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Savory, spicy salsa heats up the taste buds

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With the tomatoes soon a big commodity in backyard vegetable gardens, I've had a few calls from individuals asking about cooked salsa recipes. I featured one of my favorite go-to recipes a few years back, so I'm going to include it again this week, along with another easy-to-make cooked version and my favorite fresh salsa recipe.

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The first cooked "Salsa" recipe is one that was originally shared by a friend, and the one I turn to each summer when the tomatoes are ready. It's fairly fail-proof and works best if you drain some of the tomato juice off before you start cooking the batch. Some tomatoes are juicier than others and if the liquid is too great, the salsa will not thicken enough in the simmer process.

The "Wonderful Salsa" is a recipe I found while searching the Internet a few years back wanting to try something different than my traditional salsa. Consequently, since that time I have been making batches of each. With the sugar added, this particular recipe happens to be a little bit sweeter version and a nice change of pace (no pun intended).

The "Fresh Salsa" is also a recipe I make over and over during the late summer months when the tomatoes are at their peak. It takes just a few minutes and is a great appetizer served with tortilla chips when you are entertaining guests. The only problem is that it will disappear quickly so it might be wise to make a double or triple batch to begin with as leftovers also keep well in the fridge.

Many people do not care for the taste cilantro lends to the salsa, so if you are one of those, feel free to throw in some fresh parsley.

When I'm serving the fresh salsa with chips I also like to have individual dipping containers for each person to use. You can certainly purchase them just about anywhere, but I save and wash the little plastic containers that come with the individual fruit servings on the grocers shelves. They are just the right size and you can wash and reuse them. I have even placed them on the top rack of my dishwasher.

As for the number of jalapenos you use in each of these recipes, you can of course adjust the amount depending upon your likeness for hot. Also be sure to remember to protect your hands with rubber gloves when you are dicing the peppers.

Until next time, from my kitchen to yours, happy cooking.

Salsa

4 1/2 quarts tomatoes

3 1/2 cups finely chopped onions

4 cups chopped green peppers

2/3 cup jalapenos chopped (about 4 with seeds)

4 tbsp. canning salt

4 tbsp. white vinegar

3-4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp. cumin

Mix all together in large kettle. Simmer for two hours and place in hot jars and cover with hot lids and rims. You'll hear the jars popping as they seal themselves, usually within an hour's time. (If you leave any salsa on the rims as you're filling each jar, make sure you take a sanitized cloth and wipe the rim clean so it's residue free before you put on the hot lid. Otherwise, your jars may not seal. If you prefer to go the extra effort and hot bath them, you can do that also, boiling them in the hot water for ten minutes. I don't ever do this and have never had a problem, but most cooking experts would recommend this. In either case, if it appears that any of the jars of salsa have not sealed, just refrigerate them and use them first.)

Wonderful Salsa

8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained

2 ½ cups onion, chopped

1 ½ cups green peppers, chopped

1 cup jalapeno peppers, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. pepper

1/8 cup canning salt

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup white vinegar

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste

Mix all together in large kettle and bring to a slow boil for 15 minutes. Place in hot jars with hot lids and will seal themselves (same process as above). You can also cook the jars in a hot water bath for ten minutes.

Fresh, Delicious Salsa

3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

¼ cup finely chopped red onion

¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 fresh jalapeno peppers, stems and seeds removed, finely chopped

2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

1 tsp. finely chopped garlic

½ tsp. salt

Combine all the ingredients in bowl, mix well. Cover and chill at least 1 hour, or until ready to serve.

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