If there is one snack my family cannot get enough of, it is chips and salsa. It was game over the minute I taught my kids how to melt shredded cheese onto tortilla chips in the microwave. Hint: If there is one way to make a healthy snack like chips and salsa into a very unhealthy snack, just add shredded cheese and sour cream. You’re welcome.
My love affair with salsa goes back to my own childhood, but I didn’t develop my deep appreciation for it until after high school.
I had a favorite Mexican restaurant.
I don’t mean some Americanized chain restaurant. This was the kind of hole in the wall place you went to when you wanted real Mexican food. Or at least as real as it got in central Ohio.
And the main attraction was their salsa. I could drink their salsa.
It wasn’t just that the salsa tasted good (and it did taste really good), but it was also the texture.
This wasn’t a chunky salsa, but it also wasn’t thin and runny. It was blended just enough that you got a little bit of every salsa ingredient on every chip.
I needed to find a way to have access to this salsa all the time.
Unfortunately for me, neither my wallet nor my pocketbook could afford for me to eat there all of the time.
It turned out to be a rather convenient coincidence that I had become actively involved in canning and gardening at the time.
It was also rather convenient that I had more tomatoes than I knew what to do with.
I started canning my own salsa and my world was changed forever.
I remember those first batches of salsa, arguing with my mom about what constituted “spicy.” Hint: she doesn’t like spicy food. All of it was too spicy for her.
These were the good ole’ days before the internet and “tested safe canning recipes.”
Thankfully, we do have tested safe recipes now. This recipe is an adaptation from the recipe I got from the National Center for Preserving Food website.
Is Canning Difficult?
When people hear things like “tested safe recipes” or the fears surrounding food safety, they tend to become overwhelmed with the idea that canning is complicated.
The true is that it really isn’t complicated, especially if you’re just getting started with water bath canning.
If anything, I feel like the current standards make canning less complicated. Can’t get much simpler than following a tested recipe.
But My Grandma… And No One Ever Got Sick
Food safety is a funny thing.
What if I told you that you have a natural resistance to e-coli? What about salmonella? Oh, or the dreaded botulinum?!
Every day, we come into contact with thousands of strains of bacteria on every surface we touch. And yes, sometimes those same organisms commonly associated with food poisoning.
But why don’t I get sick?
The bacteria in your home is unique to your home. It’s unique to your family. I bet Grandma licked the spoon when she was preparing Thanksgiving dinner too.
But I bet she didn’t lick the spoon when she was cooking for the church pot luck. Or at least let’s hope not.
Part of the problem is when you’re sharing food with people who aren’t immune to your “family germs.” Your family is healthy, but your friend gets sick because they don’t have an immunity built up to the same bacteria.
Then there are the cases where there is an overload of bacteria. Even if you have an immunity, an overload may be more than your body can handle.
This is also why people with suppressed immune systems are considered an “at risk population.” Any level of bacteria can be an overload if you don’t have the immune system to fight it.
This is where botulism comes in. Botulism tends to be our greatest concern with regards to canning.
As a bacteria, botulinum can be found on any surface, so there is no way of knowing if it is present on foods that we are canning.
Botulinum itself isn’t toxic. The concern comes in when the bacteria multiply and release the neuro-toxin that causes botulism.
What we do know is that botulinum and its toxins cannot survive in acidic environments or temperatures over 240° F.
This is why it’s so important that water bath recipes are tested to ensure they are acidic enough to prevent the growth of botulinum and the production of botulism toxin.
As for heat killing botulinum spores, boiling water only reaches 220°. Pressure must be applied (such as in a pressure canner) in order to reach 240° F.
Now, botulism is rare and there’s a good chance it isn’t in your canned goods. However, the toxins are odorless and tasteless. There is no way to differentiate from what is safe and what is not. Are you willing to take that chance? Are you willing to gift your canned goods to someone else if there is a chance it isn’t safe?
What Do You Need to Start Canning?
Before you get too worried about all of the new supplies you’re going to need, know that water bath canning (the type of canning we’re using in this recipe) requires very little special equipment.
You can use a stock pot as long as it’s deep enough to submerge the jars with at least an inch of water covering them.
Your canner should also be wide enough to process all of your jars at the same time.
I canned for years without a funnel or jar lifters.
Knowing now how inexpensive they are, I realize I was crazy for struggling as long as I did, but it is possible.
You’d be amazed what you can accomplish with a ladle, a pair of tongs, and a kitchen towel.
You’d also be amazed at the mess you can make.
Here are some of the basics I recommend:
Canners take up a lot of space in your kitchen. If you’ll be doing any pressure canning in the future, you may want to go ahead and invest in a pressure canner.
They are large enough to be used as a water bath canner, but are also designed to be safe for pressure canning. It’ll save you from needing to store two very large pots.
The first time you buy jars, they will come with seals and rings, but the seals are only good for one use. Next time you can, you’ll need to buy new seals. You can also buy new rings if your old ones get rusty.
Canning Homemade Salsa
This recipe is able to be canned in a water bath because it has a high acid content.
It is important that you keep the same ratios of tomatoes, onions, peppers, and lemon juice to maintain this acidity.
The recipe calls for bottled lemon juice to ensure consistent acid levels. Fresh lemon juice may not be the same acidity, so it’s important to always use bottled lemon juice.
Also, this recipe is written for lemon juice, so vinegar cannot be substituted.
You can change the types of peppers as long as you still have the same volume of peppers in your finished product. This way you can tailor your salsa to the flavor and heat that you prefer.
I substituted long green chili peppers for poblanos. I like the flavor of poblano peppers, and they are a little more mild in terms of heat. You could even use green bell peppers if you find this recipe to be too spicy.
Pealing Tomatoes and Peppers in Bulk
This recipe uses roughly 16 pounds of tomatoes. That’s a lot of tomatoes to peal and chop in addition to all of your other vegetables. You also need to set up your canner, sterilize your jars, and prepare your other supplies.
The poblano peppers also have a thick skin that needs to be removed.
Getting everything done while also blanching and skinning tomatoes is almost impossible.
One canning hack I have learned is to roast the tomatoes and peppers in the oven to help remove the skins.
Roasting the tomatoes and peppers in the oven for about 20 minutes will cause the tomato skins to split and the pepper skins to char. The peppers will need to sweat in an airtight container for a little while to cause the skins to separate from the “meat” of the pepper.
The tomato skins on the other hand easy separate when the tomatoes are placed in a sink of ice water. Simply slide the skins off of the tomatoes and transfer them to a bowl to wait for you to chop them.
You’ll then want to measure the tomatoes as you chop them and before you place them in your stock pot to cook the salsa. 3.5 quarts of tomatoes is equal to 14 cups. Measuring your ingredients ensures you maintain the correct acidity for safe water bath canning.
You can change the seasonings in this recipe without affecting the acidity level. This recipe has a good bit of cumin in it, which gives it a bit of a chili flavor. You can decrease the amount of cumin and increase the amount of cilantro if you prefer more of a cilantro flavor.
However, you cannot decrease the number or ratio of onions or peppers. This will change the acidity of the recipe and may make it unsafe for water bath canning.
Canned goods make excellent gifts, but especially salsa. It’s unique and tends to impress those who aren’t familiar with how easy it is to make and can.
Check out some of these other DIY gift ideas:
Gifts You Can Make in an Hour or Less
Create a Giftable Indoor Herb Garden Kit || The Not So Modern Housewife
How to Can Homemade Salsa || The Not So Modern Housewife
Creative Cookie Packaging Ideas || Rootsy Network
Two Holiday Chai Tea Blends: The Perfect Fall or Winter Gift || Healing Harvest Homestead
Soup in a Jar: the Perfect Comfort Gift || Dehydrating Made Easy
Snickerdoodle Cookies || Nancy On The Homefront
Cinnamon Roasted Almonds (with printable gift tags) || A Modern Homestead
How to Make & Give Homemade Hot Cocoa Mixes || Homespun Seasonal Living
Make Gift-Worthy Bread Mix In A Jar – Great for Your Own Pantry Shelf Too! || Oak Hill Homestead
Make Your Own Lotion Bars || Learning and Yearning
Easy Homemade Bath Salts Recipe || Better Hens and Gardens
Peppermint Foot Salve || The Self Sufficient Home Acre
SPF Lip Balm Recipe || Our Inspired Roots
3 Bedtime Bath Teas for Kids || Homestead Lady
DIY Flaxseed Neck Heating Pad for Soothing Muscles || Joybilee Farm
No-Sew Scented Sachet Bags With 5 Herbal Recipes || Rockin W Homestead
Fall Air Freshener DIY || Feathers In The Woods
Gifts You Can Make in a Day or Less
Easy Applesauce Recipe For Canning or Eating Fresh || Hidden Springs Homestead
How to Make Hot Process Soap Complete Picture Tutorial || Healing Harvest Homestead
Crockpot Apple Butter with Canning Instructions || A Modern Homestead
DIY Quilted Mug Rug || Flip Flop Barnyard
Feathers & Hugs – How to Create a Psalms 91 Throw || The Farm Wife
DIY Flower & Veggie Row Markers || The Self Sufficient Home Acre
Make Your Own Veggie Hod || Nancy On The Homefront
Horseshoe Farm Sign – Fun DIY Gift for the Horse Lover || Homegrown Self Reliance
Gifts You Can Make in a Week
Special Gifts That Take One Month to Create (but are well worth the wait)
Making Herbal Vinegar || Better Hens and Gardens
Elderberry Elixir – A Delicious Immune Boosting Gift || Homegrown Self Reliance
How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract || Farming My Backyard
How to Make Strawberry Wine Step-by-Step || Stone Family Farmstead
How to Make Cold-Process Soap from Scratch || Oak Hill Homestead