Friday, July 29, 2011

James Beard's Scorpion Jalapeno Relish

It's summer, it's beastly hot, and finally - finally - the tomato plants have started bearing fruit.  Like lots.  Earlier this morning, my countertop was literally covered with them -- celebrities, early girls, lemon boys, cherokee purples, and jet stars.  They're all wonderful fresh, but we knew there was no way we'd be able to eat them all before they went bad.

What to do?  Go to the Scampwalker family archives and can some scorpion jalapeno relish, created by the legendary James Beard.  And this cooked relish/salsa befits the great chef, back before chefs were celebrities.

Some 30 years ago, I remember my own dad toiling away in the kitchen, chopping tomatoes, peppers, and onions by the potful.  I was only passively interested in its creation (much like my own kids this very day).  But when it was done?  No finer concoction has ever adorned a tortilla chip. 

Back when I was a kid, I can remember popping a jar open during a Cornhusker football game on a snowy Saturday afternoon, and nothing brought back memories of a distant summer more vividly.  I recall eating it on the back of a tailgate for lunch on a pheasant hunting trip.  And I fondly remember fishing trips on Nebraska's Merritt Reservoir where my dad, my brother, and I -- along with our guide turned close friend -- ate scorpion and tortilla chips and drank gin and tonics (the aptly-dubbed "champagne cruise") while routinely reeling in six-pound walleye.  This salsa is memories.

And despite it's menacing name, it's not particularly hot.  It's sweet, with a nice acidic tang, and a mild kick.  The recipe, below, was given to me by my dad.  I can't seem to find any history on it, nor the cookbook it came from anywhere on the internet (a rarity these days).  My adaptation is below.

5 pounds ripe tomatoes
2 medium onions
1 cup sliced jalapenos, most seeds and veins removed
2 bell peppers
2-3 coarsely chopped garlic cloves
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Coarsely chop the tomatoes and onions, and cook in a large pot over medium heat for about 10 minutes.  Then add the rest of the ingredients, and cook until the peppers and onions are softened a bit, but not mush.  Don't cover the pot -- you want some of the liquid to cook off.

You can eat it fresh at this point, or if you want to can it, use standard waterbath canning techniques, using pint jars with about a quarter inch headspace, and simmer for 15 minutes.

It was my first attempt at waterbath canning, and so far, so good -- the seals are all tight and I can look forward to the taste of summer all year long.  Thanks, Pop.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds great, I'm going to try it fresh and then can some up before fall.