8/31 on Salsa

Ok ok ok! I’ve received so many questions since posting about canning salsa that I decided to put it here for easy reference! As many of you know, I do not follow recipes most of the time. I’ll never be your gal for recipes, but what I can try to do is show you my methods, and hopefully that will empower you to go for it! I personally find recipes to be limiting.

For example: say I’m growing tomatoes in my garden and decide I want to can salsa. I also have a few jalapeños and maybe an onion or two. I go to the internet to find a recipe. Well, the recipe calls for 10 lbs. of tomatoes, 2 lbs. of onions and so on. Do I go buy what I need to make up the difference? Well no – at least I don’t. I have a good enough idea of how things are put together to know there’s a little give and take.

Last fall, my husband graciously helped my sick, pregnant self to plant some garlic, which we were able to harvest this summer. The week before I gave birth, we also managed to plant a few tomato plants, jalapeños, onions and a few other things. Fast forward to harvest time and, as we all know, not ALL the tomatoes are ready at the same time – same with the peppers. So every few days I harvest what’s ready, but what’s ready might not be what the recipe calls for.

When I’m ready to make salsa, I may end up with a basket of tomatoes on hand, 3 jalapeños and some cured garlic and onions ready inside. I chop up all my tomatoes and throw them in a pot. Then I chop my jalapeños and a few onions, add some garlic, salt, pepper and fresh lime juice. At this point, I get out my bag of tortilla chips and let everyone taste, adjusting the flavor as needed: add more jalapeños if it’s not spicy enough, a little more salt of it is generally lacking in flavor (but just add a little at a time). Salt will bring out all the other flavors and make them POP.

Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s rather simple when you can figure out how to use what you have, even if that means you only have 1 tomato and you want to make salsa for dinner – you can totally do that! There’s no right ratio and iMO, salsa is very forgiving. It can be heavy on tomato or heavy on onion and still be really good. I don’t think you can use too much garlic and spice level is a personal preference Lime juice is the real ticket and I don’t think you can have too much of that either!

When it comes to canning, there are probably thousands of tutorials, recipes, YouTube videos, etc. and I’m by no means an expert, even having done this literally my whole life. My method for canning salsa is simple. I dice up all my ingredients in a pot, adjusts the flavors as needed, then cook on low, simmering until it’s the thickness I like. This could take a long time depending on how watery the tomatoes are. I prefer a thick salsa, so I cook mine down for a long time.

When it’s thick enough, I use an immersion blender to get it to the consistency I want. I keep it the salsa hot on the stove while preparing the jars. For this next step, you’ll need a water bath canner. I’ve always found mine second-hand, but whatever you do, you need a pot big enough that water will cover the tops of the jars. There also needs to be a buffer of some kind between the jars and the bottom of the pot or you risk breaking the jars (trust me, I’ve been there). It’s possible to do this without a canner, but easier to just purchase one or ask around and see if someone has one you can borrow.

I’ll bring a pot of water to a boil and then put the empty jars in the water for a few minutes to completely sterilize them. Once they’re hot and sterile, I remove the jars form the water and use a canning funnel (or a small measuring cup) to fill the jars with salsa. It’s important to try to keep the rims as clean as possible. When filling the jars, leave a good inch of head space. Once full, wipe the rim of each jar with a paper towel or hot damp rag to make sure it is clean. This step is super important to get a good seal. There can’t be anything on them!

Next, using a pair of tongs, submerge the lids for a few seconds in the boiling water, then place them on the jar (they don’t have to be dry). Screw on the lid rings and carefully lower the jars into the boiling water. I boil mine for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes before carefully taking them out and setting on a towel. Let the jars rest overnight, being careful to not push on or touch the top of the lid. Once they’ve set out overnight, test the seal by pushing on the top of the lid. If it sinks down and pops back up, that means it didn’t seal. Put these in your fridge and use it first. If the seal is good, the lid won’t move. For the jars with a good seal, remove the rings and store in your pantry.

There are many canning safety guidelines, and not all things can be canned equally, so I encourage you to do your research when setting out with something new. BUT don’t let that stop you! I’ve canned my whole life – and mostly only loosely followed guidelines – and never had an issue. Once you have the proper equipment and get the hang of it, it’s super easy and very rewarding.

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