Thursday, September 04, 2014

Your Famous Tomatillo Salsa

I am preserving my troubles away. What? That’s not the catchiest saying. But, you know: kimchi, wild grape jam, puffball paté, the insanely good oven-roasted tomato sauce. And this tomatillo salsa, which I make every year. I used to make it in a less fussy way: I’d just puree the roasted veggies with everything else, using lime juice but no vinegar, and then pop it in the freezer in pint-sized containers or Ziplocs. But now I’ve taken to properly canning it, and so I follow stricter guidelines re. acid and boiling, so as to not get The Botulism.

I’m sorry to post something so particular for the four of you who have access to tomatillos, because I know what you’re wanting at this time of year is a way to turn one inch of tortilla-chip crumbs and six dirty beets into enough school lunches to last the semester. Alas.  

And by the way, the great Ben Making His Own Lunch experiment is proving strangely tedious. He is wearing me down by so much fretful consulting that it’s all I can do not to shove him away from his despairing slouch in front of the open fridge and just make the fucking lunch myself. But I am holding steady. Or trying to. “There’s ham,” I say, over and over, like a postmodern audio critique of the pork industry. Meanwhile, Birdy has taken to making her own lunch just for fun—and uncomplainingly. Thus becoming my Current Favorite Child.

Exhibit A(ngel)
Exhibit B(en)
Back to the salsa: it is fruity and aromatic, a gorgeous pale green and just enough spicy and sweet to be a total crowd-pleaser. Sometimes I’ll dump a jar in a bowl and then add some corn kernels and diced avocado to fancy everything up for taco night. Or I’ll tip some into a pot of posole or Mexican rice. Or I’ll just put it out with chips. If you start making it and bringing it places, it will become Your Famous Tomatillo Salsa. Mark my words.

P.S. I should mention that what I'm really famous for is tomatillo-corn pizza: pizza dough brushed with oil, then a layer of this salsa, scattered with corn kernels and slivered red onion, topped with shredded Jack cheese. It is just BEYOND. You will be everybody's girlfriend, like it or not.

Your Famous Tomatillo Salsa
Makes 6 pints

This recipe is adapted from the delightful Put ‘em Up by Sherrie Brooks Vinton, although I see that my darling Marisa at Food in Jars has a perfect-looking one as well. You can scale this way, way down and, if you’re not canning it, you really don’t need to be very particular about measurements.

5 pounds tomatillos, rinsed and husks removed
Olive oil (I use olive oil spray for this)
1 pound onions, peeled and sliced into thick rings
5-10 jalapenos, stemmed, halved and, if you like, seeded (it’s spicier with more seeds)
2-3 peeled garlic cloves
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
Finely grated zest of 2 limes
½ cup lime juice (from 3-4 limes)
¾ cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
0-2 tablespoons sugar

Heat the broiler. Arrange the tomatillos smooth side up on a large rimmed baking sheet and broil them until they are blackened in spots and steaming and hissing, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly oil another baking sheet and arrange the onion slices and skin-side-up jalapenos on it. Brush or spritz the tops of the onions with oil and broil the onions and jalapenos until they are charring, 5 minutes or so.

In a blender or food processor, in batches, puree the tomatillos with the onions and jalapenos and the garlic until smooth(ish). As you finish each batch, dump it into a large nonreactive Dutch oven or pot.

Bring the salsa to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened slightly, around 5 minutes. Meanwhile, puree the cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, lime zest, and salt in your dirty old food processor blender jar. Add this mixture to the simmered salsa, and taste it. If the tomatillos are perfectly ripe, it might be perfect as is. If not, consider adding sugar, up to two tablespoons, to balance the tartness. Taste for salt.

Can, freeze, or eat it up! If you can it, consult a proper instructional book or website, and process the cans for at least 15 minutes.


  1. Of course *everyone* says you shouldn't have a favorite child. My response to that? Of COURSE I have a favorite child...but that favorite child switches back and forth. Sometimes as frequently as every day. And my current favorite child LOVES green salsa.

  2. Anonymous2:36 PM

    Catherine -
    If I were so motivated, (this would be a HUGE if) I could probably make these for Christmas gifts? How long will it last in the refrigerator?
    Otherwise, I must consult with the expert on all things grandmother. :)
    Thanks, Hally

    1. Dear Hally, it would only keep uncanned for a week or two, tops. Consult with the Granny! xo

  3. Some Catherine Newman sarcasm was *exactly* what I needed today.

  4. heather7:57 PM

    love it. still reading this, twelve years now? thirteen? what? really. I love ben's hand gesture. ha!

  5. ladidah12:22 AM

    i cracked up at "one inch of tortilla chip crumbs". i literally looked in a chip bag earlier today and had that exact thought.

  6. "I know what you’re wanting at this time of year is a way to turn one inch of tortilla-chip crumbs and six dirty beets into enough school lunches to last the semester. Alas. " AMEN. I canned bread and butter jalapenos yesterday if you need a project to keep you too busy to respond to teen lunch angst. ;)

    1. Can you say more about bread and butter *jalapenos*?

    2. oh yes! They are delicious!! Great over cream cheese with crackers. And, I might add, delicious on a ham sandwich. (in case you're still trying to sell that ham...)
      4 quarts sliced jalapenos
      3 cups sliced onions
      3 cloves of garlic sliced
      5 cups sugar
      3 cups cider vinegar
      1 1/2 tsp turmeric
      1 1/2 tsp celery seed
      2Tbl mustard seed
      Combine everything and heat to a boil. Put in hot jars. Process 15 minutes in a hot water canner (I don't know how long in a pressure canner)
      Yields 7-8 pints
      Supposedly a blue ribbon winning recipe from the Minnesota State Fair. Can't verify that. I got the recipe from a friend after eating 1/2 a jar at her house.

    3. Ooooh! Thank you so much! The recipe made my mouth water.

  7. Anonymous3:40 PM

    Thanks! This looks so delicious- I'm going to beg my mom for 5-lbs of her tomatillos! I'm curious about the oven-roasted tomato sauce you mentioned since I have tomatoes coming out my ears; but the link seems to be broken. Can you help? :)

    1. Okay, I think it's fixed! Thank you for letting me know.

    2. Anonymous8:41 AM

      Lovely- thank you! It looks equally delicious to the salsa- I'm so very into roasting everything these days, which is not so practical in this end of summer heat says the hubby, but alas. It just makes the veggies taste so much better! And I love the fruit fly description at the roasted tomato sauce recipe- our house has been feeling like that lately. Ugh!

  8. What? Ben is giving the finger? Didn't he learn to walk, like, yesterday? Aww, he's so grown up now!

    1. Is he giving the finger or is it some gesture I'm not familiar with? The pinky finger is throwing me off ;)

    2. He's giving the finger and, kind of, a little bit, taking it back by sticking out his pinky. That's my interpretation.

    3. Hmmm...I'll have to try that next time I'm pissed off at my husband but I don't really want him pissed off at me ;)

  9. The start of this school year has been so depressing that I literally wake up and wonder if it's time to break out the chocolate bars yet. Thank goodness my lovely better half bought me an espresso machine, so at least I can make a latte and not spend a hundred dollars drinking away my melancholy at the local bean store (and now I know why what stuff is so expensive - the whole beans are $13 per pound!). I'm rambling, and there's no way I am canning anything. Mainly I was just here to get the finger (hah!). Also Birdy's hair always makes me smile. My almost-10 year old girl has a very similar cut and she gets called a boy ALL THE FREAKING TIME so it is a solace to see another beautiful girl with beautiful hair. *mwah* from NC.


    1. I'm glad you wrote me today. Birdy gets called sir, sometimes, and loves it! Tell your daughter. Someone even once called her "young sir," which really had her in stitches.

    2. My 11 year old son is rocking long waves...and everytime someone says young lady or comments how pretty he is ge giggles and shakes his head.

  10. Anonymous8:49 AM

    "“There’s ham,” I say, over and over, like a postmodern audio critique of the pork industry." Ha! Ha! Oh, how this made my day!! :)

  11. Oh, Ben. My near-11yo is super contrary and limit testing these days and I swear I caught him out of the corner of my eye making the jerking off hand gesture when I was harping on him the other day, but that can't be right because my baby wouldn't know what that is, right? 6yo has decided she will make her own lunch this year and it's pretty much the best thing ever.

  12. I wish I had seen this before I made some very watery tomatillo salsa.

    Could you please move your borscht recipe over when you have the time? The link is now leading to Babble? Thank you!

  13. Thanks for the laughs during a dreary tiring week. I especially loved the Current Favorite Child comment. I was telling a few "parent friends" how when one of my 3 (13, 12 and 10 years old) asks the age-old question of "why does XX get such-and-such?", I'll answer with "because they're my favorite, of course". Which is so ridiculous, known to be not true, and stops the question. But my friends were appalled!