Sunday, August 15, 2010

Just Peachy

I bought peaches at the Cabot Farmer's Market on Saturday. Yes, they do have a Saturday market in Cabot, and yes it is a little...different. While the NLR and LR merchants may be content to allow shoppers to peruse their goods in understood silence, the Cabot folks will start hollerin' at you before you've even gotten all the way out of your car. (I can make this observation because I grew up there.) It's a far cry from the Rivermarket Pavilion, but they had the cutest little peaches...and I'm a sucker for cute fruit.

Somehow, just thinking about baking a peach pie made me tired. All of that dough-making, then cooking the filling, then baking the crust, then baking the whole thing. I mean, that's like, two hours of mid-day oven time. No thanks, mister. If I want to put my head in an oven, I'll stand outside for a few minutes. Plus, I had a bushel full of jalapenos from Nana's garden, and I was going to have to figure out what to do with those things, too.

Then inspiration struck - peach salsa. After some googling and some kitchen-cleaning, I got started. I knew I wouldn't be content for throwing some diced peaches, tomatoes and peppers into a bowl and tossing it around with various herbs and seasonings. No, this was going to be a bonafide simmered, full-bodied, saucy salsa. So much for staying away from the stove. Below is my recipe, if you can call it that. It's more a loose description of what I did and how I did it. I try to stay away from recipes whenever possible. Every artist needs her freedom, after all.

Andrea's Peach Salsa
8 small-ish ripe peaches, peeled and diced
2 medium fat-boy or very large Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
5 jalapenos, seeded and diced
1 medium onion, diced
1/3 c. vinegar (distilled, white wine, apple cider would all work. I have an orange muscat champagne vinegar I plan to try next time.)
3/4 c. water
some more sugar (I use turbinado sugar, probably about 1/2 cup. If you use white sugar or sucanat, I recommend sugaring to taste.)
1 1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
dash nutmeg
tee-tinsy bit of salt

The very first thing you want to do is remove the seeds and membranes from your jalapenos. After you do that, wash your hands thoroughly. I recommend making a baking soda paste and thoroughly scrubbing your hands, including under your fingernails. Once you're sure that you won't inflict injury upon yourself by rubbing jalapeno oil into your eye, you may proceed.

To peel the peaches and tomatoes easily, bring a medium saucepan full of water to boil. Plunge the peaches/tomatoes, one or two at a time, into the boiling water. Leave for 30-45 seconds, then remove. This should make fairly quick, un-frustrating work of the peeling.

In a medium-sized Dutch oven (if you have one), combine the peaches, tomatoes, onions and peppers. Add everything else. Stir well, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let boil for 3-5 minutes. Bring down to a simmer. Make a cornstarch/water paste with about a tablespoon of cornstarch, and add the paste to the simmering mixture, stirring constantly. It should cause the mixture to thicken; if not, make more paste and repeat. After a good while of simmering (mine was 30 minutes, but I think 10 would be okay), taste the mixture and discover, with horror, what I discovered: this tastes like peach and pepper cobbler. The fruit is very upfront, so you'll likely need something to amp up the savory-ness. I tried adding more garlic - no dice. As proud as I was of my super-fresh, home-grown sweet summer salsa, I knew that I needed to go to the pantry on this one. Tentatively, I opened a can of Ro-Tel (Mild). I carefully added a meager teaspoon of that tomatoey-peppery-spicy goodness to a tiny bowl of my peachy invention, and I waited. Then I tasted it, and all was right with the world. I dumped the whole can into my pot and kept on simmerin'.

The result, you ask? A peach salsa that is as tasty as it is pretty. See for yourself.

I was able to fill 2 wide-mouth pint jars and 1 very cute 6 oz. jar when it was all said and done. This can definitely have various uses: straight up chips and salsa, as a garnish to fish tacos (yummm), on grilled pork chops or chicken, you name it. Buon appetito!

No comments: