fermented salsa

i’m not yr normal breakfast person.  i tend to be more into savory that sweet, often going for leftovers from dinner the night before.  i also have a love affair with tortilla and salsa and will happily shove said leftovers into a tortilla, add some salsa to it, and call it breakfast.

i purchase salsa at least once a week from a small local grocery store called honey bee market.  i love that its called honey bee, and the quality of products they carry is great.  while the salsa doesn’t seem like a huge expense, it’s certainly something that we spend money on each week, and ma and i are always looking at ways to reduce our expenses.  with a case of tomatoes at our disposal the idea of making a bunch of salsa seemed a great idea.

while i could make make your normal homemade salsa, why not make something unavailable at any store: fermented salsa.

the idea of fermented salsa struck me as a little weird the first time i spied it in sally fallon’s nourishing traditions a few years ago.  one of ms. fallon’s major concepts is that food is generally healthier and more digestible when fermented.  i’m not gonna argue with that, but the more important element for me is that i’ve noted the taste also often improving.  over time i’ve come to the realization that even the strangest sounding ferments often taste much better than they sound, and i set to the task of making fermented salsa.

i read over ms. fallon’s recipe and procedure, the recipe was pretty standard for salsa and the procedure pretty standard for making any ferment.  i closed the book put it back on the shelf and followed my gut.

tomatoes needed to be cored and peeled, after years of canning tomatoes, a few tricks have helped make it easier.  i first start by coring the tomatoes and making an x slit on there butts.  boil some water and put ice in a bowl.  when the water come to boil add a dozen tomatoes at a time, let them boil for a couple of minutes and then dunk them in the ice water.  

let them sit for about 30 seconds and then peel.  they should slip from their skins.

for the salsa i chopped up about two dozen tomatoes, a couple of jalapenos, a few different sweet peppers, a couple of onions, a few cloves of garlic, and a bunch of cilantro.  then mixed in the juice of two limes and some salt to taste.  you can adjust it as you like, i wish i had put more garlic and jalapenos in my batch.  it tasted great before i started the ferment.

to kick-start the ferment fallon recommended the use of some whey – not always the easiest thing to have on hand, but s had some milk that she was turning into a soft cheese, so i was able to grab the whey off of her cheese.  if you don’t have any whey, i think it would work just fine, but it does help to add a nice culture of lacto bacilli.

with the whey added everything gets packed in a clean crock.  i wiped down the sides before i closed it up.  a plate put on top of the salsa, and a weight to hold everything down and push the liquid out of the salsa to keep air out(in this case a quart jar of water).  then covered in a piece of cheese cloth to keep the fruit flies out.then the wait.  fallon recommended two days, but a tasting on day two seemed much too mellow, same with day three, on day four it seemed pretty good.  i might have let it go longer, but s said that was enough.

it had put off an impressive amount of liquid during it’s ferment, the plate had been just barely covered when i first packed it in the crock, and now had an inch of liquid or so on top.i drained the liquid off that was on top and set it aside.  this seemed like a pleasant surprise for me – as one of the things i dislike about some salsa is that it contains too much liquid.  the finished salsa i packed into jars and put in the fridge, covering with just enough liquid to keep them covered with a layer of liquid, but not so much that it was soupy. in the fridge it has been keeping for several weeks with no signs of “going bad”.  considering how quickly i’ve been eating it, i don’t think i’lll find out what happens when it does go bad.

what does it taste like?  kind of like a cross between kim-chi and salsa.  it’s got the tomato, cilantro and lime flavor of salsa, plus the heat and garlic that kim-chi and salsa share, and the bubbly effervescentness of kim-chi.  i think it’s pretty magical.  others might think its pretty gross.  i’ve not tested it on anyone else other than s yet to see their relations.  s thought it was wonderful.

do you have any experiences with making fermented salsa?  what are your thoughts? made any ferments that you thought might be gross, but turned out tasty?


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