Grilled Peach and Corn Salsa, and My New Found Obsession with Preserving

I mentioned in the past that preserving wasn’t in my DNA, well neither was English and here we are.

This season I have preserved more than the 15 years i have lived in the U.S. combined. From jams, to fruit butters, sauces, salsas, chutneys, to dried herbs and soaps. Someone told me a few years back, “You don’t have the preserving bug, yet,” to which I replied “Not sure I’ll ever get it.” I know, what a joke.

lavenderhoneypeaches

The more I dig into the pros and cons of eating seasonally, the more I learn to appreciate the bounty of fresh, Colorado grown products in the summer and fall, and align myself with the process of preparing for winter, when our diet consists mostly of root vegetables, grains, pulses, hearty greens and a few sustainably raised meats.
Preserving the summer and fall harvest allows me to go back in time by taking little capsules of flavor from my freezer or canning cellar to inject life to any meal. Let’s face it, after 3 months of parsnips and rutabagas I wish to break loose and buy an out-of-season zucchini {most likely from Mexico}, instead I add pesto to any dish from soups to pastas to beans or lentils; or chutney to meats or roasted vegetables.

peachcornsalsa

The bug hasn’t consumed me fully, I still can’t find myself canning soups and anything that requires a pressure-canning technique; even thought I’m comfortable using a pressure cooker, I’m not sure I trust a load of cans inside of it. It troubles me. Every time I consider the idea, the memories of a big pressure cooker exploding at my mother’s restaurant when I was in my early teens come rushing, and I walk away. For now, I’ll stick to water baths.

how to dry rosemary

I didn’t just stick to canning, however. The kitchen walls looked like an apothecary’s den with hanging bunches of herbs like rosemary, lavender, lemon verbena, thyme, oregano, and sage. Once dried, I used lavender, rosemary and lemon verbena to make olive oil soap following the direction of this YouTube video on “Basic soap making,” and blending the crispy leaves and flower buds with the oil.

oliveoillavendersoap

It was a simple process to follow, but I learned to listen to her advice of using a well-ventilated area after the kitchen became a gas chamber. The second attempt, I wore my rubber cleaning gloves, a breathing mask, and goggles {while still wearing my Pj’s}, designated a measuring cup and a mixing bowl to soap making, and a separate sponge to wash them all.

easy lavender soap

I did wonder why all soap making {at least that i found} uses lye if it can burn your skin and can explode if using tap water. Turns out that the chemical reaction between fatty particles {oil} and the sodium hydroxide {lye} create soap and the original ingredients are unrecognizable after curing. Like magic. And the longer it cures the more lathery the soap is, as the lye transforms and disappears. I still don’t get it, but thankfully for humanity I’m not a chemist or a scientist.

The abundance of fruits, vegetables and herbs this season kept me busy every weekend. Peaches, plums and pears from Ela Family Farms’ CSA came by the box. Beet and carrot greens together with basil, parsley, oregano and thyme from the garden, were perfect for many versions of pesto and salsa verde, and filled our freezer in 4oz mason jars.

At one point in late summer, we had close to 100 peaches crowding the kitchen island after batches of peach jams with ginger or vanilla, peach butter, and peach chutney. We needed another addition, and solution, to our delicious conundrum, so we made peach-corn salsa.

grilledcornforsalsa

We wanted a smoky flavor to come through, so we grilled the corn, sweet peppers, and some of the peaches, not really following a recipe but rather guidelines of what a salsa should have, especially for canning where acid levels are crucial to avoid spoilage. Besides acidity, we wanted to concentrate on flavors we like. We are wimps when it comes to spicy foods {as in hot, burn your tongue, esophagus, and stomach when consumed *unaware*}, and all of the recipes called for jalapeños and hotter peppers. No thank you.

Our perimeters were:

  • Acidity to balance flavors and for preservation purposes
  • Sweetness to showcase the nature of the harvest
  • Smokiness to enhance the sweetness
  • And just enough spice for our delicate taste buds

Most recipes called for 1/2 cup of vinegar for every 6 cups of peeled and diced peaches. Some added lime juice, a good balancing flavor to the vinegar. Since we had peached, peppers and corn, all sweet, I counted the corn and peppers as part of the cups of fruit, to ensure our salsa was acidic enough. Why bother? I read in a canning book that in the past few decades our growers have hybridize fruits, including tomatoes, to make them sweeter, which is great, unless you want to can them using old canning recipes, in which case you either add enough acid to compensate or use pressure-canning {and we already discuss that.}

This is a cooked salsa because we wanted to keep it in our cellar rather than freezing it, and because we don’t want to die of botulism. We also made some as fresh salsa to eat raw within a couple of days, without the need of preservation, just toss all the ingredients {holding back on the vinegar to only 1/3 of what it calls here} and let it marinate for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Grilled Peach-Corn Salsa

The skin on the grilled peaches will come off easy. If you don’t want to grill them, then an easy way to peel peaches is to first blanch them. You’ll need a big pot of boiling water, a big bowl of iced water, and a pairing knife. First score an X on the bottoms of the peaches with the pairing knife, then drop them in boiling water and leave them there for 2-3 minutes. Then fish them out of the hot water with a slotted spoon and plunge them in the iced water. The peel slips off. More magic.

To roast peppers, char their skins either on the grill or a gas stove, place them in a bowl and cover them with plastic, let them sweat for 5 minutes, then rinse under water to release the skin and seeds.

6 cups of peeled, diced peaches
2 cups of fresh corn kernels
2 roasted peppers
1 large onion, diced small
2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

  • Grill corn, peaches and peppers {any of the peppers you like}
  • Strip the kernels of the corn cob
  • Clean roasted peppers under running water, roughly chop them
  • Dice the grilled peaches
  • In a non-reactive sauce pan, cook peaches, corn, peppers, onion and spices for 10-15 minutes.
  • Add vinegar, lime juice and cilantro and cook 2 more minutes. Process following the directions for canning on your jars, or follow this link for canning 101. 

~ Paula

summerjams

 

2 thoughts on “Grilled Peach and Corn Salsa, and My New Found Obsession with Preserving”

    1. Yes, we have enough to last the snowy season, and Yes! i’ll be glad every time we enjoy taste of summer while the snow pile sup outside the window 🙂

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