This weekend has seen me plowing through several bushels of tomatoes. Our greenhouse has put out a gorgeous harvest this year, and having already canned stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and pasta sauce – as well as running out of salsa on taco night last week – I was inspired to make salsa.
And with all the tomatoes, jalapeños, peppers, onions, and garlic that have recently been harvested, why not make several batches to can to use all winter long?
Now, as with many of you, I assume, I'm picky about how I like salsa. The flavors need to be well-balanced, just the right amount of heat, and neither pasty nor watery. Namely, the kind of salsa we all chow down on at our favorite Mexican restaurant.
And it's this recipe, which I've used for years in small quantities and now have scaled for larger batches, that never fails to deliver a rave-winning salsa that everyone scoops up with gusto.
(My husband also likes to use it as an enchilada sauce, but that's just an added bonus.)
The beauty of this recipe is that you can enjoy it right away, or you can can it to last for up to a year. You can make it very quickly, or use a slower method to deepen the flavors. It's quite versatile, provided you don't stray too far from the original ratio of ingredients – which is unusual for a recipe that is safe for canning.
An Important Side Note: Canning Safety
So, a quick note about canning safety….
Canning is more chemistry than it is cooking. This is because you are trying to keep foods safe to eat for a long-term period, which means this isn't the time to get creative or just “wing it.”
Canning requires foods to be rather acidic, so it's important to maintain ratios here because all the ingredients except for the tomatoes and vinegar are low acid, so if they make up too much of the recipe, the final canned product will be too alkaline and won't be shelf-safe.
And worse – you won't know because the jar will still seal as expected and the most dangerous bacteria that grow in home canned food proliferate in anaerobic conditions (meaning, without oxygen), which is exactly the condition you've created by sealing the jar, and can't be killed by standard canning methods, as water bath canning doesn't get foods hot enough to kill those pathogens.
But don't let that frighten you! Just keep the ratio of tomatoes and vinegar as directed, and you're welcome to change the amount of any other ingredient to taste, as long as you DON'T INCREASE them. The amounts here are perfect for flavor and safety. 🙂
Want more info about canning safety?
Salsa Recipes for Canning (PDF) – one of THE most helpful documents on canning salsa available and on which this recipe is based
Perfect Restaurant-Style Salsa
makes 5-8 pints, depending on how much you let it reduce during the cooking time
- 8 cloves garlic
- 2 cups chopped white or yellow onions (approximately 2 medium onions)
- 1/2 cup diced hot peppers (approximately 8 jalapeños or 2 serranos)
- 3 quarts peeled, cored & chopped Roma tomatoes (approximately 15 lbs or 30–40 tomatoes)
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons evaporated cane sugar
- 2 cups white vinegar (at least 5% acetic acid, preferably 7%)
- 1/2 cup lemon juice (must be commercially bottled, unfortunately, for this purpose)
- First, peel the tomatoes following these instructions. Set aside in a large bowl.
- Next, working in batches, add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the mixture is fairly (but not completely) smooth. This can be done according to your preference, but I prefer the largest pieces to be no larger than about 1/8-inch.
- After each batch has been processed in the food processor, pour it into a large stock pot. When all ingredients have been added, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer and reduce to thicken and intensify flavors (5 minutes – 2 hours), stirring frequently, especially as the salsa thickens.
- To eat fresh, let the salsa cool and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. To can for long-term storage, keep the salsa hot and continue with the recipe.
- While the salsa is simmering, prepare your jars.
- Wash eight pint jars, along with their lids and bands, in hot, soapy water; rinse and drain. Fill a water-bath canner with water and place the jars in the rack, making sure the water just covers them. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then reduce heat and keep jars hot until you're ready to fill them.
- Place the flat lids in a saucepan and cover with water; bring just to a simmer over medium heat (a magnetic wand is SUPER helpful for lifting them out when you're ready for them!) Simply set the screw bands near your work area, as there's no need to heat the bands.
- When both the salsa and the jars are hot, ladle the salsa into the jars, leaving 1⁄2-inch headspace (not all jars may be used). Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed, then wipe rims. Adjust lids and process 15 minutes at 0–1,000 feet altitude; 20 minutes at 1,001–6,000 feet; or 25 minutes above 6,000 feet.
- Place several towels in a draft-free area and remove salsa jars to the towels after processing. Let sit for 12-24 hours, until all lids have popped and sealed. If any lids have not sealed within 24 hours, place them in the refrigerator and enjoy within a couple of weeks.
- Note that volume measures are very difficult to be accurate since definitions of what a “chopped” onion or “diced” hot pepper might look like – if in doubt, use the SMALLER amount (e.g. if you're chopping hot peppers and reach 1/2 cup after only chopping 5 jalapeños, then don't add more – you've got enough)