Canning Salsa, My Favorite Recipe

Canning Salsa
Copyright 2013, Jim Long


This week I’ve been canning salsa. Like nearly every other gardener I’ve talked to this summer, I’ve had a lot of split and damaged tomatoes from the earlier rains. I don’t want to waste the tomatoes so I cut out the damage and turn the good parts into salsa. Over the years I’ve tried a lot of canned salsa recipes and this one has become my favorite. Using 2 jalapenos gives a mild sauce, 4 makes a medium and for a hotter sauce, use 5-6 jalapenos.

8 cups, peeled and quartered tomatoes
1 large yellow onion, sliced
8-10 cloves garlic, peeled
2-4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Combine the ingredients in a food processor and coarsely chop everything. Pour that into a cooking pot and bring to a simmer, about 10 minutes. Pour hot salsa into hot pint jars, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace. Seal jars with two-piece lids and process in boiling water for 15 minutes. Makes 4-5 pints.

If you want a simple fresh salsa, you might like this one.
Basic Fresh Salsa

3-4 medium sized tomatoes, chopped (about 3 cups)
4-5 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup red or yellow bell pepper, diced
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons freshly-chopped cilantro
1/2 (or 1 whole for hotter) jalapeno, seeded and diced fine
2 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine ingredients and refrigerate for an hour before serving with chips.

Visit my website to see my books which have lots more of my recipes and gardening information. Happy gardening!


Tomato Canning

Heirloom tomatoes of several varieties.
August is the month of garden bounty. We're cooler than usual, 70s and 80s on a daily basis, and benefiting from the over-amounts of rain of 2 and 3 weeks ago. Yesterday I made catsup, something I only make every couple of years. Today I have salsa ready to cook up and can, and another batch of sweet pickles.
Canned tomatoes and a batch of sweet and spicy pickles.
Our WWOOFer, Charles, is learning about canning as well as bread-making. His using the sour dough starter that Josh keeps going and he's mixing up a new loaf of bread to bake later today.
Today he's using the mixer to knead the bread dough.
Charles is working the dough again before letting it rise for a few hours. Then it will be ready to bake. More to come, we have tomatoes ready for cooking up some new batches of things for winter.


Missouri State Fair 2013

Where else could you see all the interesting things people grow in their gardens, in one place? Or find a Madagascar hissing cockroach? The Missouri State Fair, of course!

Josh and I have been going to the State Fair together for the past 28 years, and I've been going, myself, since age 3. It is one of my anticipated traditions of summer. (The Madagascar hissing cockroach is the most kept cockroach species for pets, and this was one of the ways the Missouri Extension Service drew people in to their good bug/bad bug booth, which was quite interesting and informative).

The Fair is about families, kids, animals, prizes, gardens, food and information. It's all about prize winning vegetables, new gadgets, farm implements, new tractors, and lots and lots of animals. There's a pig barn, a rabbit barn with prize-winning rabbits, a poultry house with well-groomed, fancy chickens of all kinds, sizes and breeds. The hog barn, sheep and beef barns, all have the entries from 4-H kids, and Future Farmers of America boys and girls, from all across the state. And Long Creek Herbs has a booth in the Agri-Missouri building one day of the Fair, as well. Plus I'm giving 2 programs, one on growing herbs and one on starting a vegetable garden.

 I always check out what the state's largest pumpkin weighs (738.2 pounds last year, grown by Kirk Wilmsmeyer).

Seeing all of the prize-winning vegetables is interesting to me. I like to compare what I grow to what won prizes. Sometimes I say, Oh, I can do that! Other times, it's more likely to be, Wonder how they grew it that big?

AgriMissouri, a project of the Missouri State Extension Service, does a great job of promoting Missouri agriculture and agri-products. We bought several things from the AgriMissouri store while at the Fair. Plus they sell my Herbal Nail Fungus Soak and my books, including my newest book, Make Your Own Hot Sauce.

The Midway is always a big attraction in the afternoon, but it's at its best at night, when the whole place lights up like downtown Las Vegas.

There are always what I call the "velcro kids," you know the ones, teens who take a date to the Fair and believe that some body part, usually a sweaty hand or arm, has to be touching the other at all times. I was that kid once, myself.

Sunday was Military Appreciation Day (actually it was called, "Homegrown Heroes Day" and sponsored by Sprint) and the Fair had lots of Army, Marine and Air Force there. Buses from Ft. Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base brought in a military band and busloads of troups, all there enjoying the day. Hopefully lots of folks were telling them how much we all appreciate their service. As a Veteran myself, I could have asked for a discount on Fair admission, but it didn't seem necessary.

There were lots of political booths, booths for Conservation, a booth explaining about feral hogs in Missouri and how to control the problem. (It has become a serious problem in 20 counties in Missouri; I've seen them just a mile away from home and I'm sure they can destroy a garden in just one night).

Winning prizes, especially if you're 15-20 yrs., and have a date, is especially important. The games are a big draw for the kids and teens.

And even for the 40-somethings, winning a tiger for the girlfriend is still part of the Fair!

Bravado, like taking a ride on a mechanical bull to prove you're a man, to your friends, hasn't been lost through the generations, either.

Over the years that I've gone to the Fair, it has always remained an event that celebrates families, kids, agriculture and the food we grow in Missouri. The Fair runs from Aug. 8-18, in Sedalia, MO. I may have to go one more time this year! (And if you're anywhere nearby, stop in to the Agri-Missouri building and say hi, I may be there at my booth).


Sandy Mush Herb Farm

I have been wanting to visit Sandy Mush Herb Farm for more than 20 years. These folks, Kate and Fairman, were members of the International Herb Association (IHA) for many years, even though I don't believe I ever met them at the conferences. Over the years when visitors would find us here at Long Creek Herb Farm, they would often comment, "The only road to an herb farm worse than yours is the one leading to Sandy Mush." So last week, while I was attending the IHA conference in Townsend, TN, outside of Knoxville, it seemed a great chance to visit Sandy Mush. After all, it was only 3 hours away and I might not get that close again. Reading over their website directions, they are very upfront about the condition of their road - small cars can't make it, big buses can't, either. But having a pickup that's high off the ground, I was undaunted.

As we drove past beautiful woods, waterfalls, mossy roadsides and North Carolina plants galore, we encountered Fairman, on his tractor, grading some of the road. "Is your pickup a 4-wheel drive?" he inquired. Nope, but the pickup goes just about anywhere, I replied. "Well, once you start up, just don't slow down, give it some gas," he said. And off we went up a delightful road with boulders the size of giant watermelons in the road. 
Kate greeted us in the driveway. She and Fairman have been on the farm for 30+ years. They sell at farmers markets in the spring (in Asheville, as I recall), but their main business is selling their 1,300-plus plant varieties by mail. She made us feel welcome and sent us to explore on our own. This was more fun than I could had ever imagined! There were many, many terraces of stock plants, some varieties I have only read about before.
There were 3, maybe 4, greenhouses. Since it's late in the season they were low on a lot of plants - thankfully for them because you want to sell your plants in late winter to late spring. But there were still lots and lots of great plants to buy. And so we did, 3 boxes full!
Kate and Fairman's house, hidden in the trees.
There are terraces with beds and pots of shade garden plants. Native plants, cultivated herbs, medicinal herbs - so many varieties! If I had stayed all day I still would not have seen them all.
I loved this spot, a clearing with the stone in the middle. It was peaceful, a spot for contemplation. Nurseries almost never have something wonderful like this. Kate and Fairman live here, and have a dedication to peaceful coexistence with the land and so it is fitting to find this.
They will probably laugh that I found the outhouse so charming. But it is! They could have built just an ordinary outhouse, but it wouldn't have been nearly as pleasant as this.
The garden tool shed fit nicely into the paradise landscape at Sandy Mush.
Monarda didyma, also known as bee-balm.
Monarda, or bee-balm, is one of the most pleasant of herbs for teas. It thrives along the edges of North Carolina woodlands and roadsides. Sandy Mush sells several varieties in their catalog.
Pathway to the creek. I believe the overhead, bending trees are rhododendrons and azaleas.
A leaning rake made an intriguing trellis!
A magical pathway at Sandy Mush Herb Farm.
This pathway, above, was like entering into a fairyland, going from one area to another. Sandy Mush is a delightful paradise, a place I have longed to visit. Some places you imagine in your mind never measure up, while others far exceed what your imagination could ever conjure. Kate and Fairman were such kind hosts and my visit was so far beyond anything I had ever imagined. I am so glad I got to go there!
If you would like to download their catalog of over 1,300 plants they offer, click this link. Their plants are wonderful, you will find herbs and varieties, plants and trees you don't even know yet you want.