The very first garden I had all on my own was a container garden I had while living in military housing. My kids loved eating salsa – they still do. So we had a few containers to grow tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, cilantro, and jalapenos. In fact, when people email me, or stop me at the farmer’s market and talk to me about wanting to start a garden, I tell them to have something in mind they can make fresh, as well as preserve, like my aforementioned salsa garden, or a spaghetti sauce garden, etc.
This year was a year of waiting for the tomatoes to turn. It was weird since the heat was good and lots of sunshine. But it just took forever for them to ripen. Next year I’ll move where the tomatoes are and see if that helps. But once they came in, there was a ton of salsa to can.
Prepping the tomatoes is the hardest part. However, I’ve discovered that if you slow roast the tomatoes, you don’t need to worry about the fuss of blanching, cooling, and that messy water bath boiling. The recipe calls for about six pounds of tomatoes. I like to have a variety. Alright, truth is the garden determines what kind of tomatoes you have – Earliana, Roma, Goldenboy, Indigo Rose…the list of tomato varieties is long (look for a blog post later on how to decide what you should plant next year). But, the taste of the salsa is always a bit of surprise because of the combination of tomatoes. That does not mean you can’t have one kind of tomato in your batch.
Much like tomatoes, what kind of peppers go in the salsa is decided by the garden, too. My latest batch had a combination of Poblano, Ancho, and green Bell peppers. You just need to make sure that you have about two pounds. Many folks like to peel the skins off of the peppers. I have found that I pick my peppers kind of quickly and the skins don’t get too tough. However, you may peel after roasting very easily, if you so desire. Again, I don’t bother with this. Those who get my salsa haven’t complained.
Many folks seed the hot pepper portion of their salsa – not liking how the seed either make it too hot, or gum up how the salsa looks in your mason jar. We’re all about the seeds in our family. They make it extra spicy and we love spicy around here.
6 pounds of tomatoes, washed and cored
2 pounds of sweet peppers, stemmed
1 ½ pounds of onions, peeled, quartered
1 pound of hot peppers, stemmed
1 Cup fine chopped fresh cilantro
6 cloves garlic
3 tsp salt
½ cup lime juice
¾ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
Cooking spray or oil for roasting pan
Two shallow roasting pans
Food Processor or Blender
Big non-reactive pot
7 pint jars with lids and rings
Heat the oven to 450° degrees. You’ll need to low roasting pans (cookie sheets with edges works well, too). Spray the pan with cooking spray or lightly grease with your favorite oil. Wash your tomatoes and remove any blemishes and the core. Do note that if part of your tomato harvest is tomatillos, they don’t need to be peeled or cored; just take the dry husk off of them. Put all the tomatoes on one roasting pan.
Put the sweet and hot peppers, garlic cloves, and onion on another prepared roasting pan. Roast until all the vegetables have browned and the juices from their slow roasting flow in the pan. I have found this is about 20 to 30 minutes, although, sometimes the peppers take a bit longer. Don’t be afraid to have them get brown. I sometimes turn the veggies half way between, but this is not necessary and sometimes can be messy. Your choice. While the veggies roast, prep your jars and water canner. When the vegetables are done roasting, remove from oven and let the cool a bit. If you choose to peel your tomatoes and peppers, do so now after they are able to be handled safely.
Then pulse to desired consistency in blender or food processor. We like our salsa a bit chunkier, so I don’t blend it too much. Just a dozen pulses or so. Put the pulsed veggies into a big pot (non-reactive). Add the cilantro, salt, lime juice and ACV. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Scoop the salsa into the hot jars until you’ve filled them with just a 1/4 inch of headspace. Fit on the lids, hand-tightening the rings (don’t over tighten) and process in the water bath canner for 15 minutes. Remember the timer starts only after the water is fully boiling. When the time’s up, remove the jars and place them on a cooling rack or towel with at least one inch space between them so they can cool off.
I like to make sure that my salsa sits in the pantry for a month before eating. Sometimes, my measurements are off and I have excess from this recipe (as you get used to making it, you’ll experiment with combinations of tomatoes, peppers, onions and the like), and the family gets some right away. Any excess I put in a fridge storage container – but it never lasts long. Use this in recipes or for eating with chips. It’s so flavorful and colorful, you’ll want to make sure your pantry is stocked to the breaking point with this yummy item.
What’s your favorite salsa recipe? How do you use your salsa?