Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First canning adventures: Zesty salsa!

Last summer while learning to bake bread, I also spent a ton of my time reading food blogs, and I read about some other things (besides bread) that I really longed to try: making my own butter, making homemade yogurt, and canning . . . something, anything.

Apparently this is the summer to realize my cooking dreams!

Left: canned salsa
Center: homemade yogurt & granola
Right: cultured butter with 40% rye

I've been following Andrea's (Family & Food & Other Things) canning adventures with Tigress' Can Jam for a long while, and the descriptions of the canning process fascinate me. I love making things from scratch and knowing the exact ingredients of the things I feed my family. Canning just adds a whole new level.

Then a few days ago, we happened to be at a farm supply store and all of their canning supplies were on sale! I couldn't resist. I got a pot with rack, set of canning supplies, and the Ball Blue Guide to Preserving, all for only $25! Can't beat that.

I figured I'd stick them in the basement and give them a try early next summer. And then we found ourselves at the farmer's market this weekend, and I thought about all of the extra tomatoes that I had at home, so we bought a few more tomatoes, a bunch of peppers, and some cilantro, and came home and made SALSA! Salsa has to be one of my hubby's all-time favorite foods, so even though our kitchen was a disaster and I was constantly yelling out for help, he was fully in support of this project and happy to be my faithful assistant.

I chose the zesty salsa recipe from the Blue Book, and although the book says not to vary the recipe at all, I did cut the recipe based on how many tomatoes we had (75% of the original) and subbed in a few different ingredients (mainly types of peppers) based on what we had at the house ~ and added a little extra cilantro because we love it.

Zesty Salsa
(adapted from Ball Blue Guide to Preserving)
7 1/2 cups chopped, peeled, and cored tomatoes
4 cups chopped and seeded peppers (lady slippers, anaheim, pablano)
3 1/2 cups chopped onions (red and yellow)
1 1/2 cups chopped and seeded hot peppers (jalepenos, hot banana)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup vinegar (cider and red wine)

I first chopped everything up for the salsa. In hindsight, I should have started the pots simmering with the bottles and lids then; I didn't anticipate how long they would take to come to a simmer. But then I realized that I had the wrong size lids, so I had to run out to the store to get the right size anyway, so it ended up being better that I hadn't started the pots.

When I got home, I washed the jars and lids and then started all three big pots: one with the salsa, one with the jars and lids, and the canning pot. I was very careful not to let the pots get above 180 F and was thankful for my Thermapen (although I also kept reminding myself that people have been canning since long before instant-read thermometers so it was probably okay not to be too obsessive).

Once the salsa and jars had been simmering for 10 minutes, I started the canning process (with my faithful assistant). Hubby lifted each jar carefully out of the pan and put it on a towel, and then I ladeled in salsa.

He used the jar lifter to take out each lid and place it carefully on the jar. I wiped the threads of the jars clean with a towel and lightly screwed the bands in place.

Then hubby used the nifty jar lifter to place them into the canner and lowered the canning rack. We need to work on this step, as we had a hard time getting the pint jars to fit securely in the rack and a couple of them kept tipping over, which was a little stressful.

We covered the pot, brought it to a rolling boil, and set the timer for 15 minutes. Once the timer beeped, we let everything rest for 5 minutes, took out the jars, and left them alone over night. I heard a few satisfying pops! which was exciting.

This morning I checked the lids: there was no give and I couldn't pry them off. I took the bands off and cleaned the bottles and now we have several months worth of bottled salsa ready to go!

Of course, we also popped one open so hubby could give it a try: he loved the various pepper flavors and said he was sad that he's lived with store-bought salsa all this time. I really enjoyed this salsa with chips as well. More importantly, though, my first canning adventure was a success!


  1. Good for you!!! Isn't it just fun??! I'm addicted to canning and now want to make and can anything I can! LOL

  2. Seeing the picture of the salsa makes me want to try this recipe, too. It looks awesome! And kudos to you for your first canning project which looks like it was a big success!!!! Sometime later today, Tigress will post her August roundup at http://tigressinapickle.blogspot.com(focus was tomatoes, so your post would fit right in) - and in the comment section you could post your link so some other can jammers might hop over to your blog and read your post...

  3. This looks so good! I am really picky about jarred salsa and I bet this would be the answer. (I always buy green mountain gringo brand). I also LOVE your spread--yogurt, butter and salsa. (Maybe next summer will be my summer!) How cool that you have made all these things. You've reminded me I have some milk in the fridge I bought to make yogurt. Need to get on that!

  4. Abby, we do a lot of preserving - mostly jams - but never salsa. Thank you for the inspiration! :)