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Archive for Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lemon a safe bet when canning salsa

August 25, 2010

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Q: Is it really necessary to add lemon juice to home-canned salsa?

A: In canning any tomatoes or tomato salsa, it is very important to add lemon juice, lime juice or citric acid to increase the acidity. This is because tomatoes have a pH level that is just above 4.6, making them a low-acid food. A pH of 4.6 or lower is required for safe canning without the use of pressure processing.

Microorganisms such as Clostridium botulinum, the type of bacteria that causes botulism, can survive or grow in some foods at certain pH levels. The Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend that naturally acidic foods (such as fruit, jams/jellies) and acidified foods (such as pickles and salsa) have safe pH levels before canning.

To ensure safe acidity in whole, crushed or juiced tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per quart of tomatoes. For pints, use 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid. Acid can be added directly to the jars before filling with product. Add sugar to offset acid taste, if desired. One to 2 teaspoons of sugar may be enough to enhance the flavor.

Here’s a safe salsa recipe that was shared by the North Dakota State University Extension Service. When making salsa, I prefer the flavor of lime juice over lemon juice — but either can be used — based on your tastebuds.

Safe Salsa

7 quarts paste tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped

4 cups long green chili peppers, seeded and chopped (about 12 chilies)

5 cups onion, chopped (about 5 medium)

1/2 cup jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (about 2 peppers)

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups bottled lemon or lime juice

2 tablespoons salt

1/2 tablespoon red pepper

2 tablespoons ground cumin

3 tablespoons oregano leaves

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (optional)

Selecting tomatoes: Select only disease-free, preferably vine-ripened, firm fruit for canning.

Caution: Do not can tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines because the acidity of the fruit may be altered.

Procedure: Wash tomatoes. Dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split, then dip in cold water. Slip off skins, remove cores and dice. Wash and prepare peppers. Wear rubber gloves while handling chili peppers. Combine all ingredients except cumin, oregano and cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil 10 minutes. Add herbs and spices and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Wash jars. Prepare lids according to manufacturer’s instructions. Ladle hot salsa into hot pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Remove air bubbles by inserting a flat plastic spatula between the food and the jar. Wipe sealing edge of jars with a clean, damp paper towel. Cap with properly pretreated lids. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

Note: This recipe is best suited for paste tomatoes. Slicing tomatoes require a much longer cooking time to achieve a desirable consistency. Also, you may decrease the amounts of spices, but increasing the amount is not advised. You may make adjustments to suit your tastes after opening the jars.

Q: What is bubble tea?

A: This unusual drink originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s. It is as popular there as coffee or soda is here in the U.S. It all started with elementary school kids. Tea stands would be stationed outside of the schools. To beat out the competition, one concession stand added fruit flavorings to the tea. They would mix it by shaking, which created the bubbles. Thus the name “Bubble Tea” was born.

The next addition to the drink was tapioca pearls. When they were shaken into the tea, the tapioca looked like bubbles. They floated on top and then sank to the bottom of the glass.

The tapioca pearls are black. They have a texture much like gelatin and chewing gum. They are about the size of a marble. When served in clear glasses, the bubbles are easily seen. The drink is also served with a fat straw so the tapioca can be sucked through the straw.

Bubble tea is made with a variety of ingredients. Some contain fresh fruits, milk and crushed ice. They are served cold and are typically sweet.

Bubble tea is starting to become popular in the U.S. Other names for the drink include boba drink, pearl tea drink, boba ice tea, boba, boba nai cha, zhen zhou nai cha, pearl milk tea, pearl ice tea, black pearl tea, tapioca ball drink, BBT, PT, pearl shake, QQ (which means chewy in Chinese) and more.

Q: How does Kansas compare to other states when looking at obesity rates?

A: Kansas was named the 16th most obese state in the country, according to the seventh annual F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2010 report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The state’s adult obesity rate is 28.2 percent, and, in Kansas men are more obese than women at 29.6 percent. Now more than two-thirds of states (38) have adult obesity rates above 25 percent.

For additional information, go to http://healthyamericans.org/reports/obesity2010/ and www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/AdultObesity/.

— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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