This is a funny-angled picture of part of the garden from down in the back. The amazing thing is that this was taken about two weeks ago. Look how green and lush it all is! Believe it or not, there are still flowers on the tomatoes and peppers — and it's almost the middle of October! Weird, weird, weird.
The end of the gardening season may actually be upon us at last here in Illinois. The nights are getting into the 40's and the days are teetering on the high 50's and low 60's. There's a chill in the air of mornings — enough to make me put a jacket on when I go out to loose the chickens on the world. That means that it's time to start thinking about putting the garden to bed for the winter, a project that is done in stages here on Honeysuckle Hill. We brought in a small basket of green beans today... I cringed. Enough to use in a stirfry. Quite a few are too big and tough to eat, but my helper will pick anything that looks like a bean. I had a basket of peppers and tomatoes that went into the dehydrator (finally) today. There was tarragon and parsley and basil in the dehydrators and that's all bagged and labeled now and put away.
This time of year the canning gets a little sporadic. Depending, of course on what's in your garden. This is the time when I will sometimes can vegetable soups, because it's a good way to use up bits and bobs of veggies that there wouldn't be enough to can straight out. One of the things that are always plentiful (well, except the year the blight killed everyone's tomatoes) about now are green tomatoes. And peppers. This is the gambling season for gardeners...can I leave those things out there 3 more days, or will the frost sneak in and touch everything, making it unusable? It's a little like roulette. This year's weather has been so unpredictable that I decided to just start hauling stuff in. I got all the butternuts in, I think. (There could be some out there hiding in the tall grass). All the potatoes and sweet potatoes are harvested. There are still carrots in the dirt. Chives are still out there.
Anyways, it's time to use up some of this stuff, and like I said, I had so much chow chow left from last year that I was trying to think of something else to do with all those green tomatoes.
I think one of the best parts of the history of people is the way we ingeniously learn to make do with what we have. Use it up. Waste not, want not--which is what my granny always said. When the cucumbers were past gone and the garden was winding down, she made relish out of green tomatoes and bell peppers. It was my dad's favorite thing in the world, so I learned to make it too. Chowchow. A tangled up mess of recipes and origins. Google it — it will make your head spin. All I know is that we make it from the basic leftovers of green tomatoes and bell peppers and onions, always with some turmeric. And anything else you don't know what to do with.
But this year I took several liberties in developing a new version of salsa verde. I don't grow tomatillos so I use green tomatoes. I won't call it salsa verde (except on the lids of my jars), because it isn't authentic. But let me tell you, it is GOOD.
So, wash and chop those green tomatoes. I had a 5 gallon bucket, almost full, of green tomatoes, a combination of Romas and Beefsteaks. Please forgive these vague measurements. But you can trust your gut (and your palette!) to figure this out.
I wanted a smooth sauce, more than a salsa. I have plenty of regular salsa and peach salsa. I don't have much in the way of sauces for things like enchiladas and carnitas. As you recall, I was given a VitaMix for my birthday last January and I couldn't wait to use it. That beast will puree plywood. I adore it!
Green Tomatoes (like I said, about 5 gallon before cutting and chopping)
Onions (I used 5 large onions)
Garlic (5 cloves) Peeled
Green and Red Bell Peppers ( I think I used about 10 peppers all together, maybe more)
Jalapenos (to taste. I used 8 and it gave it a good bite...but won't set your head on fire)
Cayenne Peppers (I used 2, because I could)
White Distilled Vinegar (4 cups)
Water (2 cups)
Ground Cumin (About 3 tablespoons--taste and see what you like)
Canning Salt (4 tablespoons)
White Pepper (3 Tablespoons)
Lime Juice (2 cups)
2 big bunches of cilantro (optional if you don't like cilantro. I can't imagine, but I know it happens)
About 3 cups of fresh parsley, if you have it. (I did, so in it went.)
I used my big stainless steel soup pot — a 4-gallon pot. I started with the green tomatoes, washed, cored, cut out any bad spots and quartered and threw them in the Vitamix. When it would get about 3/4 full, I pureed the tomatoes. Every so often, to break up the monotony, I would peel a couple of onions and throw in. I followed this procedure with the garlic and bell peppers. Then I got my gloves out — an important step! — and removed the stems off the jalapenos and cayenne peppers. These too went into the blender. Make sure you are processing these with something else such as the bell peppers or tomatoes to make it easier on your eyes. In other words, you don't want a blender full of hot hot peppers and nothing to tone them down. After all the vegetables are pureed and in the pot, add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer gently on medium heat for about 25 minutes. Taste the mixture to see if you think it needs more cumin. You can adjust all the spices to your liking. Same with the hot peppers. This isn't rocket science…just cooking.
Because of the amount of vinegar and lime juice in this, it is safe to water bath can. I filled pint jars to a half inch of the top, wiped the rims, and put the hot lids on. Tighten the rings and water bath can for 15 minutes. This approximate recipe made me 23 1/2-pints of sauce.
So there you go. Another solution to end–of-the-year garden leftovers. Bon apetit!