Last night, two of my friends and I jostled for space in my small kitchen and made salsa for our children’s school’s snack program.
In the foreground are six quart-sized bags of tomatillo salsa concentrate: they need another quart of chopped tomatoes to make salsa in the heat index that schoolkids will tolerate. Tomatillo-based salsas don’t can well: it’s better to freeze concentrates like these and add stuff later (plus, our school’s freezer isn’t terribly large). The 23 quarts and one pint you see in the back row are black bean/corn salsa. These have been pressure canned, and having noshy tidbits like corn and beans in there means the salsa comes through the rigors of the canner quite well, no mush.
Salsa is one of the kids’ favorite snacks. In the bad old days, they got by with a gallon of the stuff from Gordon’s, rather abominable. How is it, you ask, that store-bought jars of salsa DON’T turn the tomatoes to mush? They go through the same canning process, after all. Well, they use unripe tomatoes that have been put into chambers of ethylene gas to cause the red color (but not the ripeness). I don’t know. I don’t want my kid eating that.
So: the school (about 135 kids) will go through two quarts during salsa snack, once a week. (It’s a small shared snack, not a meal: one of the principles of Montessori is the grace and courtesy required of a shared experience, like a communal snack.) The tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, onions, and garlic were grown by us; the corn is local, and the beans are from the Thumb (of Michigan, northeast of Detroit).
As things ripen, we’ll have a lot more canning to do, and at least another two batches of salsa-making. And then it’s on to the other days of the week: one snack day is Pizza Day, after all…lots more sauce needed!
This is terrific. I only wish more schools could do this, kind of like what Alice Waters has done in Berkeley. Hard to shake up the entrenched bureaucracy, though.
My kid’s new school is getting their lunches through Revolution Foods, which is a step in the right direction. I think my two are going to brown-bag it, though.
I teach fourth grade and when we study chemical changes, we use the herbs we’ve grown in class to make pizza sauce, then make our own cheese and use the whey to make our pizza crust. The kids love the whole process.
Your salsa is beautiful.
Stef, the Edible Schoolyard book is on our school’s shelves. It’s rather inspiring. But isn’t all school lunch kind of nasty? The school she goes to is private, so that means that parents definitely have a lot more involvement and that if anything is going to happen it’s mostly due to us. I don’t think that’s a burden though; we’d be homeschooling if she wasn’t an only child. But brown-bagging is the way to go!
Kimberly, that’s wonderful. I hope you do the pizza exercise more than a few times a year! It’s fun to demonstrate the science that goes in to cooking, which is why I think food is a fabulous area of study, especially with fourth-graders as they can really grasp a lot of the concepts. Good for you!
I just picked stuff to make salsa today – MMMMM. I can’t wait. I really want to make peach salsa.
Peach salsa! Yum. Peaches work really well if they’re slightly underripe: they hold their texture really well then through the canning process, kind of like that corn and beans I mentioned. But heck, maybe you’re just *making* salsa, not canning it, so…it’s really enjoyable with big, sloshy, super-ripe peaches that way! Have fun with it!
What a fantastic school! What incredible good food habits and self-sufficiency skills you are providing for your children!
In reagrds to canned salas using tomatillo: it works. I do it every year, but it’s very different from the tomato based on. I throw my tomatillos, onion, garlic, herbs & spices in a hot cast iron pan. Let all charred a little. Cook a little longer, pulse in the food precessor – not too smooth, I don;’t want puree. And THAT doeas can well. Otherwise, you are right, way too much liquid…
🙂 Delicious. And as always, I love the idea of this program. After doing that breadmaking workshop with kids at the summer-program I’m involved with, I appreciate all your efforts even more, even though I just had a tiny toe-dip into what you do.
I managed to get some tomatoes from a farmer who had some surviving plants, and salsa would be a great use for them. Do they can in a waterbath?
YUM. I freeze salsas when I do them…. These look great. Husband’s uncle did some with CHERRIES in it one year. SO good.
Oh, how fortunate that your girl has a school y’all like so much. I looked at our Montessoris; they aren’t set up for barter / trade and are cost prohibitive for us. If we’re not homeschooling, and since I’ve returned to paying work that may evolve into more hours still, I dream of a community based school with a garden and healthy snacks and family involvement all around…. Yay, you!
Sylvie, well as you know some of us are OBSESSED with good food habits and self-sufficiency skills, so…I guess it should rub off on the small folks too, right? Thanks for the tip about pulsing them up after a trip through the skillet, I might have to give that a try because tomatillos are really prolific this year.
MC, unfortunately, you will need a pressure canner unless you’re doing plain tomatoes or sugary things like jams and preserves or vinegary things like pickles. Too much of a risk of things going bad in just the boiling-water method. But! They freeze fairly well too!
Paige, goodness, cherries! CERTAINLY have plenty of them after our 4th of July raid on the cherry farm. The tuition at her school is slight because it’s so depressed around here; I was shocked at how little the tuition was compared to what we had anticipated in Minneapolis. And maybe that’s what you’re bumping into too: there are lots of folks willing to pay lots of dollars to send their kids to school in Nashville.
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