Canning: Salsa

Guess I didn’t make enough salsa last year, because we’re out!  My tomato plants just went in the ground a few weeks ago. Good thing roma tomatoes have been hitting the market at a fairly good price . . .


This is my favorite salsa recipe. I’ve been working on it for years. It has a thicker tomato base and the possibilities are endless for add-ins:  you could add corn, beans, chopped celery, chipotle peppers, lime, lime and more lime, sun dried tomatoes . . .

Salsa is a notch above fresh pack pickles in difficulty, and really just involves a lot of chopping.  If you are making a small batch, go ahead and do it by hand.  If you are making a huge batch in one sitting, then a cutting mandolin is a great tool, as is a food processor.

For my big batch, I started with a 26 pound box of roma tomatoes and ended up with 40 pints.  Roma is a paste tomato, so it keeps the salsa from getting watery, although you can use any tomatoes and adjust thickness to taste.  The recipe I’ll be showing you will be cut in half to 13 pounds of tomatoes, but since I have to use my large canner to simmer the salsa in and most of you probably don’t have such a big pot, or maybe don’t want to make so much salsa, at the end I’ll cut it down to 6.5 pounds tomatoes, which yields 8-10 pints of salsa.

In a large pot, add 1-2 cans of tomato paste and 1 – 20 oz can of tomato sauce or puree.  This makes for a thicker salsa, and if you prefer, you can just simmer down 2 pounds of tomatoes into sauce first, and then skip the paste and sauce. I never used to use paste, but my favorite store-bought salsa did, and my recipe turned out better when I added paste.

Finely dice 3 medium onions.  I’m using the fine blade of a mandolin here.  Please use the finger guard!!! I lost mine (the guard, not my fingers), and have to be really careful and use a fork to push the last bits of what I’m slicing through, or hand dice the last bits.  It’s so sharp it cuts fingers very easily.

Next, switch to a large blade and cut three peppers.  I use green peppers for color, but you can use whatever you like.

I set the mandolin right on the edge of the pot I’m using so everything falls in and saves me cleaning up several bowls.

Now, weigh out 13 lbs of tomatoes, or if you bought a 26 pound box at the store, then divide it in half.

I use the mandolin on the tomatoes too, but I use the larger blade. I give the top ends to my chickens.

Next, cut the stems off 6 jalapeno peppers.  If you are taking out the seeds (to make the salsa milder), make sure you have gloves on, and you can halve the peppers and scoop them out with a spoon.  If you want your salsa hotter, dice the whole thing, seeds, core and all (not stems) and if you like it REALLY hot, then add more jalapenos.  Mine turns out medium and I add the insides.

I should use gloves, but I chop the peppers in a food processor, and add 10 cloves of garlic at the same time.  Process till finely diced, but not smooth.  Scoop out with a spatula, not your finger, or your skin will burn all day. Trust me — you will not have the happiest thoughts about those peppers . . .

Next, add 3 cups of acidic liquid — I use 1 cup of white vinegar, but cider vinegar works as well, and I use 2 cups of lime juice, but lemon juice also works.  The lime/lemon juice does not have to be fresh squeezed, so if it’s simpler for you to use bottled, it doesn’t change the flavor a whole lot. Add 1/2 cup of pickling salt or kosher salt (not iodized salt), and chop finely 1 bunch of cilantro.

Simmer over medium to high heat, stirring every couple minutes or so, and turning heat down if necessary to keep from scorching.  Once salsa is heated all the way through and starting to boil around the edges, I add the cilantro. If you have other add ins, such as 1-2 cups of corn, beans, carrots, celery, or even smokiness with a finely diced chipotle chile, add them now.

Heat all the way through, and then pour through funnel into hot jars, leave 1/4 headspace, wipe rims, put on hot seals and screw bands, and process in a water bath for 15 minutes for pints at sea level, and 20 minutes at 5000 feet. For quarts add 5 minutes (See dill pickles for canning instructions).

Don’t simmer too long before canning, since you will still have to process in water bath, and you want some chunky/freshness to remain in your salsa or it becomes tomato sauce.

You could take a break before heating the salsa, refrigerate it, and bring it up to a boil later in the day or the next day without a loss of quality if you don’t have enough time.

Hope you love it!  The recipe for 8-10 pints is below:

1 can tomato paste

1 10 oz can tomato sauce

1-2 onions

1-2 green peppers

3-4 jalapeno peppers

5 cloves garlic

6-7 pounds tomatoes

1/4 cup salt

1/2 cup vinegar

1 cup lime juice

1/2 bunch cilantro

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6 comments to Canning: Salsa

  • Hi Elizabeth, I had a great time in your Canning 101 class last evening, and learned a lot! I really appreciated how you simplified the steps for a first-time canner. I am looking forward to next week’s class, especially if this recipe is for the salsa we will be making next week!

  • elizabeth

    Manisha — it’s going to be very similar. Check out the post Salsa Marathon. You’ll get to do a little personalizing of your take-home jars. Glad you liked the class!

  • nicole

    Hi there. I’m looking at canning some salsa, but everything I’m reading is saying that changing recipes and adding things like corn make it unsafe. Any thoughts on this? I have a 50 pound box of tomatoes I would like to make into salsa.

  • elizabeth

    The amount of salt and vinegar in this recipe, coupled with the acidity in the tomatoes is what makes this recipe safe for canning. I’d check the Ball Canning book. Check through their recipes for the correct proportion of added ingredients. The other thing you can do is can this salsa as written and then add in fresh things like corn when serving.

  • Do I peel the tomatoes for this recipe for your salsa?

  • elizabeth

    I use paste tomatoes and I don’t peel them, but many people do. It’s a personal preference.

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