Now that I have a solid three years of regular canning under my belt (not counting growing up around a mom and a grandmother who canned a lot of food, or the years living on my own when I occasionally made jam), I’ve started to get a pretty good repertoire of favourite “must-make-next-year” recipes to draw from. I’m still very much experimenting with new ones too, but it makes planning so much easier when you have a few in your back pocket already, when you’re shopping at the farmers’ market.
Canning is a bit of a unique process when it comes to testing and tasting new recipes. Firstly, many foods change and mature after canning, so tasting them before sealing them up doesn’t always yield the final flavouring. Pickles are the perfect example but the same goes for relishes and some salsas. Secondly, I tend to feel that I need to save my canned beauties for eating when I can no longer get those ingredients fresh and local, so it can sometimes be months before I unseal and dive in. Finally, it’s a huge disappointment to find that after all that work, you have a dozen or so jars of a product that didn’t quite turn out how you imagined it. There is a fennel relish, a batch of Asian pickles and a certain elderberry jelly (which evolved to become elderberry syrup) that I do not wish to repeat. Thankfully I have a Dad who has this uncanny ability to pack food away without gaining a single pound (oddly, I did not inherit this bonus trait), and who pretty much likes everything, and I usually pawn off that stuff to him when it doesn’t work out for me. It’s always nice to know someone likes it. Thanks Dad!
Today’s recipe however is not one of those. In fact, I’m hard pressed to consider giving any jars of it away at all, it’s so damn good. I can be a bit skeptical of mixing sweet fruit flavours with sour, savoury ones, even though I know this pairing is a cannon of many cuisines. I guess I’ve just been burned in the past with combos that didn’t work for me. But this is not like that at all.
Because of my skepticism it took me until this spring to crack into last year’s batch of peach salsa. And I was simply blown away by it. The sweet syrupy goodness of fresh Niagara peaches combined with the tart vinegar, onion, peppers and chilies is divine. Not only is it great with nacho chips as a snack, it makes a fabulous condiment for grilled fish, beef or pork. You could even serve it with cream cheese and crackers as an appetizer. It’s so good that this year I made a double batch.
Note: I have found canning peaches works best if you use the Fruit Fresh product to minimize any browning. While the colour change is not harming the food, it doesn’t make the end product look very appealing to eat, and one of the most impressive aspects of this salsa is the gorgeous colour. You can get Fruit Fresh at most grocery stores for only a few dollars, and it’s handy for making fresh fruit salads and other kinds of desserts. It doesn’t change the flavour of the recipe in any way.
Adapted from the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving
- 6 cups of prepared peaches
- 6 tsp of Fruit Fresh (to prevent browning of peaches after canning)
- 1 1/4 cups of chopped onion
- 4 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1/2 cup loosely packed, finely chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper (can be substituted with chile flakes or a couple additional jalapeños if you prefer, or left out all together)
- Sterilize 10 to 12 250 ml jars in a pot of boiling water for a minimum of 10 minutes, or in the dishwasher on the extra heat setting. Place snap lids in a pot of hot water on the stove (do not boil) or in a slow cooker on high (do this about an hour or so ahead to ensure lids are hot when you bottle the salsa). Fill your boiling water canner and get it simmering on the stove.
- Prepare peaches. To peel, blanch for 1 to 2 minutes in boiling water and then cool in ice water. Skins will slip off (firmer peaches may need more time in the hot water than really ripe ones, and skins tend to slip off the orange parts better than the yellow areas). Pit and chop. Do this over a bowl if the peaches are very juicy as you want the juices in your salsa. Add Fruit Fresh and stir well.
- Prepare onion, jalapeños, red pepper, cilantro and garlic. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine with peaches and add vinegar, honey, cumin and cayenne pepper.
- Bring mixture to a boil. Boil gently for 5 minutes.
- Ladle salsa into hot jars. Wipe rims and place on snap lids and rings, tighten only until you just feel resistance.
- Process jars in boiling water canner for 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Check seals (proper seals will be curved downwards).
- Store sealed jars in a cool dark place. Jars that are not properly sealed can be stored in the fridge and should be eaten first.
Yield: Approximately 8 250 ml jars.