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Monday, August 26, 2013

It's not easy being "verde", wait....yes it IS!

First and foremost, there is one thing you should know about my family.  We grow our own vegetables and herbs.  It's true!  All it takes is a little time, a little patience, a little research, and a little space and what some people find to be intimidating is actually pretty easy.  That's not to say that I haven't had some failures (squash vine borers and cabbage worms, anyone?) Coupled with the frequent trips to our local orchard/farm market and generous sharing by my parents and my uncle (thanks, guys!), in the spring, summer, and fall months we always have an abundant supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.  And if you have the time, energy, and patience to preserve them, you can have homegrown and local produce year round.  I have a chest freezer, pressure canner, and vacuum sealer, all purchased to preserve our harvests.  It saves money, tastes way better, and you can avoid all those pesky chemicals that are in some grocery store produce.  When I say my veggies are organic, I actually mean it.  (No pesticides or artificial fertilizers here....which is why I've had some failures.  I added in some natural remedies for them and cleared it right up!)  At some point, I will compile a list of gardening tips that I have learned through research and trial and error, and post it here.  But, for today, our focus will be on.......

Ta Da!!
Now, don't be fooled.  Even though the name SOUNDS like tomato, it is not.  The tomatillo, also called the husk tomato, is a distant cousin to the tomato and part of the nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant).  But unlike it's saucy cousin, the tomatillo is self infertile.  This is important to know if you plan on growing any of these bad boys.  You must have 2 or more plants to have fruit set, or hope that someone near you is growing one too and that you are lucky enough to have insects that carry their pollen to yours.  Either way, I made the rookie mistake of only planting one, and by the time I went back to get another, our local nursery was out.  But....I am part of that fortunate group of people that SOMEHOW got pollinated and I am getting little fruits!  Yay!  This tomatillo ,however, is not mine.  This one was acquired from the local orchard because I am impatient. 

Top is husked, bottom is unhusked
When working with these little guys, first thing you have to do is remove the husks.  This is really easy, because the only place they are actually attached is at the top, so just grab, peel, and tear, and you will have a tomatillo ready to use.  And what do we use them for?  Salsa verde, of course! 

Now, I have had salsa verde (literally means "green salsa") many different ways. Salsa verde is, in fact, one of my favorite things in the universe!  And even though I have eaten it a thousand times, I have never actually MADE it.  Or ever cooked with a tomatillo.  So, the one thing I was not prepared for is the aroma of the tomatillo.  It wasn't bad...not at all!  It's just that even though I realized it is a tomaTILLO, not a tomaTO, you expect a tomato-y smell because of how they look.  What you are hit with instead is a floral, citrusy smell that is completely unique.  Blended with the other flavors (like a medley of our homegrown peppers), you come out with an acidic, spicy, lime-y, cilantro-y flavor that is completely unique and muy delicioso! Since I was a salsa verde virgin, I had to play with the flavors a bit to get the desired taste, but wrote down what I did so I could share.  All in all, I'd say it was a success!  Which means...recipe time! (You had to know this was coming....)

Senora Smith's Salsa Verde (ha!  See what I did there?)

1 Cup Water
2 Dozen Tomatillos, husked, washed, cored, and quartered
10 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and smooshed
1 Poblano Pepper rough chopped, seeds and all
6 Jalapeno Peppers, rough chopped, seeds and all
6 Serrano Peppers, rough chopped, seeds and all
1 Medium White Onion, rough chopped
1 Cup Cilantro, lightly packed
Juice and Zest of 2 Limes
Salt to taste

Tools needed:
Food Processor

Now for the hard part.  Dump all of these things in a pot.  I like to keep seeds and ribbing to keep the heat.  Bring to a boil and simmer until veggies are soft.
This was pre-food processor

Dump in food processor and pulse until desired consistency.  No seriously.  That's IT!  I smooshed the garlic and roughly chopped all the veggies so it would infuse while cooking, but all of your chopping and blending will take place in the food processor.  Once the salsa is run through the food processor, put it back in the pot and simmer for about 30 - 40 minutes.  Enough to reduce it a bit and thicken it up.

Finished product! Ole!
I canned mine using 8 oz jars.  From this recipe I got 8 jars.  Not bad for about $11 worth of produce! (plus my homegrown peppers, but, hey, those are free!)

 The verdict?  My hubby LOVED it!  And I couldn't stop dipping pieces of tortilla in the warm salsa.  To taste and test for quality and freshness, of course!  I'm sure if I actually get any of my own tomatillos, I will be making more of these.  Cause, you know, Christmas gifts! 

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