The first thing that I ever learned to can, and can well, was salsa. Written on a piece of bank stationary circa late 1970s/early 80s, in my mother’s implausibly perfect script, was the recipe that I use to this day – now tweaked ever so slightly to accommodate my spicier salsa predilection. That piece of paper spent years taped to a kitchen cabinet, now long since disintegrated or lost in a series of moves, but the recipe still lives on in my, admittedly intermittent, photographic memory. I think the time has finally come for me to share the classic salsa recipe with the world. Because, frankly, I’m tired of everybody and their grandmother asking for it.
Just kidding, I am happy to share.
Because I don’t want your grandmother calling me… (Yes, that has happened)
I can tell you that I literally can’t make enough of this salsa to satisfy my ever hungry family. In fact, one year, I canned 17 quarts of salsa in the fall. We were out by May. And that is NOT counting the pints that I canned and gifted. Not only is this salsa perfect, and I mean PERFECT, for tortilla chips – it is also a great flavor base for southwest inspired soups and a super yummy addition to rice or quinoa.
For canning safety, it is highly recommended that you stick to the proportions indicated as it results in a water bath canning safe acidity close to 3.2. That said, play with the peppers to suit your preferences. I am not a big fan of green bell peppers and generally seek out other, more flavorful, and spicier chiles. My family seems to love a blend of Anaheim/poblano/jalapeno at a rough ratio of 47%/47%/6%, respectively. If I had my way that jalapeno quotient would be much higher. But we appease the masses, right? But even these seemingly low Scoville points choices, this salsa does not lack for heat. Instead of tongue searing, five alarm fire heat, it has a slow burn, visceral heat that warms your belly.
I prefer to use freshly ground spices to impart a high aromatic quality to the salsa, but work with “watcha got”. You may find that a tablespoon of your favorite chile powder blend works just as well as my recommended spices. Canned tomato paste is an important addition here. The tomato paste gives the salsa a real chip sticking quality and textural viscosity that we really enjoy. I have tried just simmering the salsa for an extended time to in order to reduce and thicken, but found the end result a bit mushier with a noticeable “cooked” flavor. Not unpleasant, I just like the bite and brightness that results from the recipe as written. I always add the cilantro at the last possible minute before I transfer the salsa to jars to preserve its flavor.
Well, now that I have divulged my secret family salsa recipe, do me a favor and make a few batches. I don’t need your grandmother calling me for the recipe! 😉
Perfect Canned Salsa
- 5lbs blanched, peeled and diced tomatoes
- 2lbs finely chopped, assorted pepper (membranes and seeds removed)
- 1lb finely chopped onion
- ¼ cup minced garlic
- 12oz tomato paste
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup minced cilantro
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- To "blanch" tomatoes, fill a large heat safe bowl with tomatoes. Cover with boiling water and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Once you see the skins pucker and split, drain into a colander. Peel skins and chop. Transfer to a large, heavy bottomed stock pot.
- Finely chop onions and peppers. This maybe accomplished by pulsing in a food processor if desired. Add to tomatoes.
- Add all ingredients, EXCEPT cilantro, to the tomato/onion/pepper mixture and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add chopped cilantro
- Ladle into sterilized jars, leaving ½" headspace. Wipe rims clean and place lids and rings on finger tight. Process in a water bath canner at a boil for 15 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for quarts. After processing, remove from canner and allow to cool for 24 hours. Check for seal and store in a cool, dark spot. Refrigerate after opening.