I can only guess that some of you are wondering why a guy like me would spend his weekend making salsa while the weather was beautiful outside. Let me start by saying this, I did still get out to enjoy the weekend. Getting out into the garden to pick the veggies required for the salsa is part of the fun of making it and part of the reason that I started growing my own veggies. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you how all the parts of the story came together to make, Salsa!!
About 3 years ago I was asked to take on a new position at work, Manager of the Garden Centre (I work for Home Depot). I had a working knowledge of the tractors, lawn mowers and BBQs that my department was home to, but the plants and soils were all something new to me. My only experience in a garden had been when I was a kid at my grandmother’s house. Her garden encompassed most of her back yard and was a source of constant summer activity. She grew anything and everything in the garden and was always sending us away with fresh peas, corn or carrots!!
Based on my experience at gram’s house and in an effort to embrace the department I was now running, I bought myself a few veggie plants in the spring that year. I thought, “I may as well see if I can grow something. That way if some asks ‘Is it easy to grow this’, I can say, ‘It must be, I did it’!!”. Well, my hot pepper plant and tomato plant did very well that summer and soon I was faced with what to do with all the jalapenos, tomatoes and grape tomatoes I had on my hands. I knew my gram had frozen whole tomatoes for use later, but I knew there must be something more to do with them.
Prior to his death in 2001, my Dad had bought a set of high quality cookware and was toying with the idea of taking some cooking classes. I already had some basic cooking skills and I kept looking at the pots that were in my cupboards thinking, “I must be able to make tomato sauce or BBQ sauce or something with all these tomatoes”. One day at work, I overheard one of my co-workers say that they had spent the morning canning some stewed tomatoes from their garden before coming to work.
A light bulb went off inside my head and I asked a simple question, “Is that hard to do”?? The response was, “No. Do you have tomatoes that you can’t use”?? Our conversation carried on and ended with a promise to email me a recipe for stewed tomatoes and a recipe for salsa, to try. I was a little nervous of “canning” or properly preserving the product of my efforts but this co-worker (born and raised in the country) was completely at ease with the entire process. They answered all of my questions, both by email and at work and encouraged me to give it a shot. So, one September afternoon, I gave it a shot. I pulled my Dad’s pots and pans out and took the basic knowledge of what my gram used to do (she canned pears, plums, peaches, tomato juice, etc), and the recipes I had been given and put it all to use.
My first batch of salsa and the first batch of stewed tomatoes were a long, time-consuming process, but it actually was fun to see a pot full of raw ingredients boil down and turn into something to be shared with family and friends. Plus, I thought it was a great tribute to my Dad and his desire to cook some new and creative items with his cookware.
I was proud to have grown the tomatoes and peppers in my garden and to have turned them into something delicious. The reward of sharing something you made with someone is unique and I now know why my gram loved cooking for others. To get the ultimate feedback, I turned to my two main Salsa Guru’s; My sister and my friend Shannon. I gave them each a jar of salsa and waited for their feedback. Both immediately raved about the flavour and asked for more!!
The next year (and every year since) I have tried to grow as many of the ingredients in my garden for the salsa and tomatoes that I make. I like to know that all of the effort I put into growing the veggies turns into something that people enjoy (including me). This year, I have expanded my repertoire to include green, Salsa Verde, as well as the red salsa and stewed tomatoes I made in years past. It is just as good as the first two efforts, in my opinion.
I realize this is a bit of a long story that essentially boils down to this; I wanted to use the cookware my Dad had hoped to use to make some meals and carry on some traditions my Grandmother had started. I am sure that part of it was proving to others that even I could grow some veggies and turn them into something yummy!!
I hope that I get to share some of the Salsa I make in my kitchen with you, because I love hearing what others think and treating them to something that you just don’t get everyday, some good, quality home cooked treats!!
Here are some pictures of the process and the results: