Some people love this time of year because of the changing colour of leaves, the rumble of the combine or the kids going back to school. I love it because of the fresh garden tomatoes and homemade salsa.
If you’ve never made your own fresh salsa, stop everything and make a batch right now; you’re going to love it. Simply mix together your favourite combination of tomatoes, onions, peppers, hot peppers, garlic, cilantro, salt, pepper, cumin and lime juice. That’s all there is to preparing a delicious batch of fresh salsa or pico de gallo.
Enjoy it with tortilla chips or in various recipes, but never ever can it.
In order to safely can salsa at home, it is important to use a recipe that has the correct level of acid (pH) and is heat processed for the correct time. The combination of acid and heat ensures potentially dangerous micro-organisms are deactivated and do not pose any health risks. Improper canning of salsa greatly increases the risk of foodborne illness including potentially fatal, botulism.
The easiest way for home canners to ensure the correct pH and processing time is to follow a recipe from a credible source that regularly tests their recipes. Three such sources are the National Center for Home Food Preservation, Bernardin Canada and Ball Canning. Between these three sites there are well over 20 different salsa recipes to choose from.
When you find a tested recipe that matches your preference, it’s important not to alter the ratio of low-acid (onions, peppers, garlic) and high-acid (vinegar, lemon or lime juice) ingredients. To personalize your recipe and keep it safe, here are some things you can and cannot change.
- You can change the amount of dried spices and herbs, but do not add additional fresh leafy herbs like cilantro, oregano, basil or parsley.
- You can choose whatever type of tomatoes you wish including green tomatoes or tomatillos, but do not use any affected by frost.
- You can mix and match any type of sweet or hot peppers, but do not use more than the total amount called for in the recipe.
- You can change the variety of onion used, but do not add more.
- You can add or remove sugar or salt as desired.
- You can use lemon or lime juice instead of vinegar, but you cannot use vinegar instead of lemon or lime juice because vinegar is less acidic than bottled lemon or lime juice.
- You can use less vegetables like onions, hot peppers, peppers, garlic and cilantro, but you cannot use more.
- You cannot change the cooking method or processing time specified.
- You cannot drain or squeeze out extra liquid before canning. This removes necessary acid. If you want, drain extra liquid just prior to serving your salsa.
With these tips for safe canning in mind, here are some of my favourite salsa recipes.
Classic pico de gallo
This is a fresh tomato salsa where you’re in control of the ingredients. It is not suitable for canning.
- 6-7 plum or Roma-style tomatoes (other varieties work but produce more liquid)
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1/2 green, yellow, or orange sweet pepper, chopped 1/2 to 2 hot peppers, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp. chopped cilantro or parsley 1 tbsp. lime juice
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- Salt and pepper to taste
Wash tomatoes, slice and remove seeds to limit the amount of liquid in your salsa. Dice tomatoes and toss in bowl. Add chopped onion, sweet peppers, hot peppers, garlic, and cilantro. Mix in lime juice, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Let sit for 30 minutes to blend flavours, then enjoy. Store remaining salsa in fridge for 3-5 days. Bring to room temp before serving and drain any liquid.
Yield: 3-4 cups.
Tomato salsa with paste tomatoes
This recipe works best with paste or Roma tomatoes. Slicing tomatoes will create a more liquidy salsa.
- 7 quarts (28 cups) peeled, cored, chopped paste tomatoes
- 4 c. seeded, chopped long green chilies
- 5 c. chopped onion
- 1/2 c. seeded, finely chopped jalapeño peppers 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 c. bottled lemon or lime juice
- 2 tbsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. black pepper
- 2 tbsp. ground cumin (optional)
- 3 tbsp. oregano leaves (optional)
- 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro (optional)
Yield: About 16 to 18 pints (500-ml jars).
Combine all ingredients except cumin, oregano and cilantro in a large saucepan and heat, stirring frequently, until mixture boils. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spices and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot into clean, hot pint jars, leaving half an inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes (pint jars).
Fresh vegetable salsa – with tomato paste
This salsa is a little thicker and more sauce-like thanks to the tomato paste.
- 7 c. (1,750 ml) chopped tomatoes, 7-8 medium-large 2 c. (500 ml) coarsely chopped onions
- 1 c. (250 ml) coarsely chopped green bell pepper
- 8 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (156 ml) tomato paste
- 3/4 c. (175 ml) white vinegar
- 1/2 c. (125 ml) chopped cilantro, lightly packed 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) ground cumin
Yield: 5 pints (500-ml jars).
Blanch, peel, seed and coarsely chop tomatoes. Measure 7 cups (1,750 ml). Combine tomatoes, onions, green pepper, jalapeño pepper, garlic, tomato paste, vinegar, cilantro and cumin in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; boil gently, stirring occasionally, until salsa reaches desired consistency, about 30 minutes.
Ladle hot salsa into clean, hot pint jars, leaving a half-inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace
if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean cloth; apply two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes (pint jars).