Our family LOVES salsa – if we don’t eat it everyday, at least I think it’s safe to say we eat it every other day. We have been spoiled with the flavor of salsa made with a variety of home-grown tomatoes, peppers, and onions. So every August and September I make enough batches to see us through to the next season.
Here are some things I’ve learned through the years I’ve been canning salsa:
- When I first started canning I learned that in order to use a water-bath canner to seal salsa to be shelf stable, it’s important to use a recipe from a trusted source that uses USDA guidelines. This is because there are so many low-acid ingredients in salsa (peppers, onions, and garlic) that it creates a delicate balance between the acid (tomatoes and usually another ingredient like vinegar or lemon juice) and the low-acid ingredients.
- I’ve tried recipes from a Kerr canning book, the Ball Blue Book, the Oregonian, and some books I got from the library that all used safe guidelines. While they all had good flavor (I was using wonderful produce, after all), they were usually really watery and/or vinegary.
- About eight years ago in an attempt to find a thicker recipe, I started making a tomato-tomato paste salsa from the USDA website that I found in the Oregonian. It called for two 12-oz cans of tomato paste and 2 cups bottled lemon juice, which gave me a thick sauce and minus the vinegar taste.
- However, it wasn’t very spicy and a few years ago I looked at the ingredients of the lemon juice (a curse I tell you) and found that it’s full of preservatives. Great. I’ve got all these organically grown vegetables and I’m adding preservatives.
- I started looking for a new recipe and found the recipe that’s become our favorite in a book from the library (I wish I had the title, but I just copied the recipe) that published only tested recipes. It uses just one small can of tomato paste and just 3/4 cup of vinegar, so it’s still thicker and the vinegar doesn’t overpower (I changed it by adding a few more peppers (1/2 cup) but then decreased the onion by a 1/2 cup to keep the recipe in balance, which makes it a bit more spicy. I also add a few more dry seasonings which is OK in canning).
This salsa is fairly easy, it just takes a bit of time prepping all the ingredients, though a food processor makes it quicker. It cooks for only 30 minutes which is just the right amount of time to get all the canning equipment in order and jars cleaned.
And having home-canned garden salsa in the depths of winter is always worth it. Not only do you save money, it can’t compare with the typical flavorless bottled stuff.
Start with 5-6 pounds of washed tomatoes. I use about 1/2 slicing tomatoes and 1/2 paste tomatoes- the slicers have some of that great flavor and the paste tomatoes add thickness, so I like to include both.
You’ll need to peel and core them. You can see the method I use here. (Update 9/11: I now just core and quarter the tomatoes and use the food processor to chop them- peel and all! I can’t tell in the finished salsa and it goes much quicker now. Awesome.)
Coarsely chop them and measure into a bowl until you’ve got 7 cups. I like to see the chunks of tomatoes in my salsa, so I leave them fairly good sized. (Or use the food processor as described in the update above- pour from the processor to measure 7 cups. Oh- there are still some tomato chunks since the processor isn’t perfect!)
Now, see the gloves? Trust me, you will want gloves for this part. The one time I didn’t use them I couldn’t sleep that night because of the burning sensation…
Cut in half and seed enough anaheim (or long green chilies, or some sweet if you’d like- you can change the variety, just not the amount) chilies to equal 1-1/2 cups chopped.
I like to just cut them in large chunks and then put them in the food processor to do the rest.
I like the way the processor chops them mostly fine, but also leaves a few larger pieces, that way we get some peppers on every chip we dip.
Put the peppers in the stockpot. Then seed and chop 8 jalapeno peppers, adding them to the stockpot.
This is the part of the recipe I wish were different- 8 peppers? Some years my jalapenos are huge and sometimes not. There’s a big difference in size, which hardly makes this exact. I wish it were a cup measurement like the other peppers, but I live with it. I’ve actually seen a lot of recipes like this…
Do the same thing with the onions, chopping enough to equal 1-1/2 cups, and adding to the pot.
Mince 3 cloves of garlic. I just throw them in the processor, too.
Yes, there are 6 cloves here. I’m not throwing caution to the wind, I’m just doubling the recipe- which I usually do to get 10 to 11 pints out of each batch.
Once the garlic is in the pot, add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and boil gently for 30 minutes. Stir often, making sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom (my thin-bottomed stock pot always burns, but my thicker 8-qt pot doesn’t).
Take this time to prepare the canner, jars, and lids. Here’s step-by-step canning guide where I take you through the whole process if you’ve never canned before.
After 30 minutes, it will look nice and salsa-y, with flavors all melded into a great goodness. You can taste it at this point to see how spicy it is (every year my peppers are different!) and add cayenne pepper if you need to increase the spiciness (dry ingredients are OK to add – just not anymore fresh).
Fill jars leaving a 1/2-inch headspace, attach lids and place in canner.
Bring to a boil and process pint jars for 20 minutes.
An Oregon Cottage’s Favorite Salsa For Canning
- 7 c. chopped, cored, peeled tomatoes (if using a food processor, no need to peel)
- 1-1/2 c. chopped onion
- 1-1/2 c. chopped green peppers (anaheim, ancho, or red/yellow sweet)
- 8 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped (don’t forget the gloves!)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 6-oz. can tomato paste
- 3/4 c. white vinegar
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1-2 tsp. pepper
- 1-2 tsp. dry oregano
- 1-2 tsp. cayenne powder to taste
- In a large stainless steel stockpot, combine all the ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.
- Reduce heat and boil gently until thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning.
- Prepare canner, jars, and lids.
- Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rim and attach lids.
- Place jars in canner, covering by at least 1-inch and bring to a boil. Process for 20 minutes, remove canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes, then remove jars to cool before storing.
Makes 5 pints