot peppers, and garlic from the High Rocks gardens.
My next task was to improve the salsa recipe. I read that you could change the amount of hot peppers as long as you replaced the amount with another type of pepper. I also decided to replace half of the yellow onion with red onion. The salsa needed more spices so I added more garlic, oregano, and ground cumin. Both the red onions and oregano came from the High Rocks garden. Another problem with the salsa was the consistency. We were working with frozen tomatoes and it made it too watery. I defrosted the tomatoes the night before so that I could pour off the extra liquid.
The next batch of salsa was made with a group of girls at the penguin overnight. I taught them about the process for canning food. They did a great job chopping up the ingredients and with helping in the canning process. They were excited about learning that you could preserve the food that you grow in your garden. Now that I found the recipe that we are going to use I need to see if I can recreate the salsa and can it so that we can send it into the WVU extension office so that they can test it. After they test it, we can move on to the other steps on getting our kitchen certified.
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday with families or friends!