Homemade Mouthwatering Salsa - Making & Canning

Published by: Lisa Meissner

We've been up to our elbows (literally) in salsa lately. Our family really likes homemade salsa, maybe we have some Mexican roots somewhere in our genealogy.  Except one problem - we can't take the heat. So no hot peppers. Forget the Mexican roots - I guess it's probably not there.

First I sat down and ran the numbers to figure out how much salsa I needed to can up (this shows you how). I like to put up at least enough to get me through till next year. What I discovered was that we needed over 100 quarts (or 200 pints)! Yikes! That's why we've been up to our elbows in salsa.

First Ingredient: Tomatoes

I actually grew a load of tomato plants this year, but I harvested all of 4 tomatoes. Ever had a year like that? Well, thanks to the Spider Mites (more on that in another blog post later), we had an unsuccessful garden this year. Thankfully we have the option of gleaning fruit and veggies from farms in the area. If you either don't have a garden or lost produce in your garden this year, check out gleaning options at farms near you. That's what we do. And that's how I ended up with 10 boxes of tomatoes this year.

You can prepare your tomatoes a few different ways. In years past we always ran the washed tomatoes through the Victorio Strainer (using the salsa screen). But with all those boxes of tomatoes (plus 2 energetic toddlers) I didn't feel like cleaning up the Victorio Strainer at the end of each day (it's a little bit of work). So we decided to try something new - blended salsa. And we REALLY like it. Nick said that it's 'mouthwatering' delicious. In my book, that's all that counts.

Blending the Tomatoes

First, the advantage of the Victorio Strainer is that it will core and peel the tomato for you. And since I wasn't using the Victorio this year I had to peel the tomatoes first. It's actually pretty easy.

1. Bring large pot of water to boil
2. Drop fresh tomatoes into boiling water
3. Wait approximately 3 minutes until you see the skin on some of the tomatoes cracking
4. Use slotted spoon to lift tomatoes from hot water
5. Dump tomatoes into sink full of cold water
6. Pull skins off with your hands
7. Whala! Finished peeling tomatoes - now you are ready to blend them into the salsa

Here's a quick video showing you this process:

Cold Pack vs. Hot Pack

So since I was doing a large quantity of salsa this year I used a large 5 gallon bucket (food grade) to mix all the ingredients together. I would use peeled and cored tomatoes in the blender (they are very watery) in order to blend the onions, garlic, and cilantro. Otherwise you would have to add water to get the those ingredients to blend and you don't want any more water than you already have.

I usually don't cook my salsa down to remove the water. Instead I just add tomato paste to thicken it. That way I get more from my tomatoes and it takes a whole lot less time (a precious commodity around here). When you put food (salsa, peaches, pickles, etc) into jars that is cold or room temperature, that's called 'Cold Pack'. If you cook your salsa down and then put the hot salsa into the jars, that's called 'Hot Pack'. If you cook your salsa down then you wouldn't need the tomato paste.

The Recipe

Well, it's a large recipe, but here it goes:

24 lb box of tomatoes
4 bell peppers (I used a mix of all the colors - green, red, yellow, and orange, but use whatever you have)
6 onions (I did a mix of yellow and purple, roughly 3 of each
2 cups of fresh garlic
2 bunches of cilantro (roughly 2 - 3 cups)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of Salt (honestly - do it to taste, but this was how much I found worked)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of Sugar (again, to taste)
4 cups of lemon juice
3 lbs of tomato paste (I bought the large cans of tomato paste and it turned out to be roughly 1/2 a can for the consistency that I wanted)
3 tablespoons of cumin


Once you have blended all the ingredients together and are satisfied that you really like the flavor, then it's time to put it into jars. I usually use quart jars (we've been doing it in our family for years), but there are no accepted and tested recipes that the experts say is safe. So, put it into pint jars and you'll be safe. Check the Ball Blue Book for details on the recommended time to process it. My quart jars are processed for 30 minutes once the water starts boiling.

Since we do so much canning here in our home we like to use reusable canning lids similar to Tattlers (regular mouth or wide mouth). It saves a boat load of money each year for us and they are easy to use. You just have to get used to them a little.

If you are doing 'cold pack' with your jars, do be mindful that if you try to put a glass jar that isn't preheated into boiling water (or nearly boiling water) you'll likely break your jar. I usually warm my jars once I put the salsa in them by placing them next to the wood stove or I dump the boiling water from the last batch and start with warm water in the canner.

The Finished Product

There is little that is more rewarding than looking at a pantry full of delicious homemade home-canned food. The recipe above usually gives me between 15 and 17 jars of salsa. There will be separation of the water on the bottom side of the jar when you pull it out, but just shake it up and it will be back to normal. Have you been putting up food this fall? Tell me all about it in the comments below - I'd love to hear what you've been doing.

More Info

We recently released a much requested DVD set called "Preserving the Harvest".  If you've ever wished you could look over someone's shoulder and learn how to water bath or pressure can safely, this is for you.

But it's much more than just a canning demo.  It covers:

  • How to figure out how much food your family needs
  • Pressure canning
  • Water bath canning
  • Curing
  • Dehydrating
  • Freezing
  • Grain storage
  • Bread making
  • Vacuum packing
  • Culturing
  • Root cellaring
  • And more!

[thrive_link color='orange' link='https://www.sustainablepreparedness.com/wp/preserving-the-harvest/' target='_self' size='medium' align='aligncenter']Check Out "Preserving the Harvest"[/thrive_link]


  1. Amy Jones

    Hi Lisa, your salsa looks great! Our little garden was not too big or to productive this year as we have been overcome by events this summer. However, I planted garlic last fall for the first time and very excited to dry them, freeze them and roast them. Also, last year I put up currant jelly with red and white currants. The jelly came out very good! But I wanted to do something different this year with the currants so have bottled Cassis, a currant liqueur. It is aging right now so by Christmas it should be nice for sipping. Our peaches have been wonderful and have bagged and froze them. So far that is all but each canning season is exciting and challenging! Good Luck on your canning!

    • Lisa Meissner

      That's wonderful Amy! Thank you for sharing. Current jelly sounds delicious!

  2. Annie Morgan

    I'm doing a fair amount of "small batch" canning this year. Just 1-2 canner loads in a given day. So far, we've canned tomatoes, dill pickles, and apricots. Wow, the apricots are amazing! i did them once before with the wrong variety and they were sour as lemons. Now with a good variety, they are wonderful and oh so pretty.

  3. Annie Morgan

    Our garden is yielding an abundance, so I am blessed. I'm hoping to dry a lot of kale chips as we have lots of kale. I am dehydrating zucchini. You can slice it length wise and use it like lasagna noodles. You can shred it and when done that way a whole 9 tray dehydrator load fits into a one quart jar - ready for soups or thickening tomato sauce, etc. You can also slice it in rounds and dry it that way. If you saute onions, garlic, basil, and canned tomatoes and then add the dehydrated zucchini slices, it makes a delicious dish - the zucchini actually takes a good 30-45 minutes to cook and is somewhat chewy until done, unlike fresh zucchini that becomes mushy so quickly.

  4. Annie Morgan

    I have frozen lots of raspberries - we have the most amazing ever bearing raspberry bushes that a friend gave us. I'm looking for a way to get the seeds of the berries and can some raspberry sauce. Thank you for the salsa recipe.

  5. Annie Morgan

    Here's a recipe Amy Polson shared that looks good, though I haven't tried it yet. She pressure cans it and her pictures are beautiful!

    It's my favorite! 🙂
    4 C diced tomatoes
    1 large onion, diced
    4 cloves garlic
    1 C water plus 1 tsp chickenlike seasoning
    1 tsp sea salt
    1 T dry basil
    2-3 tsp cane sugar

    Saute garlic and onion in a little olive oil. Add tomatoes and chicken broth and cook over medium heat for 10-15 mins. Remove from heat and puree completely with a blender. Return to pot and add remaining ingredients.

  6. Annie Morgan

    Oh by the way, I have discovered that I can can tomatoes with the skins on. I just wash, then cut up the tomatoes in quarters, pack in jars with salt and can for the desired amount of time. Then when I make soups, I simply pour the jar of tomatoes into my blender and puree before adding to my soups! It is so fast to can tomatoes this way with little ones under foot. Saves the mess of hot water scalding to skin the tomatoes. Might not work for salsa, but its great for canned tomatoes for soups. I've even opened a jar of tomatoes and slipped the skins off after its been canned and then added the tomatoes to a recipe. That way I can do it a jar or two at a time when needed.

    • Lisa Meissner

      Wow Annie! That's wonderful. Thank you for sharing - I'll have to try that sometime.

  7. Sarah Shrestha

    I saw the video. Still trying to figure out more from the video and the writings. It's so hard for me to understand english language.
    I am still confused what's in the bucket? After all that are we going to drink it or ??

    • Lisa Meissner

      Hi Sarah! Are you familiar with Salsa? It's a Mexican dip that we usually dip chips into. And we use a lot of it in our home so when I like to make lots of it at one time so that I can preserve it in jars and use throughout the wintertime. I use a bucket to mix all the ingredients together because I'm making such a large batch, then I put it into jars and seal the jars by cooking them in a pot of water (called 'canning'). That seals the jars so we can store it on the shelf safely. Then when we want to eat some salsa for a meal I'll take a jar off the shelf, put the salsa in a bowl, and serve it. Does that answer your question?



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