Fresh Ground Cherry Salsa
I don’t know about where you are, but here in Pennsylvania, autumn came trouncing in on a very chilly rain and seems to have decided to stay. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first person to roll out the welcome mat for sweater-weather and the golden hues of a sun low in the sky. But this particular autumn isn’t so well behaved so far – it’s cold and rainy and leaves little room for those wonderful culinary creations that shine as bridges between the bounty of summer and the selectiveness of fall.
I was looking forward to offering up this recipe for bright fresh ground cherry and tomato salsa as a tasty way to take advantage of those last sweet little tomatoes and tomato-counterparts still left on the vine. But now, with this drastic change in the weather, you may very well be only in the mood for soups and hunks of warm bread, not chilled chunks of vegetables and chips.
There’s always still the chance that gorgeous and elusive event we call an Indian summer around here will happen. I picked up a wooly worm (I don’t know what their propere name is) in my garden yesterday and it had black tips and a brown middle. According to my oh-so-scientific-farm-kids-lore, that means winter will be harsh at the beginning and end, but mild in the middle. Perhaps that will apply to this autumn as well. You know you’re in the midst of an Indian summer when the air stills sings with the buzz of insect wings and the grass is warm and inviting to bare toes, but the sky is crystal blue and the nights require an extra blanket on the bed. Indian summers are perfect for a sweet tangy salsa like this.
There’s another salsa recipe on this site, but, frankly, I was looking for ways to tweak it as I find my salsa is usually a little too juicy. Turns out the fine folks at America’s Test Kitchen had a handy trick for solving that problem: just let the tomatoes sit in a strainer for awhile to get rid of their excess juice without damaging their succulent flesh. They are so smart!
I also very much wanted to include the ground cherries that I know you are all dying to know more about. These funky little fruits were good in Ground Cherry Pie, but they are amazing in Ground Cherry Salsa! It’s like Mother Nature herself had a hankering for salsa when she dreamed up this fruit’s fresh and slightly sweet tomato-meets-pineapple flavor, which contrasts superbly with the zing of the lime and the heat of the jalapeño. This recipe makes the best salsa I’ve ever had! I could not stop eating it, even while I shivered in my wool sweater.
Fresh Ground Cherry Salsa
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated (America’s Test Kitchen Magazine)
1 lbs of ripe ground cherries, halved (about 2 cups)
½ lb of ripe Roma or cherry tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
1 large jalapeno chili, seeded, with the flesh finely minced
½ cup minced red onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
½ tsp salt
pinch ground pepper
2-6 tsp lime juice (1-2 limes)
Sugar to taste (up to 1 tsp)
Place tomatoes in colander and let drain 30 minutes. As they drain, layer ground cherries, jalapeno, onion, garlic and cilantro on top. Shake colander to drain off excess juice. Discard. Transfer to large bowl and add salt, pepper and 2 tsp lime juice. Toss to combine. Taste and add minced jalapeno seeds, sugar and lime juice to taste.
Note: This salsa can be made 2-3 hours in advance, but hold off adding the salt, lime juice and sugar until just before serving.
(makes 4 cups)