With tomatoes coming out our ears this time of year, now's the time to can lots of salsa to enjoy time and again throughout the winter. If you have a cheap smoker, you can make your own chipotle chili peppers, which are smoked jalapeno peppers.
1. Prepare green or red jalapeno peppers as follows: Remembering to wear latex gloves and not rub your eyes or face during this preparation, take 70 or 80 jalapeno peppers and remove the stems, cutting a vertical slit in one side and sliding a finger inside each to remove the white membranes and seeds. Don't separate the two halves, or they could fall through your smoker's grates.
2. Stack jalapenos in a smoking machine (Little Chief or any smoker) and smoke, using wet hickory or mesquite wood chips. Smoke the peppers for about 12 hours, replace spent chips with fresh wet ones every hour and a half. Chipotle peppers are done when they turn from bright green to olive green and are slightly wrinkled. Seventy to eighty chilis will fill about 3/4's of a storage gallon bag of chipotles.
Making the salsa:
1. Using a tupperware dishpan or other big dish, fill with about 30 to 40 pounds of roma or regular tomatoes. Remove the skin by throwing the tomatoes into boiling water for about 30 seconds or as long as it takes for the skin to peel off easily. Remove the skin and discard the seeds by prying them out with your fingers. After the tomatoes are skinned and de-seeded, put the tomatoes through a processor on "chop," or chop them by hand.
2. Put the chipotles through the processor.
3. Put the chopped chipotles and tomatoes in a huge stewpot and simmer.
4. In large saucepan, heat about a quarter cup of canola or olive oil. Chop and add 4-5 large onions, 4-5 green peppers (not hot ones), a whole head of garlic or more if you really like garlic, a large bunch of fresh cilantro (use less if using dried), lots of fresh or dried basil, and fresh or dried oregano. Simmer spices and onion mixture until limp. Add this mix to the tomato and chipotle stewpot. Stir.
5. Add more spices to the pot according to your taste: Adobo seasong (2 tsp.), turmeric (1 tsp.), cumin (1 tsp.), ground oregano(1 tsp.), salt (2 tsp.), black pepper (2 tsp). Mix and taste salsa. Adjust the taste by adding more spices.
6. Add approximately a quarter cup of red wine vinegar to the stewpot and allow the mixture to simmer off most of the water for half a day, stirring every half hour.
7. To can the salsa: Sterilize 16 to 18 pint jars in a boiling water bath for ten minutes, along with lids and screw caps. While the salsa is hot, ladle it into the jars, hand-sealing each one. After the jars are all filled, put them back into the boiling water bath and boil for ten minutes.
This is my own recipe, and adjustments for taste will be required, as well as adjustments to the volumes of the peppers and tomatoes. Use your own judgment. And you may need fewer or more canning jars, as well. All is approximate. But you will have fun doing it and a good product for fall and winter snacking.