Saturday, October 1, 2011

Canning Salsa

In August, I was a busy bee rushing to get all of summer’s bounty preserved and stored away for the winter months (I sound like a squirrel). I would stop by farmer’s markets after work for weeks, picking up armfuls of summer’s seasonal produce to can. Since I’m tired of buying mediocre salsa at the grocery store (when I can't make my own mid-winter), I thought I’d take advantage of the perfectly ripe tomatoes and preserve it myself. I’ve found a number of useful recipes and gotten some inspiring ideas from The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving, by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard, and this salsa recipe is certainly one of them. The wonderful thing about small batch preserving in general, is that it allows you to create a larger variety of canned goods, but in smaller quantities.

What I like about this recipe is that it uses all the same ingredients I would use to make fresh salsa, but includes juice and vinegar to aid in the preserving process. Canned salsas will always taste different than fresh ones since they’re cooked, but I guarantee it will be better than any store bought jar you can find. Also, buying the best quality ingredients always goes a long way for flavor. In August, I was able to find nearly all my produce for this salsa at the farmer’s market, and it can’t get much better than that.

This recipe is so easy, simply chop your ingredients, add them all to the same pot, simmer for 30 minutes, and process. You’ll certainly be glad you did come mid-winter!

Adapted from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving, by Ellie Topp & Margaret Howard

4 cups tomatoes, chopped and peeled (about 2 lb.)
1 cup red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sweet red pepper
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (5% acidity- see notes below)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. pickling salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup tomato paste

Start by bringing a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Cut a shallow "x" on the bottom (opposite stem side) of each tomato. Place tomatoes in boiling water for 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer to an ice bath and let rest until cool enough to touch. Peel off skins. Discard skins and chop tomatoes.

Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, vinegar, cilantro, orange and lime juice, sugar and salt in a large stainless steel or enamel pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and boil gently , uncovered, for 30 minutes or until mixture is thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes more.

Remove hot jars from your water-bath canner and ladle salsa into jars, allowing a 1/2 inch of   headspace. Process 20 minutes for half-pint (250 mL) and pint (500 mL) jars. 

For my step-by-step guide to canning see here.

Makes about 4 1/2 cups.

  • When using vinegar in canning recipes, always use one that says 5% acidity on the label, as this ensures safe canning practices. Most generic grocery store vinegars are 5%, so save your fancy vinegars (which often do not indicate acidity) for another use. 
  • When canning with tomatoes, stick to the regular red heirloom, beefsteak, or plum varieties. Some types, such as yellow tomatoes, are low in acid, so don’t use those since you need tomatoes with higher acidity (or regular acidity) to aid in preservation. 
  • If you prefer a hotter salsa, use 3 to 4 jalapenos. Be sure to taste them first before adding to your salsa, as they vary in heat. 
  • If you have a little extra salsa after filling all your jars, put it in a clean jar, let cool to room temperature, and place in the refrigerator.  Consume within a couple weeks. 

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