There are — as most regular readers of this publication know — any number of ways to cut down on fuel consumption during these chilly winter days. And one of the most pleasurable conservation techniques involves stoking up the ol' internal furnace with hearty cold-weather meals.
Our easy-to-follow chili salsa recipe — which produces a fiery "stomach fuel" that's sure to appeal to anyone who savors spicy Mexican cuisine — can be made fresh for immediate consumption and is also suitable for canning or freezing.
We grow our own Anaheim chilies and jalapeños to use in preparing this relish, but most any type of hot pepper will do. (Remember that different varieties of the spicy fruit will produce varied degrees of "hotness." Your personal taste preference will determine which peppers — "wild" or mild — you'll want to use.) The only other required ingredients are ripe tomatoes, onions, garlic, and salt. (You can, of course, use your own canned or frozen produce to whip up a batch of the chili condiment now that the growing season is over.)
Before we give you a specific "formula," however, we'd like to warn you that we've never followed a written recipe. Because every batch will turn out slightly different, be sure to taste the sauce often as it's being prepared and feel free to add whatever ingredients you think are necessary.
The first thing you'll want to do is peel about 6 to 8 chilies or jalapeño peppers (be sure to wear rubber gloves). This is best done by roasting the spicy fruits over a low flame (or under a broiler) and turning them often until most of the skin becomes brown and is loose. (They should be blistered but not burned black.) Then, plunge the chilies into cold water, and the skins will peel off with little effort. Remove and discard the stems as well. (The seeds — which are usually quite hot — can be removed or left in, according to your taste preference.)
Now blend or chop the peppers together with 1 onion, 4 ripe tomatoes, and a clove of garlic (you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder if you wish), before adding 2 teaspoons of salt to the mixture.
Remember that the amount of each ingredient may be altered according to your taste. Just add more chili peppers to obtain a fiery, greener relish, or use additional ripe tomatoes if you prefer a milder, redder sauce.
If you like the taste of raw onion, you can serve the salsa uncooked. Otherwise simply simmer it, over low heat, until it reaches the texture you prefer.
In the summer, when fresh garden ingredients are plentiful, we put up large amounts of chili macho. Simply chop the produce (using a blender will make the job easy), and place it in a large pot with a few tablespoons of vinegar, honey, and salt, then cook the mixture over low heat for about an hour. Pour the spicy brew into sterile jars and process to seal.
You'll find chili macho to be a versatile condiment. It's delicious poured over pinto beans or rice, used as a sauce on tacos and enchiladas, or added to stews. All alone, it makes a tasty dip for crispy fried tortilla chips. And — on a cold winter morning — you can add the "liquid fire" to fried eggs for a really warming breakfast!