We use a lot of tomato products at our house – soups, stews, salsas, casseroles…well, the list could go on for awhile. For years I’ve preserved our homegrown tomatoes in frozen tomato sauce, canned salsa and pizza sauce, and of course, Addictive Tomato Chutney.
But the search for a good, safe, canned tomato-and-chilies product (also known by the brand name of Rotel) has surprisingly taken awhile. Most recipes I found online included things like onions (um, then isn’t it just salsa?), or more disturbingly, sugar – sometimes as much as 1-1/2 cups!
However, a quick look at the ingredient list on a can of Rotel shows no sugar, just:
- citric acid
OK, basically tomatoes and chilies – I should be able to do that. But since chilies are a low-acid ingredient and tomatoes are right on the edge of being safe for water-bath canning (with the addition of citric acid or lemon juice), I needed to find a tested recipe that I could feel good about canning and storing.
What I found was the Minnesota Method for canning a tomato mixture. It is very clear that the ratio of tomatoes to low-acid ingredients has been tested as is and can’t be increased, but that it is safe for water bath canning.
However, I didn’t want celery or onions – just chilies, so in adapting the recipe I omitted the 1-1/2 cups chopped celery and onions and increased the chilies by only 1/2 cup, so the total ratio of low-acid ingredients to the 12 cups of tomatoes went down from 2 cups to 1 cup.
All this is to assure you that although I did technically increase the amount of chilies, I decreased the total low-acid ingredients overall, so this is actually a better, safer ratio than the original recipe.
Some notes to the recipe:
- I think the flavor is really good as I made it, but the dry spices are totally adaptable, so adjust to your tastes.
- I added 1 jalapeno in my 1 cup of chilies to make ours a bit spicier, but all mild peppers like anaheim or ancho is probably more like the store-bought product.
- I found that even though quartered tomatoes seemed too big for a Rotel-type product, they cooked down so much in the 10 minutes that when I tried it with chopped tomatoes, it came out more like a chunky sauce, so I’m recommending simply quartering the tomatoes.
- I’ve been using only citric acid in tomatoes for the last few years as most bottled lemon juice is full of preservatives and the Rotel ingredient list uses it as well. However, you can use lemon juice if that is what you have.
- 12 c. cored, peeled, and quartered tomatoes
- 1 c. finely chopped chili peppers (anaheim, ancho, or other mild pepper - add in a jalapeno for spice, if desired)
- 1 TB. canning salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. dry oregano
- ½ tsp. coriander
- citric acid to add to jars: ¼ tsp. for each pint (1/2 tsp. for quarts) OR 1 TB.
- lemon juice for pints (2 TB. for quarts)
- Click here to see how I easily peel tomatoes.
- Click here for a tutorial on water-bath canning.
- Wash, core, peel and quarter tomatoes. Add to a large stockpot.
- Wash, stem, and seed chilies (leaving seeds increases spiciness). Finely chop (or cut into large pieces and finely chop in a food processor).
- Add chilies, salt, pepper, oregano, and coriander to tomatoes in stockpot, bring to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- While tomato mixture is simmering, prepare canner, jars and lids (here's a tutorial for water-bath canning).
- To clean, hot, pint canning jars, add ¼ tsp. citric acid or 1 TB. lemon juice (if using quart jars, add ½ tsp. citric acid or 2 TB. lemon juice).
- Ladle the tomato-chili mixture into each jar, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove bubbles with a spatula, wipe rims, and attach lids.
- Add jars to canner, cover, bring to a boil and process 40 minutes for pints (50 minutes for quarts), adjusting heat as needed to maintain a soft boil.
- Remove jars from canner to a towel-lined counter and let cool 12 to 24 hours. Remove rings for storage and check lids to be sure they've sealed (gently pull up with your fingers). Refrigerate any that didn't seal.
Do you use Rotel-type tomatoes? What are some of your favorite recipes that use them?