Intro: Salsa in a Bag
Everybody loves a good salsa, and it is great to bring for picnics, hiking trips and other adventures. Hauling around jars is not very practical, so here is an alternative preservation method using vacuum bags.
Step 1: What You'll Need
This salsa recipe is based on the ingredients I had that needed to be used for something.
1 kg tomatos
1 red onion
5 cloves of garlic
1 tea spoon salt
1 tea spoon honey
1 fistfull of fresh coriander/ cilantro.
You will also need
Vacuum packer or heat sealer
Step 2: Chop and Boil
Chop up all the ingredients to whatever size you prefer. If tomato skins bother you, you can poach and skin the tomatos first. Throw it all in a kettle.
Let it simmer until the volume is reduced aproximately by half. Leaving a couple of tomato stems in while it simmers ads a nice tomato aroma that the tomatos themselves can not give.
Pick out the stems again when the salsa has been reduced to the desired consistency
Step 3: The Bags
Prepare a few vacuum bags of the desired volume. You usually buy the plastic in rolls and seal it of to the desired volume yourself. Make sure you get bags that are intended for sous vide use, so they can stand boiling.
Fold the opening of the bags back before you fill them to prevent spilling salsa on them. For the heat sealing to work, the mating surfaces must be clean.
Step 4: Fill and Seal
Fill the bags with as much salsa as you would like. Squeeze out air bubbles and heat seal the bag. If you are using a vacuum packer for this, you can turn on the vacuum after you have sealed the bag. If anything happens at all, the bag was not propperly sealed.
Step 5: Boil Again
Now it is time to sterilize everything. This is standard waterbath canning, just with bags instead og jars. Put the bags into boiling water. You need to keep them completely submerged, so add something heavy on top to hold them down. Leave the bags in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. make sure water can circulate between the bags.
If you have a sous vide waterbath, you can of course do the sterilization there. If you have one with a rack to keep the bags apart, thats just perfect.
Since we are not boiling under pressure, it is important that the food has a pH value below 4.5 to stop the bacterium Clostridium botulinum from multiplying. C. botulinum produces spores that are resistant to boiling, but acidic conditions below pH 4.5 stops them from germinating. Tomatos can be highly variable in acidity, so to be sure, you should check the finnished product with pH strips. You can buy these in most aquarium stores. If you don't want to measure, you should find a recipe that uses vinegar or lemon juice to make sure the salsa is acidic enough.
The botulinum toxin produced by C. botulinum is one of the most potent neurotoxins we know, so this is not something to be taken lightly.
Step 6: Store and Eat
Your salsa bags are now ready to be stored in a cool, dark place, and be eaten when you desire. Pour it in a bowl for the table or just snip a corner of the bag and sqeeze the salsa directly on your food.
This method of canning can of course be used for anny kind of food that is handy in a bag.