February 19, 2006

Hot Tomato Juice

Grinding Dried Red Jalapeños
Have you ever tried a Snap-E-Tom? It is a sort of hot tomato juice, and, being a fan of the hotter capsicums, I used to like it a bit. But now that I am unable to tolerate any more than 500-1,000 mg. of sodium per day, even ordinary prepared tomato juice is off limits. One small can of Snap-E-Tom has 500 mg. of sodium. So I came up with the following recipe. This hot juice not only tastes good, but has certain therapeutic qualities. Lets just say it gets all your juices flowing. For those of you as can eat salt with impunity, the following recipe can be salted to taste.

First I make pickled jalapeño peppers. I do this every fall with peppers from my garden. Store-bought jalapeños are just as good. The pickling couldn't be easier: slice up the peppers, put them in a canning jar and cover with 5% acid quality white vinegar. The resulting pickled peppers are salt-free and will keep all winter. They won't even grow a scum if you keep them refrigerated or in a cold room. Don't use the metal jar lids! The acid will corrode them and ruin the peppers. I use plastic film held in place with a rubber band.

Then you need some ground hot pepper. I like to stick with the jalapeño theme, so I let some of my jalapeños ripen until red in the garden. These ripe jalapeños I cut open so they don't mold, then dry them in a very low oven. You don't want to toast them, just dry 'em until they are hard as shoe leather. When I'm ready to use them, I grind up a few in an electric coffee grinder. You can substitute dried, ground cayenne, but it isn't the same.

Grinding the Herbs
Next you will need the herbs. Mix big pinch of dried parsley leaves, a few leaves of dried rosemary, some cracked black peppercorns, a tiny bit of dry dill weed and some celery seeds. Use a mortar and pestle to grind this mix up very fine. I store this mix in a test tube; you want it fresh and strong, so don't grind too much at once. You will also need some fine garlic powder and some onion powder.

For the tomato juice part, I use one 8 oz. can of Hunt's Tomato Sauce labelled "No Salt Added". Don't confuse this with Heinz Tomato sauce, which is politically forbidden. The sauce goes into an old glass juice jar of about 40 oz. capacity. Add about 1/4 cup of the (now hot and tasty) vinegar from the pickled jalapeños. Add a pinch of the herb mixture, a bit of garlic powder, a tiny bit of onion powder. Add as much of the ground red jalapeño or cayenne as you think you can stand. I like to throw in a bit of fine-ground white pepper as well. I also use 5-10 drops of real original Tabasco Sauce. Surprisingly, Tabasco has very little salt.

Fill the jar with cold water and refrigerate for a day or two, to let the flavor develop. If you make it the way I do, it will be very hot and very low in sodium. Not so hot it burns your lips, but hot enough to make you sweat. Enjoy!
You can use this hot tomato juice in cooking, too. For example, substitute it for the Snap-E-Tom in this recipe for Cajun Black-Eyed Peas. Goes great with pork chops!

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