My family enthusiastically rushes to the table whenever I make Mexican anything. For us, no condiment better complements Mexican foods than salsa fresca—that fresh and feisty combination of onion, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and lime. For about 6 months of the year, this posed no problem as fresh tomatoes are easily accessible, but the other 6 months…well, I got a problem. Because we try to eat local as much as possible, the solution seems apparent, just can some salsa during tomato season. So I tried that again and again and again. I searched for years to find a decent, tested tomato salsa recipe for canning with no success.
Faced with disappointment, I put the dream of a good canned tomato salsa on the shelf and moved on to explore other options. We tried commercial brands, even high-end ones, but with their mushy texture and over-cooked flavor we unanimously rejected them all.
Making salsa fresca with out-of-season grocery store tomatoes also met with dead-end results. Grape tomatoes had an acceptable flavor, but a thick skin and high price made them an un-solution. Roasting paste tomatoes enhanced their flavor but made a sloppy salsa and took too much time. I thought that I had arrived at the perfect solution when I discovered the Kumato—a rich, red-brown tomato perfectly packaged in cellophane. While pricy, the flavor was excellent particularly considering the source and the season. But when something seems too good to be true, it is. A bit of research revealed that Syngenta, the company that developed the Kumato, collided with my ethics. Syngenta has patented the Kumato’s seeds and strictly regulates the farmers allowed to grow the plant. I believe that farmers have a right to save seeds and that life cannot be patented, and I am back to square one.
So this summer I once again took up the crusade to find a decent canned salsa recipe, and I think that I finally got it. While it does require cooking before canning (thus diminishing that fresh flavor), it doesn’t taste overcooked. It uses lime, the logical choice to acidify the tomato salsa–a far superior flavor compared with vinegar. It has adequate cilantro flavor, and the texture, because it uses paste tomatoes, remains firm. Although nothing compares to salsa fresa with vine-ripened tomatoes, this is a good substitute with the added benefit of convenience. Once made and on the shelf, it essentially becomes an instant food—a blessing if not a lifesaver at times when you have 10 minutes to prepare a meal for hungry, whining kids.
Use safe canning practices. Click her for step-by-step hot water-bath canning instructions.
- 7 cups peeled, cored, seeded and chopped paste tomatoes (about 3½ lbs.)
- 1 cup seeded and finely chopped green chilies—from hot to mild
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 2 T minced garlic
- ½ cup bottled lime juice
- 2 t salt
- ½ t cumin
- ⅔ cup finely chopped cilantro
- Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Add cilantro and simmer for another 10 minutes; continue stirring.
- Ladle into hot half-pint jars leaving ½ head space.
- Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes at 0—1000 feet altitude; 20 minutes at 1001-6000 feet; or 25 minutes about 6000 feet.