Tomatillo Overload!

tumblr_mrsalwwBTk1qmywbko1_500The canning begins…

Just as I’m preparing to go back to school for another semester we are reaching a critical point in the season in which Lauren buys a ridiculous amount of produce in an effort to overstock her pantry with Ball jars full of food for the winter.

It’s about to get crazy in that little kitchen in the city.

On a whim, I bought six quarts of tomatillos at the Andersonville Farmers Market from my friends at Midnight Sun and decided it would be a good idea to have enough salsa verde around to withstand the apocalypse…. this is how I did it:

Tomatillo Salsa

(recipe courtesy of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)


  • 5-1/2 cups chopped, cored, husked tomatillos
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped seeded green peppers (your choice of heat… I used a bunch of banana peppers and one jalapeno with a few of the seeds for the whole batch, because I’m not a “burn your face off salsa” kind of  girl.
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 4 tsp lime juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 TB finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes

tumblr_mrsg0rifqb1qmywbko1_500Prepare your canner, jars and lids.*

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until semi-smooth.

Ladle or pour hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace in the jars. Gently remove air bubbles by poking into the jar with a knife and adding salsa as needed. Wipe rim, center seal on jar, and screw band down until fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes.  Remove canner lid, wait 5 min, then remove jars, cool, and store.

*You’ll need a big soup pot that’s deep enough to submerge your jars in water. Place empty jars in pot and fill with water until jars are covered. Heat over med-high heat while you prepare salsa. This will sterilize the jars and heat them (hot salsa into hot jars to process).  Bands and seals should be gently heated in a small saucepan until ready to use.

Makes about two pint jars.  I, of course, quadrupled the recipe to get the haul you see here…

Where Your Food (i.e., your turkey) Comes From

The food chain, by nature, is a brutish, nasty beast.

Bearing witness to it up close may not be something that is for everyone, but for me it was an important rite of passage.

I was a vegetarian for 10 years, vegan for 5, and, for me, I eat meat today for many of the same reasons that I stopped eating it in my late teens.

I will spare readers the soap box for now and make a long story short by saying that I’m delighted that this year’s turkey feast comes not from the Jewel down the road, but from my farmer friends Nick and Becky at Midnight Sun Organics.

I saw these guys while they were babies over the summer during a work-share shift, and since I haven’t been on the farm in several weeks I was slightly surprised to see fully mature turkeys following their master down the lane, like the Pied Piper.  Kids these days… they grow up so fast.

I agreed to help “dispatch” this flock because I feel a sense of obligation to participate in where my food comes from, and, for me, that extends beyond just vegetables if I eat more than just vegetables.  Knowing that these animals were cared for, had open space and real food, and were raised by my friends, means that they lived quality lives and, as my Mom put it, only have one really bad day.

While I wasn’t able to really help with *every* step of the process – a process I’m deliberately leaving out unless you ask me personally  – looking back on the day I’m most distraught about the fact that I’m not really distraught.  Honestly, it wasn’t that hard for me to desensitize from the whole thing and just get the job done.

But this is not really that unusual.  Everyone who eats meat is, to a certain extent, desensitized.  It’s just easier to do when you buy something in a florescent-lit showroom on a styrofoam platter.  When your meat doesn’t resemble what it used to be, it’s easier to not think about the violence that occurs before it ends up on your table.  Vegetarians make a habit of visualizing where meat really comes from and how it ends up on the plate, and this is often how I stayed diligent…. because, let’s be honest, meat is delicious.

The “alternative” activity for the day

Maybe for you this is not the way you’d choose to spend a Saturday afternoon: driving an hour to a farm to shuck garlic and slaughter turkeys. But the crisp, fresh air, time with friends, learning about my food, and 20 pounds of deliciousness in my freezer made for me, a perfect day.

Photos by Julie E. Ballard

The Crock Pot (a.k.a. “Old Faithful”) makes tomato sauce

“Old Faithful”

I pseudo inherited my crock pot from my mother while foraging her basement on a Sunday trip to the suburbs.  This 1975 Sears “Crock Watcher” is older than me, but undoubtedly in better condition.

If the 70’s got anything right, it’s the slow cooker.  The idea that I can stick something in there at 6am before I leave for work, cover it  with liquid, and come home to a good smelling house AND dinner still boggles my mind, and I do it about every other week…. sometimes more, sometimes less.

Lately Old Faithful has been working overtime cranking out tomato sauce to stock up for the winter.  I bought 30 pounds of tomatoes from Midnight Sun Farm over the course of three weeks and have made tomato processing an obsession.

After an epic fail on the stove of sauce that was way more juicy than saucy, I revamped my approach.  Ok, it wasn’t entirely a fail, just a misunderstanding between me and the tomatoes, really.  After consulting mom (my go-to for kitchen mishaps) and my friend and fellow canning-enthusiast Toni Camphouse, I opted to try the slow cooker approach, and I’m never turning back.

Homemade Tomato Sauce


  • Tomatoes (duh)
  • Salt
  • Lemon Juice
  • Canning jars and lids

Core and quarter tomatoes and fill your slow cooker.  Prop the lid open with a spoon and cook all day on low.

The great tomato stock-up begins…

Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the tomatoes until smooth.  Pre-fill canning jars with salt and lemon juice.  For quart jars, use 2TB lemon juice and 1 tsp. salt*.  Half those if using pint jars.  Add sauce to jars and fill to 1/2″ from the top.  Cover with lid and band, twisting until hand tight.

Add jars to water bath (making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch). Once water is boiling, reduce heat to a rolling boil and set time for 30-40 minutes (30 for pint jars, 40 for quart).  Remove from water bath and set on a level surface to cool (don’t shake the jars).  Store for as long as you like, or about a year, whichever comes first.

* You can add seasoning to your sauce before you jar it, but I prefer to do it once I open the jar so the herbs and spices are fresher.