Food Preservation

Chipotle Peppers in Adobo

Of all the products I put on my preservation spreadsheet each year, the one with the least yield and a crazy amount of labor would be these tiny jars of canned smoked jalapenos. As a result, I put off this part of my preservation plan until it’s really almost too late. Some years, it has been.

Even with all that, I still love this recipe. A jar of canned Adobo peppers is probably less than a dollar at your nearest Mexican grocer so if you’re budgeting tight for what to buy local and what to skip, I would skip this one. But... I love that I can control the sourcing of the tomatoes and the concentration of flavor in this recipe, so here we go.

Even in late October it is possible to find the last red jalapenos from your local farmer. If you have time smoke and dehydrate them within the next week or two, before they turn to mush in your fridge, I highly recommend it even if you don't end up simmering them in this sauce and canning them. Dry them and grind them up to add to winter stews and chili or other sauces and call it a day. This year, I used frozen tomatoes for my pepper sauce and I didn’t notice any major difference from the previous years’ batches.

Since peppers are low-acid foods, it’s important to follow a recipe to ensure the pH is low enough to prevent botulism. I found this recipe several years ago and really enjoy it, though I’ve always come up short on the quantity it claims to make (five 4oz jars). I would wager the weight of the peppers in the recipe is post-smoked/dried. Bear this in mind when you make it at home too.

Chipotle In Adobo Sauce

From Homespun Seasonal Living

(http://homespunseasonalliving.com/chipotle-adobo-sauce-canning-recipe/)

1 1/2 Ounces Chipotles (smoke-dried) jalapenos*
2 Cups Tomatoes, chopped
1/2 Cup White Wine Vinegar
1/2 Cup Onion, chopped
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 Cup Honey
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Allspice
1/8 teaspoon Cloves
 

Instructions

  1. Mix everything together in a pot and cook until thick, stirring occasionally. It'll take at least 30 minutes. You could also put it all in a slow cooker on high and leave the lid off to let it thicken more slowly and allow you to do other things.
  2. Once thick, ladle into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/2" headspace. Process the jars in a hot water bath for 30 minutes (adjusting for elevation).
     

*Note on smoking jalapenos. If you have time to plan, you can keep the dried/smoked peppers in the freezer until it comes time to make this recipe. If you’re firing up the grill to make a meal during the summer, add the peppers after the coals have died down a bit. For an hour or two, your peppers can sit on the grill while it loses heat and should absorb that smokey flavor. If they aren’t fully dried afterward, throw them in a dehydrator or in your oven on the lowest setting until dried. I wait to seed the peppers until afterward, though you can do this beforehand if you want to remove some of the heat from the peppers.

Use these jars wherever recipes call for them, or mix with sour cream or yogurt for a dipping sauce, add to soups (they are wonderful in potato and frozen corn chowder), or water down and use for slow braising jackfruit or meat. I found I had a small quantity of the sauce and one jalapeno remaining that wouldn't fill up a jar so I added some chicken stock thawed from the freezer and frozen tomatoes and slow cooked jackfruit overnight in the oven at 200 degrees with some olive oil, onion, and garlic. You could do the same with potatoes, sweet potatoes, or squash. Anything... well almost anything... tastes good with hot smoky pepper sauce slowly cooked into it, right?

Escabeche

Escabeche Vegetables

For the past four years I've meant to can up some carrot, onion, garlic, and jalapenos - you know the ones like they have at Mexican restaurants for you to snack on while hungover or starving and waiting for your sopes or tacos? Yup, those are the ones. This year I finally did it and promptly forgot to add the garlic to the jars; a rookie mistake I've never made before. This meant, besides bleery-eyedly swearing out loud I had to lift the jars out of the boiling water and open them up while they were exceedingly hot to the touch. Years of canning and working in restaurants has allowed me the pleasure of heat-tolerant fingers but this was pushing it.

Since the recipe calls for oil - I wasn't sure the jars would seal effectively and I didn't have time to warm up a new set of lids for each jar so I just went with it and figured if nothing else, I'd have a bunch of jars for the fridge.

This feeling of rookie-ness coincided with me adapting a recipe for the first time in a drastic way. Since this is the end of the growing season, I had peppers in the fridge to use up but not enough for the recipe I was using from Canning For A New Generation. Since the pH for carrots and peppers is different, I wasn't entirely confident I could sub out extra carrots and retain a safe pH to prevent botulism. 

Enter how grateful I am to have several amazing and experience canners and picklers from my time in Chicago. One Facebook message and one Instagram chat helped set me straight and I adapted a carrots only brine (which added sugar and half a cup extra of vinegar) to use instead. I added additional salt to mirror that from the original recipe and kept the same quantities of oil and spices.

I'm a huge fan of several canning books and in the spirit of this blog supporting small farmers and food producers, I can't copy and share recipes in good faith though it's highly likely some food blogger somewhere has made and shared the recipe. Please buy this book. Buy it from a local bookstore or check it out from your local library. 

Freezing Tomatoes

Some posts on this site will be full of stories and information. Others, like this one, are meant to show you what I preserve, how I do it, and how I use it. They may repeat across multiple recipes throughout the winter. This one for sure will. I present to you: frozen tomatoes.

Tomatoes are one of those annoying things that I only like to can for salsa or jam or something specific and special. I've grown tired of the traditional tomato preserving method, which I'll outline below briefly:

  1. Score the tomatoes with a knife - making an "X" on the bottom.
  2. Dip for 30 seconds into boiling water.
  3. Toss into ice water for a minute or so - working in batches so the water stays cold.
  4. Slip the skins off the tomato and set aside if you want to use them for dehydrating or something.
  5. Remove seeds over a fine sieve or colander set inside a larger pan or bowl to reserve liquid.
  6. Can diced, pureed or whole with added lemon juice or other acid based on which recipe you're using. Can using a traditional water bath canning process.

See? That's too much for me when I'm busy canning salsas and compotes and pickled or blanching other things. I also really like not having to add lemon juice or acid. Instead, I slice the tomatoes in half length-wise, de-seed the same as in step 5 above, leaving the skins on. I freeze the tomatoes on a cookie sheet overnight, throw into freezer bags and open it up whenever I need 2-3 tomatoes. The texture softens but it would be pretty comparable to that of any canned tomato.

Suggested Uses:

Throw frozen tomatoes in the oven to roast and use for pasta sauce, salsa or soups.

Puree for curries or to add to Mexican Rice or to slow cook with proteins or vegetables.

Transparency/Affordability Note:

The reason for all this preserving? Tomatoes are incredibly affordable in the late summer months compared to fresh or canned in the fall/winter/spring. There's a level of investment here that should be noted, however.  I usually spend about $160 on tomatoes for an entire year's supply, including what I use in other recipes. This does not include tomatoes I grow myself.

Remember you can buy "seconds" of tomatoes that might be cosmetically imperfect (ugly) or have a tiny bruise or spot on them that is easy to cut out. That spot will probably save you money in the long run and the flavor is the same if not better than your grocery store variety.

Water Bath Canning - The Basics

Oh hey. This page is a brief overview of the basics of water bath canning (as opposed to pressure canning which is totally safe when done correctly but terrifying for some people). Read on below and feel free to ask questions in the comments.

This original source material is pulled from Slow Food Chicago's canning classes handouts.

Step-by-Step Water Heat Processing

(Do not skip a step. It is extremely important to ensure safe and sanitary home canning.)

Clean the jars and closures: Wash jars, lids, and screw bands in soapy water.  Discard any jars with nicks or cracks or uneven rim surface. (Washing the jars in the dishwasher also works)

Heat the Jars:  Put jars in large stock pot or canning pot, fill so that water covers the jars, cover the canner and simmer the water.  Do not bring to a boil.  Keep jars hot until use unless the recipe states otherwise.

Prepare closures: In a small saucepan, place flat lids, cover with hot (not boiling) water (new lids with BPA free rubber rings should not be boiled as the older flat lids were).  It is not necessary to heat the screw bands.  Keep lids hot until use.

Prepare recipe

Fill Jars: one jar at a time, take jar out of canner and dump water back into canner.  Ladle prepared food into jar (I like to use a funnel), leaving the amount of head space that the recipe calls for.  With a clean paper towel, clean around lid.  Using a magnetic lift lid from hot water and screw on with screw top.  Using your fingertips (not wrists) screw lid.  Over tightening may cause seal failure. Bang very lightly on surface to get out air bubbles.  

Heat process the jars: Put full jars back in canner, fill with water  to 1 inch above jars, once the water is boiling see recipe for specified processing time.  (I usually keep a kettle of water ready to top off the water if necessary)

Cool Jars: turn off heat and let jars sit for five minutes. Place the jars carefully in a box or pan lined with a towel to insulate the jars for the next 24 hours. Try not to disturb them.

Check Your Jars: After 24 hours, check to see that the jar is vacuum sealed (there should be a u-shaped dent on top of the jar.  If it has not sealed, refrigerate and eat promptly with-in two weeks.  Be sure to date your food, and if sealed properly, it can be stored in a cool dark cabinet for one year. Remove the ring during storage.