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.
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.
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
- Grain storage
- Bread making
- Vacuum packing
- Root cellaring
- And more!
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