Happy Can-It-Forward Day! As a new food blogger, I feel honored to be invited by the Ball brand to make a recipe from The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving. One pass through the book, and I had decided what to create for the sixth annual Can-It-Forward Day. Yes, recipes such as Low-Sugar Strawberry–Tequila Agave Jam and Apricot–Lavender Jam caught my eye, but how could I pass up the chance to combine tart cherries, chipotles, cilantro, and tequila—especially when I was midway through the cherry harvest?
We harvested and processed a double batch of this cherry salsa last weekend, and we’ve been sharing it with people all week for feedback. Love for it has been unanimous. The recipe produced a lovely fruit salsa, with plenty of cilantro flavor and a great tart bite. It’s been particularly popular as the accompaniment for our favorite fish tacos.
Smoky Sour Cherry–Tequila Salsa
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
4 pounds fresh tart cherries, pitted and chopped (about 13 cups)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1 small red serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 cup tequila
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Combine first four ingredients in a large stainless steel or enameled Dutch oven. Cook, stirring often, over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add cherries and next three ingredients; cook 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in tequila, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
Tips & Tricks
- The recipe given here is from the Ball book, but I made a few adjustments when preparing my batch. I used bottled lime juice, which I always prefer in canning because 5% acidity is assured; that said, the tart cherry’s natural acidity should let you use fresh lime juice safely. My serranos are still green, so I grabbed a large one, which likely infused the salsa with heat similar to that of an older, hotter red chili. Finally, we smoked and froze our own chipotles in adobo last year, so I reached for those instead of canned ones.
- After pitting and chopping 4 pounds of cherries, I measured out only 8 cups, perhaps because of the variety of cherry. If you have the same result, stick with the 4 pounds and don’t worry about how many chopped cups you end up with; 4 pounds of harvested cherries filled the expected 4 pint jars per batch, with only about 1/4 cup left to sample.
- Although it’s popular these days, I’m not a fan of small-batch canning. The Ball brand has gone that route with this book, so I simply doubled my batch, filling my canner with 7 pint jars and stashing the extra unsealed jar in the fridge to test with various dishes (see below).
- Although the natural pectin in the cherries helped the salsa set up a bit, I’d prefer it slightly less juicy and might cook it down longer next time. I’d also love more of the smoky flavor. My taste testers agreed that we could get away with some additional chipotle and adobo, but my first inclination is to roast the cherries like raspberries.
Twice as Tasty
Salsa is highly versatile, once you get past tortilla chips and burritos. The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving recommends serving this salsa with grilled halibut and roasted green beans. Friends also found it delicious on cheeseburgers, and when poured over a wedge of warmed Brie, it paired nicely with a glass of red wine. A recipe from Whole Foods Market even has me inspired to try it this winter in a veggie burger. But our favorite so far has been as a main ingredient in a summer staple: grilled fish tacos.
Grilled Fish Tacos
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons thinly sliced onion tops
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 small tilapia fillets (about 8–10 ounces total)
1/2 cup cooked black beans, drained
1/2 cup Smoky Sour Cherry–Tequila Salsa
4 medium or 8 small corn tortillas, warmed
1/2 cup spinach or other greens, torn
1/2 cup Lemon Cheese or other cheese
1 lime, quartered
Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, onion, garlic, cilantro, and spices in a small glass measuring cup, whisking briefly with a fork. Place the fish fillets in a shallow bowl, and pour the marinade over the fish. Cover the dish and set it in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Lift each fish fillet from the marinade and onto a plate. Pour the marinade into a small pan and heat on the stovetop to a boil; let it boil for 2 minutes before removing it from the heat. Place the fillets in a grill pan or directly on a hot grill as appropriate. Grill about 2 minutes each side, until the fish is just done and beginning to flake. Remove it from the grill, flake it into a few large pieces, and toss with the boiled marinade.
Combine the black beans and salsa in a small bowl. Build the tacos to taste in warmed tortillas, layering in the fish, salsa–black bean blend, greens, and cheese; squeeze a bit of lime over each taco. Serves 2–3.
Tips & Tricks
- This taco recipe has been much requested over the years, and in late summer, I often make an accompanying fresh salsa with tomatoes, black beans, chili, onion, and cilantro. Now that we have the tart cherry variation, we’ll be putting this meal on the table long before the tomatoes are ripe.
- Avoid overcooking the tilapia; the fillets are usually quite thin and ready quickly. You could substitute another mild white fish or go with something meatier, like tuna. If you’re serving a group that includes vegetarians, simply double up on the black beans and salsa; they easily fill a taco without the fish.
- We’ve found a brand of tortillas that combines white and corn flours in 8-inch rounds, and we tend to use them for everything. Traditional small corn tortillas also work well; just be sure to warm them so that they’re pliable, and consider doubling up for two per taco. Tortillas are easy to warm by wrapping them in foil and setting them on the grill while it heats or in a 350°F toaster oven.
- Most of our greens have already bolted, but we tried spinach-like green this year called orach that’s been a great extension of the salad season. If your greens have already gone by, I highly recommend looking for orach seed.
Twice as Tasty Giveaway Winner
As part of Can-It-Forward Day, the Ball brand offered up a copy of The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving for a Twice as Tasty reader. People have been submitting fabulous ideas for canning it forward all week: Teaching the fourth generation of canners, keeping family members well supplied with tasty jams, introducing favorite American pickles to British friends, and even finding nonfood uses for excess greens by preserving them for dying vats.
It was a tough call, but my favorite idea came from Jenn Robinson-Jahns’s comment in the Twice as Tasty Facebook group:
I love the can it forward idea! I had a neighbor share some of her figs with me this week and learned that she moved into the house just last year and doesn’t yet know how to can, so I am headed there this weekend to make a batch of fig preserves with her to teach her the basics. This is the recipe will use, only I want to reduce it a lot longer than the recipe recommends so we get a thick, cheeseboard style preserve!
I am often offered produce from people who know I can, and I always have a jar or two to pass back as thanks. But I love that Jenn plans to take it one step further and get her neighbor into canning. Who knows where it will lead, but if the idea spreads around the neighborhood, the next block party will be so delicious. Congrats Jenn—and let us know how the canning went.
Although the giveaway has ended, you can still participate in Can-It-Forward Day. A host of videos with canning recipe demonstrations are running until 3:30 p.m. EDT today on the Ball Canning Facebook page via Facebook Live, and you can read more about the event and pick up a coupon toward canning supplies on the pledge page. Enjoy!