So since the Ecoholic TV video started broadcasting there’s been some clamoring for a recipe for making salsa, along with step-by-step canning details. I pretty much approach every batch of salsa differently by including whatever ingredients I happen to feel like at the moment and I encourage you to experiment…but for those die-hard instruction followers, here you go:
Home Made Salsa (for preserving)
NOTE: all the ingredients listed below are optional and you can leave out or add in anything you like.
- About 1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, diced (can be whatever kind you like but using a roma or plum tomato makes things a little less juicy, if you like it thick)
- 2 to 3 sweet red, green or orange peppers, diced (green will give you more colour variation; orange unfortunately just kind of blends in with the rest)
- 2 to 3 chilies, finely chopped (jalapeno, red, hot banana, whatever suits you – or you can just chili flakes, chipotle chilies from a can or even powdered chipotle pepper; McCormick’s is now making a really amazing ground chipotle powder). If you like chilies a bit more mellow, try roasting them on a dry skillet for about 10 minutes, rotating frequently, or on a barbecue. To get chili flavour without all the crazy heat, remove the seeds. If you LOVE the fire, keep them.
- 1 large onion, chopped
- several cloves of garlic, minced (you can also roast garlic on a dry skillet, skins on, for about 10 minutes, then peel and crush
- a big handful of cilantro, chopped
- about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of vinegar (you can also switch out for apple cider vinegar or lime juice, if you prefer a different flavour)
- about 1 tsp of salt (to taste)
Makes about 7 to 8 cups of salsa.
Tools needed for canning:
- Two large stock pots (also known as canners)
- a rack for placing in the bottom of the pot you’ll use for sterilizing jars – this protects them from the direct heat and the potential to crack. You can use a baking rack that fits in the pot, or stores like Canadian Tire and Home Hardware sell canning equipment and racks.
- Jars with snap lids and rings. I prefer 250 ml jars by Bernardin – especially their wide-mouth versions. Note that you can always buy snap lids and rings separately. Experts say you really shouldn’t re-use the snap lids in case they get damaged when opened, but I often do, I just check them really well for dents to see if the rubber seal has been compromised in any way. If there’s any kind of damage (from say a knife being wedged under it), ditch it and use a new one. Jars usually come in a box of a dozen, and are about $6 to $8 each – buy more than you think you need, just in case, and note that usually there are coupons in the boxes to save more on future boxes of jars!
- A jar lifter. This is a special type of “tong” that helps you grip hot jars and lift them out of the canner. I would say if there’s any tool you can’t do without, this might just be it. You can buy it as part of a tool kit made by Bernardin for about $10 or less.
- A funnel. This is a special funnel designed for filling jars – not exactly necessary but it makes the job a gazillion times easier. Often means you never have to wipe down the edges of your jar (more later). Also part of the above tool kit.
- A magnetic tool for pulling hot snap lids out of the water – another amazing tool. Also part of the above tool kit.
- A medium-sized saucepan for heating snap lids.
- Prepare your ingredients. Wash everything, chop it up and throw it in one of the stock pots for cooking.
- While you’re prepping, put your other stock pot on the stove with the rack in the bottom and put in about as many of the jars (minus the lids) as you think you need, plus a few more. Heat this to a strong boil (may take some time depending on how much water there is) and boil for a minimum of 10 minutes to sterilize your jars.
- At the same time, put your snap lids into the medium-sized saucepan and heat on medium-low for a minimum 10 minutes. These can be boiled for a short period but the main point here is to keep them nice and hot, just below a boil, until the last second you need them.
- Start cooking the salsa. You aren’t cooking it so much for the sake of cooking it as you are for the sake of killing off bacteria. Bring everything to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes. You want to time things so that your cooked salsa is ready at about the same time your jars are ready.
- While things are cooking, set up the packing station. Get the jar rings ready and handy, have a spot for your hot salsa pot to sit and a spot for your saucepan of snap lids to sit. Put down a tea towel for setting down hot, sterile jars. Get your clean funnel and your magnet stick thingy ready. Have a ladle handy for scooping salsa into hot jars
- Packing: One at a time (this part’s easier if you have two people, but not necessary) pull your hot jars out of the hot water and bring them to your packing station. Put the funnel in the jar and then ladle in your hot salsa. Don’t over fill the jars! You need about 1/4 inch of space at the top. If you spill salsa on the top edges of the jar, you need to wipe this off with a clean cloth to ensure a good seal. The funnel really helps prevent this though.
- Once jars are filled use your magnet to grab a snap lid and put it on the jar without touching the underside. Then carefully place a ring over the whole thing without burning your fingers! Don’t over tighten – the jars should only just be finger-tight (this allows air to escape while processing – coming up next).
- When all your jars are filled and lids are on, return them to the hot water using the jar lifter. You can process in batches if you have a lot of jars. The water in the canner should cover the jars by about an inch. You may need to add water or scoop some off. As soon as your jars hit the hot water you should notice a few bubbles begin escaping from the jars. This is good – its forcing more air out and creating a better seal.
- Processing: boil your filled jars for about 15 minutes for 250 ml jars (you need to boil for longer for larger jars). Using the jar lifter, remove your processed jars from the water and place them on a tea towel to cool. They will be VERY hot! Often, as soon as you remove them from the water you’ll hear the lids pop into a concave position which indicates the seal, but sometimes this happens as they’re cooling.
- Any lids that don’t pop down snugly should be refrigerated and the contents eaten soon. You can also put these ones in the freezer to preserve them longer. Well-sealed jars can be labeled and stored in a dark, dry, cool place.
- EAT your preserved food all through the long dark winter!
Salsas are mixtures of low-acid foods, such as onions and peppers, with acidic foods, such as tomatoes, it is imperative that they contain enough acid so that they may be processed safely in a waterbath canner.
You may use either paste tomatoes, such as Romas, or slicing tomatoes. Both make good salsas. But slicing tomatoes will yield a thinner, more watery salsa that paste tomatoes. Salsas may be thickened by adding tomato paste. You may substitute green tomatoes or tomatillos for the red type in any of these recipes. Tomatillos do not need to be peeled or seeded, but the dry outer husk must be removed.
Use high quality peppers. Do not increase the total amount of peppers in any recipe. However, you may substitute one type of pepper for another, such as a Serrano for a Jalapeno or a sweet pepper for a hot one. Wear plastic or rubber gloves when handling hot chiles.
The acid ingredients used in salsa help to preserve it. You must add acid to home-canned salsa because the natural acidity may not be enough in these mixtures. You may safely substitute an equal amount of lemon juice in a recipe calling for vinegar, but do not substitute vinegar for lemon juice. This will result in a less acid and potentially unsafe salsa. Use bottled lemon juice and vinegar that is at least 5 percent acid.
You may alter the amounts of spices and herbs in these recipes. Cilantro and cumin are often used in spicy salsas.
Hot Chile Salsa (makes 6 to 8 pints )
5 pounds peeled, cored and coarsely chopped tomatoes (about 10 cups)
2 pounds chopped chile peppers (about 6 cups)
1 pound chopped onions (about 4 cups)
1 cup vinegar (5%)
3 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and stir frequently over high heat until mixture begins to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Ladle salsa into hot pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes
TOMATO JALAPENO SALSA
Cook Time: 12 minutes
* 1/2 pound jalapenos
* 8 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes, peeled
* 3 cups chopped, seeded Cubanelle,Sweet Banana Peppers
* 2 cups chopped onions
* 2 cups cider vinegar
* 1 cup each of chopped sweet red and yellow peppers
* 6 cloves of garlic (recipe doesn’t say – but likely minced)
* 1 can tomato paste
* 2 tablespoon sugar
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 2 teaspoon paprika
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Cut jalapenos in half discard ribs and seeds; chop finely to make 1 cup.
In large heavy non-aluminum saucepan combine EVERYTHING EXCEPT cilantro and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring often for 1 hour or until thickened; place 1 TBSP of salsa on a plate and tilt the plate – the salsa should flow slowly in one stream; add cilantro and cook for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill boiling water bath canner about two thirds full with hot water – bring to just below a boil and keep it hot. Wash and rinse canning jars and bands. A few minutes before filling the jars, bring pot of water to a boil, boil new lids for 5 minutes, turn off heat and leave the lids in the water to use right away.
Using a funnel fill each jar with hot salsa, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace, cover with lids, screw on bands firmly without forcing.
Place jars in rack set on edge of canner, lower filled rack into water, pour in enough simmering water to cover jars by 1 – 2 inches; cover canner and bring to a full rolling boil; boil for 20 minutes; turn off heat.
Lift out rack; set on edge of canner; using jar lifter, transfer the jars to a towel-lined surface and let cool completely. Check for seal, Yields 12 small jam-sized (8 ounce) jars and one pint sized (16 ounce)
okay, so what if i just want to preserve the tomatoes as is, not in salsa? are they acidic enough on their own?
Actually no, its not safe to just can tomatoes without upping their acidity. Tomatoes on their own sit about mid-range on the pH scale. My mom always made stewed tomatoes when I was a kid but I have yet to give this a go myself, so I have to ask her what she did with them, but from what I read you can add lemon juice (use the bottled variety as this is standardized to a reliably specific acidity) or citric acid, which you can order online (Berndardin recommends ordering online from here: http://goldaskitchen.com/merchant.ihtml?id=199&pid=11586&step=4) or sometimes find in a really well stocked grocery store. I tried looking for it locally but couldn’t find it (anyone know where you can get it here?). Apparently citric acid is best because it doesn’t change the flavour at all, while lemon juice can sometimes make your canned tomatoes cloudy. Vinegar is not recommended because apparently it can make canned tomatoes taste “off” (or so I read – I don’t know if its true because it tastes just fine in salsa!).
I’ve read that over time tomatoes have been hybridized to be less acidic by the major growers. It seems to follow that certain heirloom tomatoes would be more acidic and thus are better for canning. Is this true? Which ones are better? What pH threshold is safe for canning in the way described on ecoholic? Can food pH be reliably and safely measured at the countertop?
Foods that are considered high-acid for processing in a boiling water canner (vs. a pressure canner for low-acid foods) are foods that contain enough acid to have a pH of 4.6 or lower.
It’s always better to be safe with foods than sorry, so I would never assume that any one breed of tomato, hybridized or heirloom, is acidic enough to be canned without additional acid. In fact, one of the heirloom varieties I grew this summer, Yellow Pear, is a low-acid tomato, so I think its too general to assume heirlooms are higher in acid.
I did a search for pH meters for using with food and read that one person found one at a brewing supply store for about $80, but my searches turned up meters that range as high as $700. When you compare that to adding just 1 ml of citric acid to a 500 ml jar of tomatoes (a 150g container of citric acid retails for about $2), I think economics play in favour of adding the citric acid.
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