What was I thinking? I was trying to be Amish or something the day I decided to supplement our meager tomato crop with an additional 15 POUNDS from a local farm. I piled them high in my bike basket, put another bag in the back on the baby seat, sent the kid with Daddy and teetered my way home through 5pm traffic. I was going to make SALSA!! That guy at the farmer’s market booth is probably still laughing at that crazy woman piling her bike full of tomatoes.
And I did make salsa! And it was good! So here’s what I did, cell phone pics and all, so you can decide if you have had enough wine to take on this project. It’s not difficult, it is time consuming, with lots of steps, but in my fantasy world I do this in a communal effort with other strong fabulous women and we make plans for taking over the world while we chop peppers. Amish Feminist. That’s me. Or as Shannon Hayes says in Radical Homemakers, “You can be a feminist and can tomatoes!”
The recipe I use comes from here: Pick Your Own. org. I would print out the PDF version for easy reference. This website uses USDA approved canning recipes for safety and measurements. You don’t want food poisoning, so please, trust the experts on this one.
Start with farm fresh tomatoes. A shout out here Ho Farms on Oahu, for the gorgeous produce. This is about 10-12 pounds of tomatoes.
Other ingredients: onion, peppers, lemon/lime, salt, cilantro, oregano, tomato paste. (With the notable exceptions of the canned tomato paste, salt and Ecuador bananas, this is great photo of local or our-yard produce!)
Boil water, drop the tomatoes in a few at a time for about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Remove and place in bowl of ice water. This will make the skins come off very easily.
Move them from this bowl to another and do another batch in the boiling water, then to the ice water, repeating until all the tomatoes are skinned.
Toss out the skins, they become bitter and tough in salsa. This is when you will appreciate if the tomatoes you chose are large-ish and firm. It makes the next part much easier.
Cut each tomato in half, scoop out the seeds, squeeze the water into another bowl, then cut into 1 inch cubes or chunks. You can save the juice if you want to. Some people like fresh tomato juice. My dad likes it with beer. Ewww.
You should have about 3 quarts of cored, squeezed, cubed tomatoes.
**Important: Please do not try and alter the amount of tomatoes if you use this recipe for canning. The ratio of tomato to lemon juice was set in a USDA recipe for food safety to ensure the acid content kills bacteria. If you want to make less, check around the web for a different recipe.** Or, do not try and preserve/can this recipe. You can make salsa fresh, easy-style in the food processor and eat it right away for refrigerate for 1-3 days. But if you plan to make it shelf-stable to store for up to one year, this is what you have to do!
Next, begin to prepare your seasoning mixture. Chopped onion:
Seeded jalapenos, chopped in a food processor
Garlic, also chopped in the food processor
If you are using bottled lemon juice, you can skip the step above. I have a lemon tree so chose to squeeze fresh juice.
I followed the recipe from above for the herbs and spices, with the exception of adding a handful of fresh chopped cilantro from the garden.
Put all the seasonings in a bowl to get an idea how much volume/space you will need in a pot once you add your already prepped 3 qts of tomatoes. If you are choosing to not cook the salsa in order to preserve it, you can mix the tomatoes in now and taste.
Now, follow the directions and cook:
Meanwhile, you need to be sterilizing the jars and lids. A dishwasher or hot soap & water is ok for the jars. The lids and rings need to get boiled in a pot of water for several minutes. When you remove them with tongs, place on a clean, dry towel and allow to air dry. Don’t put your fingers all over them, they are sterilized! 🙂
After the salsa has simmered for about 30 minutes, you are ready to pack the jars. A wide mouth funnel is necessary at this point. Allow for about 1/4 inch at the top, and use a plastic spatula to run along the inside edge to remove air bubbles. (If you are still reading, hurray! You might be the next Salsa Canner on your block!)
Clean the rim of each jar with a clean dry paper towel to ensure that when you place the lid on top, it gets a good seal. Twist rings on, but do not over-tighten.
I used a small, 3 jar basket canner, available from Amazon for about $10. I grew up with my family using the enormous stainless steel water bath canner and a pressure canner, but this is for small batches and you just need a stockpot to use it. The jars, when placed inside, must be covered by at least one inch of water while they boil.
Following the directions in the recipe, for my altitude, I boiled each 3-jar batch for 15 minutes. Between batches, I had to add some water and return to boil before adding the next three. Also, I kept the salsa on a very low flame to keep it warm. Hot packing the jars is necessary to keep the glass from breaking when placing them into boiling water.
Remove basket, use a jar lifter to remove the jars, and allow them to cool. Done!
After allowing the jars to cool for several hours, check the tops to make sure they sealed. There should be no flex in the top of the metal lid. If there is, refrigerate that jar and eat it right away. It is not advised to try and re-boil it.
Whew. Writing that was MUCH easier than doing it! This whole process took about 5 hours, which I’m sure wouldn’t have taken quite as long if I would have not been taking breaks to play trains with the Boy. These jars of salsa became holiday gifts and thank you’s for various nice things people have done for us. The jars we kept didn’t last long- we are salsa-holics and they didn’t even get to their 3 month shelf life.
Next tomato adventure: The Hubs has requested Gourmet Ketchup. Any Ketchup Connoisseurs out there?