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Preserving the Harvest

Turn Peaches and Tomatoes Into A Pantry Staple

This Peachy Tomato Salsa marries sweet, tangy and spicy into a handy pantry staple, a topping for halibut, chicken or pork. (The Washington Post - Deb Lindsey)

This Peachy Tomato Salsa marries sweet, tangy and spicy into a handy pantry staple, a topping for halibut, chicken or pork. (The Washington Post - Deb Lindsey)

It might seem surprising to pair peach and tomato, but jazzed up with coriander seed and lime, dashed with sweet and hot chili peppers and tangy with red onion, this two-fruit salsa is just looking for a dance partner. It’s cooked just until saucy, keeping the flavor fresh and forward. If you are a fan of cilantro, a generous handful is a welcome addition when serving.

The peaches and tomatoes should be firm and just barely ripe. Blanching and peeling them is a bit of extra bother, I know, but don’t skip those steps. When the pieces of fruit are cooked unpeeled, their skins will curl up into tough, unpleasant bits throughout the salsa.

To make the jobs go smoothly, follow this tip I learned from a chef: Do one task at a time, all the way through. First, make an X in the skin on the base of all the peaches and tomatoes while a pot of water comes to a boil. Next, dunk all the fruit in the hot water, then transfer them to a big bowl. Peel and core all of them, seed all of them, chop all of them. It is said that the human mind learns a task though repetition, and by completing each one with all the tomatoes and peaches, you will gain skill and familiarity, speeding the experience.

By adding just the fleshy fruit of the tomato and peach, without any excess juices, the salsa will require less time to reduce to the right consistency. The less time the fruit spends cooking, the fresher the resulting salsa will taste when you open a jar six months down the road.

Consistency-wise, the mixture is ready when the fruit is no longer floating on the surface of the saucy liquid in the pot, but is suspended throughout. Plan on a hard boil for about half an hour — one so vigorous that the stuff will spit a bit, so be careful.

The lexicon of preserving often seems arbitrary, a mystery to me. When recipes mix fruit with a balance of sweet and acid (in the form of vinegar), why is one called a salsa and the other a chutney?

I don’t have the answer. I simply decided this recipe is a salsa. A sauce. Something delicious to spoon on fish, chicken, tofu after grilling, over feta cheese. Piled atop a quesadilla. You’ll appreciate the peach-tomato duo’s ability to dance in the depths of winter cuisine.

Peachy Tomato Salsa

Makes four 12-ounce jars or three pint jars

This snazzy salsa marries sweet, tangy and spicy into a handy pantry staple, a topping for halibut, chicken or pork. Try it with Manchego cheese or spooned over queso fresco. When serving as a dip for chips, stir in some chopped fresh cilantro at the last minute.

For a less spicy salsa, remove and discard the seeds from the serrano chili pepper. For a mild salsa, omit the serrano altogether.

Make ahead: The salsa can be stored in a cool dark place for up to 1 year. Refrigerate after opening.

From Cathy Barrow, author of Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving (Norton, November 2014).

Ingredients

2 1/2 pounds (7 or 8) firm, ripe yellow peaches, peeled, pitted and diced

1 1/2 pounds (5 or 6) red Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced (see Notes)

1 red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 to 2 serrano chili peppers (see headnote)

1 sweet red pepper, cored, seeded and diced

1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons coriander seed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Steps

Combine the peaches, tomatoes, onion, serrano (to taste), sweet red pepper, vinegar, sugar, honey, lime juice, coriander seed and salt in a large, nonreactive heavy pot. Stir well.

Place over medium heat; cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat to high; bring to a vigorous boil, stirring regularly but gently to avoid scorching. Cook until the mixture thickens to a saucy consistency, around 35 minutes. Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.

Clean the rim of each jar, place the warmed lids and finger tighten the rings (not too tightly). Process in the boiling water bath (see Notes) for 15 minutes. Use a jar lifter to transfer the jars to a clean folded dish towel to cool for several hours.

Label and date the sealed jars. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. Refrigerate after opening.

Notes: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Cut an “X” in the bottom of each tomato and remove the stem. Place in the boiling water for 10 or 15 seconds, no longer. Use a slotted spoon to quickly transfer to the ice-water bath. The skins should simply slip off.

Water-bath canning safely seals high-acid, low-pH foods in jars. The time for processing in the water bath is calculated based on the size of the jar and the consistency and density of the food. For safety’s sake, do not alter the jar size, ingredients, ratios or processing time in any canning recipe. If moved to change any of those factors, simply put the prepared food in the refrigerator and eat within a week.

Fill a large canning kettle or deep stockpot two-thirds full with water. To keep the jars from rattling against the pot, place a rack in the pot. (A cake rack works well; a folded dish towel is equally effective.) Sanitize the jars in a short dishwasher cycle or by boiling them in a canning kettle or pot for 10 minutes. Fill a small saucepan with water and add the rings. Bring to a boil over high heat, slip in the lids and turn off the heat.

Use a jar lifter or tongs to lower the filled, sealed jars into the boiling water bath, keeping them upright. When all of the jars are in place, the water should be 1 to 2 inches above the jar tops. Add water as needed. Bring the water to a low boil before starting the timer for processing.

At the end of processing, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water bath until the boiling has stopped. That will reduce siphoning, in which the food burbles up under the lid, breaking the seal. Use the jar lifter or tongs to transfer the jars to a folded towel, keeping them upright. Leave the jars until they have completely cooled, at least 12 hours. Remove the rings and test the seal by lifting each jar by the lid. The lid should hold fast. Label and store in a cool, dry, dark space.

Nutrition Per 1/4-cup serving: 70 calories, 0 g protein, 18 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 85 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 17 g sugar

Barrow’s first cookbook, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving ” (W.W. Norton), will be published in the fall. She blogs at www.mrswheelbarrow.com.