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!