Canning Class: Peachy Tomato Salsa


Peachy Tomato Salsa. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)
August 14

It might seem surprising to pair peach and tomato, but jazzed up with coriander seed and lime, dashed with sweet and hot chili peppers and tangy with red onion, this two-fruit salsa is just looking for a dance partner. It’s cooked just until saucy, keeping the flavor fresh and forward. If you are a fan of cilantro, a generous handful is a welcome addition when serving.

The peaches and tomatoes should be firm and just barely ripe. Blanching and peeling them is a bit of extra bother, I know, but don’t skip those steps. When the pieces of fruit are cooked unpeeled, their skins will curl up into tough, unpleasant bits throughout the salsa.

To make the jobs go smoothly, follow this tip I learned from a chef: Do one task at a time, all the way through. First, make an X in the skin on the base of all the peaches and tomatoes while a pot of water comes to a boil. Next, dunk all the fruit in the hot water, then transfer them to a big bowl. Peel and core all of them, seed all of them, chop all of them. It is said that the human mind learns a task though repetition, and by completing each one with all the tomatoes and peaches, you will gain skill and familiarity, speeding the experience.

By adding just the fleshy fruit of the tomato and peach, without any excess juices, the salsa will require less time to reduce to the right consistency. The less time the fruit spends cooking, the more fresh the resulting salsa will taste when you open a jar six months down the road.

Consistency-wise, the mixture is ready when the fruit is no longer floating on the surface of the saucy liquid in the pot, but is suspended throughout. Plan on a hard boil for about half an hour — one so vigorous that the stuff will spit a bit, so be careful.

The lexicon of preserving often seems arbitrary, a mystery to me. Why is one berry-sugar-lemon concoction called a jam and another preserves and still another confiture? When recipes mix fruit with a balance of sweet and acid (in the form of vinegar), why is one called a salsa and the other a chutney?

I don’t have the answer. I simply decided this recipe is a salsa. A sauce. Something delicious to spoon on fish, chicken, tofu after grilling, over feta cheese. Piled atop a quesadilla. You’ll appreciate the peach-tomato duo’s ability to dance in the depths of winter cuisine.

Canning Class appears twice a month. Barrow’s first cookbook, “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving” (W.W. Norton), will be published in the fall. She blogs at www.mrswheelbarrow.com. She will join today’s Free Range chat at live.washingtonpost.com.

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