I love canning homemade salsa. It is one of those things that I know my family will always eat. When the garden is overflowing with fresh tomatoes, this is a great way to put them to use for later.
I first learned to make homemade salsa from my mother-in-law. My husband and I lived with my in-laws the first summer that we were married, so that my husband could work on the family farm more easily. She grew a big garden, and put up salsa, corn, green beans, and v-8 juice. I was so lucky to be there to learn from her. Even when we moved to our own place, I loved being “home” on the farm, and helping with the canning and freezing.
What goes into homemade salsa?
The base of this salsa recipe is fresh tomatoes. You can get enough tomatoes from a lot of different places. If you are lucky enough to have a garden with a bumper crop of tomatoes, you should start there. You can sometimes get extra produce from friends, family, or neighbors.
On years that I don’t have a garden, I usually will travel to an area with several farm stands and buy a couple of bushels each time. This is a good way to go, if you are wanting to do a huge batch or two all at once.
I have also gone to a u-pick and picked a bunch myself. This was my favorite option, and it was cheaper than buying them pre picked. I could choose how ripe to pick them, and only get ones that were in a certain size range if I wanted. Unfortunately, the u-pick that I got them from is over an hour away, so I only made the trip once.
If you are just making a small batch, you can buy your tomatoes at the grocery store. I am actually going this route this year. We are planning to move into a very small space soon, and I just won’t have room for a lot of storage for my canned goods. I will just have to make batches as we need them.
The other things that go into homemade salsa include: onions, bell peppers, anaheim peppers, celery, garlic, jalapeños, salt, vinegar, and a little bit of brown sugar.
Most of these other veggies can also be grown in your garden, or you can find them at farm stands or u-picks. You can also just pick up what you need at the grocery store.
Actually making the salsa
Preparing the vegetables
Wash all of your produce well. Remove the dry onion skins from the onion as well as the hard root area from the bottom. Remove the stem and insides from the bell peppers. I only remove the stems from the anaheim peppers and jalapeños and leave the seeds from them to give the salsa more heat. Cut off the ends of the celery. Peel your garlic. Then we can move onto the tomatoes.
You will need to peel your tomatoes. To do this you need a pan of boiling water and a bowl of ice water. Place a few tomatoes into the boiling water for one minute. Then, remove them and drop them straight into the ice water. When they have cooled, the skins should come off easily. Repeat this process until you have peeled all of your tomatoes. (Also, cut out the core at this point.)
Put your tomatoes into a pot and turn it onto medium. If the tomatoes aren’t very juicy, you can mash them a little with a potato masher, or chop up a couple of them in a blender or food processer. You just need some liquid so that the tomatoes won’t burn before they start breaking down.
Chop up your other veggies, and add them to the pot too. I usually use a food processer for this. Especially, if I am making a large batch. If you are using a food processer (or even a blender) and need more liquid, you can add some of the vinegar or one of the tomatoes.
After you have added all of the vegetables to the pot, stir in the vinegar and brown sugar. I like to wait until the salsa is done cooking down to add the salt, and then I just add it to taste. The actual amount you will use depends on how much you cook down the salsa.
After your salsa gets warmed up, and is boiling a little, reduce the heat. Cook the salsa at a simmer for several hours, until it has reached the thickness you want. At this point, add the salt, and see if it needs more heat. You can add red pepper flakes or cayenne if you want more heat. (Also, if you like it hotter, make a note to add more jalapeños in the beginning next time.)
Processing your homemade salsa
Salsa can be processed in a water bath. This means that you do not have to have a pressure canner to bottle salsa. It is important to make sure that your salsa is acidic enough to process in a water bath canner. (A ph of 4.6 or lower can be canned in a water bath canner. If the ph is higher than 4.6 you will need to add an acidifier like lemon juice, citric acid or vinegar until the ph is in the right range.) The amount of time that you need to process this will depend on your altitude. At sea level the current recommendation is 15 min. Add 1 min for every 1000 feet above sea level.
When your salsa is ready, fill your hot sterilized jars with hot salsa. Leave 1/2 inch of “head space” (the space between the top of your salsa, and the rim of the jar). Wipe the rims of the jars off, and place prepared lids on your jars. Secure them with canning rings, and put them into your water bath. Fill the pot with hot water, an inch or two above the jars.
Bring the water bath to a full boil BEFORE you start your timer. Process for the amount of time for your elevation. When your time is up, turn off the stove, and let the jars sit for 5 min before removing them. Let your jars cool on a dry towel, in an area that isn’t drafty.
Note: You can use a pressure canner without the rocker or even a large stock pot for your water bath. Make sure to use a canning rack between your jars and the bottom of the pot. If you don’t have a canning rack you can line the bottom of the pot with extra jar rings and set you jars on top of them.
Storing and using your homemade salsa
After your jars are completely cooled, check to make sure they have sealed. Remove the rings and label your jars. Store them in a cool, dark place. Don’t store them where they can freeze, or they will likely break.
If you have jars that didn’t seal during processing, you can store them in the refrigerator and use them up within a couple of week’s time.
Home Canned Salsa
- 6 lbs fresh tomatoes
- 2 large onions
- 2-3 stalks celery
- 2 bell peppers
- 4 anaheim peppers
- 1 bulb garlic
- 2 jalapeño peppers
- 2 cups vinegar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3 tbsp salt
- Wash all produce.
- Peel Tomatoes by immersing a few at a time into boiling water for 1 min and then moving them immediately into ice water. The skins should then come off easily. Repeat for remaining tomatoes. Also, remove the area where the stem was attached.
- Add the tomatoes to a pan, and start heating them on medium heat.
- Chop up the remaining vegetables, and add them to the pan of tomatoes. Note: If you would like a milder salsa, remove the seeds from the jalapeño and discard them. If you would like a hotter salsa, you can use more jalapeños in place of one or more of the anaheim peppers.
- Stir in the vinegar and brown sugar, and bring everything up to a gentle boil.
- Reduce the heat, and simmer until it has been reduced to your desired consistency.I usually cook mine for 3-4 hours.
- Add salt to taste.
Bottling in a water bath
- While salsa is cooking, clean and sterilize your canning jars. Get lids prepared, and start heating some water in the pot you are using for your water bath.
- Ladle hot salsa into hot sterile jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space between the level of the salsa and the top of the jar.
- Clean off the rim of the jars, and add your prepared lids and canning rings.
- Place jars into the water bath, and top off the water so that it covers the jars by 1-2 inches.You can't place canning jars directly on the bottom of the pan, or they will break. Use a canning rack under the jars. If you don't have one, you can line the bottom of your canner with jar rings, and set your jars on top of them.
- Bring the water in the water bath canner to a boil. Once it is boiling, start timing, and process for the recommended amount of time. Process for 15 min at sea level, and add 1 min for ever 1000 feet of elevation.
- When your processing time is done, remove the pot from heat, and let the jars just sit for another 5 min.
- Remove the jars, and let them cool.
- When the jars are completely cooled, check to make sure they are all sealed, and remove the canning rings.If one did not seal, put it in the fridge and use it in the near future.
- Store your sealed jars in a cool dark place where there is no chance of freezing.