Fresh Salsa – How to Make & Can
Today I am going to make salsa. I always wait until the very end of the growing season to make my salsa. I don’t know if it is because everything I need to make the salsa is bountiful in fall, or if it’s because salsa is such a pain in the neck that I put it off as long as possible.
If you have a bunch of veggies in your garden that are about to be killed by the upcoming frost and want to chop vegetables for hours you should make salsa today.
If you have 4 children or a large food processor – you will be chopping for significantly less time.
We are going to need:
- Peppers (Sweet & hot)
- Cilantro (Optional)
That’s it. This is going to be the freshest, most incredible salsa you have ever put in your mouth. In the middle of winter, I can open a jar of this and it is like eating a bowl of fresh summer gloriousness.
First, we must peel tomatoes. Peeling tomatoes is no fun. It takes forever. Another with peeling tomatoes is that half of my tomatoes end up coming off with the peel.
To keep from peeling tomatoes for hours and losing half of my crop with the peel I am going to blanch the tomatoes. I always grab the 2 closest children I can find and put them to work blanching. For details on blanching go here.
Warning: Do not try this at home.
These 2 girls are not your average adolescents. They have been canning and blanching things like tomatoes and peaches for years. Blanching involves hot water & is not for the young, inexperienced, or wimpy.
Don’t worry, I right along side them the entire time.
Go to your garden and grab the last of the tomatoes.
Grab a paring knife.
Cut out the core of the tomato.
Throw the core into the “chicken bowl” so they will be happy.
Chicken bowl. Appetizing eh?
Flip over your tomato and carve an “X” into the peel. This will make the skin of the tomato very easy to remove. It practically peels itself.
To blanch, you need a pot of boiling water & a pot of ice water.
First, put on your cowgirl hat. Then place a few of the cored tomatoes into the boiling water.
When you see the peels begin to curl off the tomatoes move them into the ice-water.
Dunk them for 5 seconds or more. When they come out of the ice-water they are cool and easy to handle. The peels just slip right off.
Put your blanched, peeled tomato into the bowl with all the other bare-naked tomatoes.
We have a little assembly line going. That looks like this: boiling water, ice water, peel bowl, naked tomatoes.
When all the tomatoes are skinless, it’s time to get chopping!
Removing seeds and juice can be done with a food mill, or your hands and some ingenuity.
I just place a strainer over a gallon pitcher & shove all the seeds out. I am left with the meat of the tomato – exactly what I want to make salsa. When you finish you will probably have several quarts of juice in your pitcher that you can also can for later use. How to can tomato juice here.
Tomato seeds can make dishes bitter. They are good for you, and won’t hurt a thing if some slip into your salsa. Just try to get mostly the flesh of the tomatoes.
Now that we have removed most of the seeds and juice it’s time to chop tomatoes. The easiest way to do this is with a food processor. You could also use a knife or other small appliance. Just get the tomatoes sliced into tiny bits.
Grab some hot peppers. I’m using hot chili peppers and jalapeno peppers.
Chop off the stems & cut them in half. Remove the membranes and seeds with a spoon for less heat. I’m leaving the hot stuff intact. We like a spicy salsa.
Chop, chop, chop!
For a sweeter salsa, add 3 cups of diced sweet peppers.
SIDE NOTE: The peppers will make the salsa sweet. If you prefer a less-sweet salsa, leave these out.
Grab some onions.
And chop them up.
Next comes the garlic. Get some bulbs, smash them with something flat and hard (like a spatula). Then go fetch all the cloves that flew across the kitchen.
Once the cloves are all back in one place, peel them. You could spend the next hour peeling all these cloves. You could make all your children spend the next half-hour peeling all these cloves. Or, you could use this trick and have all your cloves peeled in 5 minutes.
Take your peeled garlic cloves and chop them into tiny bits.
And dump into the pot with the other chopped veggies.
Cilantro is the last to go in. This ingredient is optional. It can also be added to the salsa whenever you open a can to serve it.
Cilantro is by far my favorite herb. It is fresh, summery, and beautiful. Grab a handful of fresh cilantro and chop it all to shreds.
Then add the cilantro to the pot with all the rest of the veggies.
Before I begin the cooking process I am going to put my clean jars into my dishwasher on the “sanitize” setting. This is going to make sure my jars are free of any bacteria and HOT. We want Hot jars.
While those are sanitizing, I add the vinegar to the pot.
And the salt.
Tasting is a must at this point. Be sure to use a tortilla chip so you can see what it will taste like served. The chips will add salt to the overall flavor. You don’t want to over salt.
If the flavor is perfect, turn up the heat.
You only want to get the salsa hot. Do not let this boil. You do not want to cook it. If you cook it you will end up with very spicy, spaghetti sauce. Blech! We want fresh uncooked salsa. Just get it hot and get the pot off the heat.
I have the salsa pot off the burner so the contents are free from the risk of becoming spicy, spaghetti sauce.
Now comes the fun part! We are going to fill our jars.
If you are scratching your head wondering why there is no “bottled lemon juice” added to this recipe.
Let me explain. Vinegar is just as good at creating the right acidic level as lemon juice. Because this recipe has 3/4 cup of vinegar in it, you have plenty of acid. The Ball Blue book does not include the lemon juice to the salsa recipes. If you are paranoid and don’t feel complete unless you add bottled lemon juice to all of your cans, you can definitely do so. It will not change the flavor. (If you want to add the lemon juice: add 1 tbsp of bottled lemon juice to each pint jar.)
After adding the lemon juice (if you decided to do so), fill the super hot jars with salsa. I am using my blue, plastic funnel. It isn’t fancy but does the trick.
I need to stress the importance of heat at this stage. The salsa is hot. The Jars are hot. The water bath is hot. Everything must be hot.
If something was cold, like for instance, a jar…… and you filled it with screaming hot salsa…… it might break. If you filled a cold jar with cold salsa, and then dropped it into a boiling water bath……. it might break. I can tell you this will complete confidence because I have exploded my share of cold jars with hot contents or in hot water-baths.
Nothing like experience.
So, don’t be like me. Get everything hot.
Wipe all the edges of your jars with a clean towel.
Place the screaming hot lids on them. OUCH! Be careful. The jars are hot & so are the lids. Tighten the ring on each jar. Don’t Hulk Hogan them, just tighten them enough so they are snug.
Place your jars of salsa into the hot water bath. Process for the length of time your recipe calls for.
I always turn to the Ball Blue book, for processing times. For salsa, it recommends processing 15 minutes. Do not over-process this or you will end up with spicy spaghetti sauce. As soon as the water begins to simmer set a timer. After 15 minutes get the jars out of the water-bath and on the counter.
They are done! As the jars cool, you may hear the beautiful sound of popping. This is an indicator that the centers of the lids have been vacuumed inward, creating that precious seal you want. Once properly sealed this salsa will stay fresh in your pantry until next year when you make salsa again.
Salsa Tips & Troubleshooting:
My salsa is too sweet.
- Leave out the sweet peppers. If you prefer a less-sweet salsa, ditch the sweet peppers. These have a tendency to really sweeten things up.
- The weather. The hotter it is outside, the hotter the spicy pepper will be. One of my batches of salsa was just not hot enough – even with the same amount of peppers (from the exact same plant). To make sure your salsa has enough heat be sure to taste it with a chip when you are making it. Get the heat right before ladling into jars and processing in the hot water bath.
- The tomatoes. Some tomatoes are acidic others are sweet. If you use a really sweet tomato to make your salsa you will have sweet salsa.
- Over Processing. If you boil the salsa before canning or boil it too long in the hot water bath, you will cook the tomatoes and they will be sweet. I’m not sure why, but if salsa is fresh it is salsa. If you cook it, it turns into a spaghetti sauce.
To Ensure Perfect Salsa:
- Taste it on a chip before processing in canning jars. Add more spice (with a couple more hot peppers) or more salt if needed.
- Do not boil the salsa before ladling it into jars. Get it hot, but do not let it boil. When processing in hot water bath: drop hot jars (filled with hot salsa) into simmering water. Turn the heat up to high. Begin timing when the water in the bath returns to a boil and remove the jars from the bath when the time is up. The longer the salsa stays in the water bath the more cooked the salsa will be. You do not want it to cook.
- If it ends up too sweet – you can still use it. You can dice up a hot pepper and mix it in to spice it up or use it to make this gumbo.
Here’s my recipe adapted from the Ball Blue Book.
Perfect Tomato Salsa Recipe
- 1 Gallon Peeled, tomatoes without juice or seeds (4 Quarts) Hint: as you dice up the tomatoes, drop them into a gallon container & when it’s full- you are done.
- 6-8 hot peppers (minced very fine)
- 3 Cups sweet Peppers (leave these out for a less-sweet salsa)
- 3 cups diced onion
- 1 1/2 Cups fresh cilantro (optional)
- 10 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 TBSP salt (more to taste)
- 3/4 Cup vinegar (I use raw apple cider)
Combine all ingredients in a large sauce-pot. Get hot, do not boil. Remove from heat. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Adjust 2-piece caps. Process 15 mins in a boiling-water canner.
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