Canned Salsa versus Fresh Salsa
This is one of my favorite recipes for canned salsa. This salsa differs from the fresh salsa served at restaurants because it is cooked and then processed in a water bath to preserve it. It is a mild salsa that can be made spicier by adding extra hot peppers of your choice.
This salsa also differs from freshly made salsa because it has vinegar added to it. Although tomatoes are acidic, they don’t always have enough acid for canning, so vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice is added to raise the acid content. Then you can safely preserve them.
I have included step-by-step instructions for making canned salsa. If you are familiar with food preservation procedures, then you can skip to the recipe below. Click here to jump to the recipe.
Jars come in many sizes and have either a regular-sized opening or a wide opening. You can use any size of canning jar for this salsa. However, always use jars specifically for home food preservation with lids and rings made specifically for it.
Always use brand new lids even if you know people who reuse lids without problems. First, canning takes a lot of time, and you don’t want it wasted if you reuse lids that will not seal. Second, reusing lids is risky because the seal might fail and cause the food to spoil, which can cause food poisoning.
Bands (also called rings) hold the lids in place so they can seal when heated. You can reuse bands, but eventually, they will rust. When they start to rust, discard them because rusty canning bands are hard to remove from jars.
The best tomatoes to use in salsa are ripe tomatoes. Whether they come straight from the garden or are bought from the store, I always leave tomatoes on the countertop for a few days so they can ripen to a deep red color. Very ripe tomatoes will give your salsa a rich red color versus the pink color of less ripe tomatoes. Your salsa will also have a better flavor with ripe tomatoes.
I like Roma tomatoes for salsa because they are not as juicy and seem meatier than other tomatoes. However, I have used lots of different tomatoes for salsa. Sometimes people give me tomatoes from their garden, and I don’t turn them away because they aren’t Romas. Some of the best salsa I’ve made has been out of a mixture of homegrown tomatoes.
Sometimes the large, perfect tomatoes found at grocery stores and vegetable stands have large cores. When you remove the tomato core, you find that there isn’t much tomato left. From my past experience, medium-sized tomatoes usually make the best salsa.
Remove the Tomato Skin
Before you make canned salsa, you will need to remove the skin and cut out the hard center core of each tomato. These are steps that you cannot skip, but they are easy to do.
Prepare the Tomatoes for Skin Removal
Follow these steps to prepare the tomatoes for skin removal:
- Wash the tomatoes.
- Boil a large pot of water.
- Fill a large bowl two-thirds full of cold water, and add some ice cubes.
Remove the Tomato Core
To remove a tomato core, insert a knife into the top of the tomato and cut around the stem end. Sometimes the tomato core is small, and sometimes it goes all the way to the bottom of the tomato. The tomato core is white and hard.
Cut the Tomato Bottom
After removing the tomato core, turn the tomato over with the bottom facing up and cut an “X” piercing through the skin. These cuts make it easier to peel the tomatoes after blanching.
To remove the tomato skins, place the tomatoes in boiling water for a short time. This is called blanching, and the boiling water heats the outer skin of the tomatoes without cooking them inside.
Leave the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds, and then move them to the bowl of ice water to quickly cool them so you can hold them to peel them.
Pull off the tomato skins. They should remove very easily. If not, place the tomatoes back in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds and repeat the cooling.
It is not necessary to remove the tomato seeds for this salsa recipe. Once you remove the tomato skin, cut each tomato into four pieces and place the pieces into the measuring cup.
Measure the Tomatoes
This recipe calls for one gallon of tomatoes. Measure the tomatoes after you remove the skins and cores and cut them up. I use a large measuring cup that measures eight cups at a time or approximately 2 liters.
Chop the Vegetables
There are several vegetables in this salsa that you will need to chop. You can do this by hand, but I recommend chopping them in a food processor or an electric chopper. You can also chop the vegetables a day ahead of time and store each vegetable in separate containers in the refrigerator. If you like chunky salsa, coarse-cut the vegetables. If you like fine-textured salsa, chop the vegetables smaller.
This recipe makes mild salsa because you remove the seeds and membranes from the jalapenos. To make hot salsa, leave the jalapeno seeds and membranes. You can also chop and add other peppers to this salsa.
Add Garlic, Vinegar, and Cumin
You can mince fresh garlic for this salsa, or you can use prepared minced garlic. Either type works well in this salsa.
This recipe uses apple cider vinegar. For the best flavor, I suggest using it rather than substituting another type of vinegar.
Ground cumin adds flavor to the salsa and also seems to neutralize some of the vinegar taste.
This recipe uses canning and pickling salt instead of table salt. Canning salt does not have additives and is very fine. It should always be used for this recipe.
Cook the Salsa
This salsa is pretty when you place all the ingredients into a pan to cook it. After it cooks for a while and is nearly done, the salsa becomes very red from the tomatoes, and the vegetables lose most of their color. At this point, you have the option of cooking the salsa longer to evaporate some of the juice from the tomatoes to make a thicker salsa. Before you decide, stir the salsa to recombine the liquid and vegetables that separate during cooking.
The salsa in the photo below was cooked longer to evaporate more water. Notice that the vegetable colors have faded. However, the salsa is very flavorful from all the vegetables.
Can the Salsa
Water Bath Canner
- A water bath canner is a large pan that you fill with water and place the jars of salsa in it for processing. You can use a canner made especially for canning or use an extra-large pan that you might already have. Whichever type of pan you use, you must use a rack in the bottom of the pan to keep the jars from touching the bottom of the pan and possibly breaking during processing. Pans made for canning usually come with a rack. If you use another pan without a canning rack, you can use other things to elevate the jars. Try using a silicone rack made for instant pressure cookers or canning jar lid rings. Click here to see a canner.
- Fill a water bath canner with enough water to cover the jars completely when they are submerged. The water level will rise when you put all the canning jars in it, so leave some space. Make sure the water is about 2 inches over the tops of the jars. Place a lid on the canner while the water heats so it will heat quicker. A large canner takes some time to heat, so fill it with hot water and start heating it while the salsa cooks, so it is ready when you need it.
Preparing Jars, Lids, and Rings
- Wash all the canning jars, lids, and rings, even if they are brand new and sealed in a box. The best way is to put the jars and canning rings into the dishwasher. I always wash the lids by hand and do not put them into the dishwasher. This gives you a chance to inspect the canning lids to make sure the rubber on the underside is smooth with no defects.
- Remember to use only jars and new lids made for canning.
- Do not use jars with cracks or chips.
- Simmer your lids and rings in a pan of water for about 10 minutes. Simmering helps to ensure that the jars will seal. Not all canning sources recommend heating lids, but I find that they seal much easier when they are hot.
- Fit the lids inside the rings and turn them upside down (shown in the photo below). This makes it easy to retrieve the canning lids from the water. Use tongs to pick up the lid-ring combo and tilt it to pour out any trapped water. Simmer, but do not boil lids and rings. The goal is to keep them hot for placing on the salsa jars.
- Keep your jars hot when you retrieve them from the dishwasher by filling them with salsa right away. Only retrieve a few jars at a time, so they don’t cool off. Hot jars ensure that neither the boiling hot salsa nor the hot water bath will cause thermal shock and break them.
- Washing jars in the dishwasher also sterilizes them. (Another way is to submerge them in water and then bring the water to a boil or 180 degrees F. )
- When you retrieve a hot jar, do not place it on a cold stone countertop. Instead, set it on a towel or cork trivet (shown in the photo below).
Filling Jars and Headspace
- Use a funnel to fill the jars with salsa. This helps to keep the salsa from spilling everywhere.
- Leave 1/2 inch of space between the salsa and the underside of the lid. This is called the headspace.
- If the headspace is too large (meaning you underfill the jars), the top of the canned salsa can discolor over time. The canning jars might not seal because the salsa could need additional processing time for the water bath to drive out the air and form a vacuum.
- If the headspace is too small (meaning you overfill the jars), the salsa can bubble out of the canning jar when the air is forced out during the water bath. This can cause food to stick to the jar rim and lid, which can cause it not to seal.
- After you fill a jar with salsa, take a clean wet cloth and wash off the rim. This helps ensure that the jars will seal properly.
- Add the lids and rings to the jars. Tighten the canning rings, but do not overtighten. Overtightening the rings can prevent air from escaping from jars during processing. This can prevent a vacuum from forming as the canning jar cools.
- Overtightening can also cause the lids to buckle.
- Use any size jars you prefer for canning salsa. I use various size jars for different purposes. I usually do not use large (quart) jars because opened salsa can age before it is all used.
- Processing time in the water bath varies based on your altitude. Use the chart in the recipe to determine how long to process your salsa.
- When the processing time in the water bath is complete, turn off the stove heat. Place a towel over the countertop where you plan to place the hot jars.
- Then use a jar lifter to remove the jars and place them on the towel. Use the towel to make sure the hot canning jars don’t break when they come in contact with the countertop surface. Leave space between all the canning jars so air can circulate and cool the jars.
- Listen for a “pop” sound. This pop means the vacuum has formed, and the jar is sealed airtight. The center of each lid has a small raised circle that flattens when the airtight seal occurs. Each processed jar should pop as it cools, forming the airtight seal. Some will pop right away, and some will take longer. Leave unsealed cans overnight and check them in the morning to see if they are sealed. Place unsealed cans in the refrigerator and go ahead and eat them.
- Home-canned foods will not last as long as commercially canned foods. They usually last 12-18 months. Always use a magic marker and write the date on your home-canned foods, so you know how old they are.