The Zero-Waste Chef

Fermented Salsa

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My younger daughter refuses to drink kombucha (referring to the SCOBY, “How can you put anything into your body that touched that!”). She won’t try sauerkraut (“What’s that smell?!”). She will eat sourdough, although somewhat reluctantly (“Why can’t we have a normal kitchen?”).

But she scarfs down this. If you want to get some good microbes into a picky eater, make salsa. They simply cannot resist it. The stuff tastes fantastic and is so easy to make. You basically cram a bunch of fresh ingredients into a jar and wait. As with everything I have ever fermented, when I first made salsa, I thought to myself, “That’s all I do?! How did I not already know about this?!”

Salsa stocked on store shelves has been pasteurized at a high temperatures in vinegar, killing all the microbes, bad and good, making it shelf-stable for years. Although salsa in the refrigerator section contains fresh vegetables, it lacks the probiotic, gut-loving goodness of the fermented stuff. And look at all that plastic! And the prices! For this post, I made a small vat of salsa, about 40 ounces (5 cups), for five dollars or so. If you can actually find fermented salsa at the grocery store or farmer’s market, it will cost a small fortune. Oh and fermented will keep for months in the refrigerator or cold cellar, if not longer, unless you eat it all quickly, which you may because it tastes so delicious.

And the taste! You cannot beat it. It has a natural tang, a slight effervescence and tastes intensely fresh. I can’t quite describe it. It just kind of makes your tongue sing. I suppose fermented salsa compared to processed salsa is similar to the difference between eating a home-grown tomato in July versus a store-bought one in winter imported 5000 miles from Chile.

Ingredients

I forgot to add the lemon to the pic; I would have preferred lime but didn’t have any

You can vary the amounts of these ingredients according to taste, however use plenty of tomatoes so you render the correct juicy consistency.

Directions

To speed things up, you can use a food processor, however DO NOT mince onions in there unless you like the VERY bitter taste the food processor will produce. Garlic can also taste bitter if processed this way. For the last batch of salsa I made, I put everything in the food processor except for the onions and garlic. For the salsa in this post, I chopped or minced everything by hand with a knife.

1. All vegetables are covered in naturally occurring lactic-acid bacteria. When you submerge the vegetables in liquid, these anaerobic bacteria will ferment your food. To kickstart my salsa, I add some microbe-filled whey strained from high quality plain yogurt. The fermentation will work without the whey; it may simply take a little longer.

If you add whey, before you begin chopping and mincing, strain some yogurt until you have collected a few tablespoons. If you make your own yogurt, you will render quite a bit of whey for kickstarting fermentations.

n.b. The vegetables will ferment without whey. They will just take a bit longer.

I use a coffee filter lined with a thin cloth to strain yogurt into a jar; my coffee filter is one of the few plastic items left in my kitchen

2. Place the bite-size tomato pieces in a bowl. Use your hands to crush them into a soupy consistency. This will take only a few minutes. You do not need to score, blanch and peel the tomatoes for this recipe (yay!).

3. Stir in the remaining ingredients, including the whey, if using.

4. Pack the salsa into clean jars and replace the lids and set aside at room temperature. Place the jars on a dish to prevent juice from oozing all over your counter when the salsa becomes lively and bubbly.

5. Burp your jars daily to release built-up carbon dioxide. You can stir the salsa every day while burping the jars to keep everything well mixed and prevent mold from forming on top. I haven’t had trouble with mold forming in jars of salsa, but I have had a bit form when fermenting tomatoes in an open crock. I just scrape it off (if it’s white). You may notice your vegetables separating from the liquid. Just stir everything up/shove it down with a clean spoon.

Don’t panic; just stir this down

6. If you added whey, taste your salsa after it has fermented for two days. It should have a natural tang to it and a slight effervescence. It may take a couple of days longer to ferment without whey. If you like the flavor, place your jars in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation. If you prefer your salsa more tangy (or if it’s not ready), let it ferment a little longer (12 to 24 hours).

Move to the refrigerator what you don’t devour immediately

Fermented Salsa

Ingredients

Directions

1. If using whey, before you begin chopping and mincing, strain some yogurt until you have collected a few tablespoons.

2. Place the bite-size tomato pieces in a bowl. Use your hands to crush them into a soupy consistency. This will take only a few minutes.

3. Stir in the remaining ingredients, including the whey, if using.

4. Pack the salsa into clean jars and replace the lids and set aside at room temperature.

5. Burp your jars daily to release built-up carbon dioxide.

6. If you added whey, taste your salsa after it has fermented for two days. It may take a couple of days longer to ferment without whey. If you like the flavor, place your jars in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation. If you prefer your salsa more tangy (or if it’s not ready yet), let it ferment a little longer (12 to 24 hours).