We returned from San Francisco to find a bounty of fresh produce in our garden.

What can a fellow do with so many tomatoes? Make fresh salsa, of course. My wife has perfected a recipe she adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated cookbook, The Best Recipe. Here’s the original, followed by her modifications.

Fresh Red Table Salsa

  • 3 large very ripe tomatoes (~2#), cored and quartered
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice
  • 1 small jalapeno or other fresh chile, chopped (remove seeds for mild salsa)
  • 1 medium red onion, quartered
  • 1 medium garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup juice from 4 medium limes
  • salt to taste

Blend everything together in blender or food processor to desired chunkiness. Put the salsa in the fridge for 8+ hours (the longer the better). Enjoy!

Things we have learned with this recipe:

  • Be careful with the lime juice. Some people prefer less; others prefer more. We like it, so we use 3/4 cup.
  • If, like me, you’re not a fan of cilantro, be sure the leaves are chopped fine. You may want to reduce the cilantro to just 1/4 cup.
  • For optimum flavor, follow J.D.’s Rule of Garlic: “Always add five times the amount of garlic called for by the recipe.” In this case, use five cloves of garlic instead of one clove. You’ll thank me later. (Kris says she usually puts in 2-3 cloves.)
  • To vary the heat of the salsa, alter the number of chiles (in particular, the quantity of seeds from the chiles). It tastes great even without them.

We call this The Best Salsa Ever. It tastes best after settling for a day or two. I think it gains flavor if set in the sun for an hour before use, but Kris thinks I’m crazy. Regardless, it’s a cheap and tasty treat on a late summer afternoon. Your cost will vary based on what you’re able to grow and what you have to buy. We figure it costs about $2.50 per batch, which yields about six cups. Plus chips. We have to buy chips. (If we could grow our own limes, it would be cheaper still…)

Kris has been canning food like mad since we returned. In addition to the salsa, she’s made:

  • six half-pints of apple conserve
  • four pints of pickled cherry tomatoes
  • two pints of pickled zucchini
  • two pints of berry freezer jam
  • one batch of Asian cucumber salad (another good frugal recipe I should share)
  • one batch of bread-and-butter pickles
  • six half-pints of elderberry-apple conserve
  • a potato-tomato salad for potluck

That’s a lot of food.

I haven’t written much yet about gardening, but it’s a topic that I’ll cover well in the future. If you have the space and the time, growing your own food can be an excellent way to save money. (We’ve saved hundreds of dollars on berries alone this summer.)

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