Best Tomato Salsa Recipe for Canning…so far.

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.

Best Tomato Salsa Recipe for Canning...so far.
Author: 
Recipe type: Preserving
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 half pints
 
Recipe adapted from University of Wisconsin Extension Salsa publication.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
  2. Add cilantro and simmer for another 10 minutes; continue stirring.
  3. Ladle into hot half-pint jars leaving ½ head space.
  4. 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.
Notes
You can easily double or triple this recipe. I like to use ½ pint jars to can salsa but you can follow these same instructions and use pint jars.

Gazpacho—Salad Gone to Soup

A certain ambiguity takes over when tomato season comes bursting in. Vine ripened, locally-grown tomatoes are hands-down the best veggie in the world. Not only are they delicious sliced and eaten on their own, but they also lend themselves to so many cooking applications. Just image what Italian or Indian food looked like before Columbus brought back this versatile fruit to the Old World—a dull culinary landscape for sure!

But as much as I love tomatoes, the short season can transform me into a galley slave as my inner ant kicks in, and I begin to work feverishy to squirrel them away in anticipation of the winter months to come. While I am passionate about preserving, canning 22 pounds of tomatoes could steal anyone’s joy.

That is why gazpacho is such a blessing. Not only is it a refreshing, easy-to-make, ready-to-eat, delicious cold soup, but it also freezes very nicely.   I know what you’re thinking–more processing?!  But relax. Gazpacho doesn’t require the hullabaloo of removing skins, and you get a preserved product at the same time you made dinner.

Classic Gazpacho
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 servings
 
This is my launching point recipe, but you can tweak it with different spices to blend with many different cuisines.
Ingredients
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped herbs (any combination of basil, tarragon, parsley, dill, oregano or chives)
  • 2 or 3 slices stale bread
  • 1 small red onion, quartered
  • 1 lbs. cucumber, peeled and de-seeded
  • 2 lbs. tomatoes, cored and de-seeded
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • salt and black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Add ingredients one by one to a food processor or blender and puree. If you don't have a food processor, finely chop ingredients and mix. Serve with bread, cheese or summer sausage for a light quick meal.
Notes
You can create other versions based on different cuisines by changing ingredients. Think of gazpacho as a finely chopped or puréed salad and then let your imagination go. MEXICAN: Tomatillos or tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno pepper, cucumber, bread, garlic, olive oil, and lime. Garnish with cubed avocado. INDIAN: Tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, red pepper, radishes, green chili, cumin, tomato paste, vegetable stock, garlic, bread, olive oil, and lemon. FRENCH: Tomatoes alone with lemon, tarragon and parsley garlic, bread, olive oil. GREEK: Follow the recipe for Classic Gazpacho above using oregano and parsley as the herbs. Also add a sweet red bell pepper and kalamata olives. Garnish with cubed feta.

Preserve It: Place gazpacho in freezer-safe bags or plastic containers in desired proportions, then label and freeze.  I like to put the gazpacho in 1 – 2 cup plastic containers leaving 1-inch headspace for expansion in the freezer.  I use these later in packed lunches.  They keep the lunch cool while defrosting.