Preserving is a simple and economical way to make sure there's something on the shelf all winter long, and homemade salsa is an easy recipe for beginners!
By CINDA CHAVICH
This is the time of year when markets are brimming with fresh tomatoes and peppers — and I’m keen to make salsa, something sunny to preserve for a rainy day in December.
Head to the market for your fresh Roma tomatoes, onions and a variety of sweet and fiery peppers, and collect your canning equipment, and soon you’ll have glistening jars of homemade salsa on the shelf, great to crack open in the dead of winter or pass along as gifts to friends and family.
Making salsa now means you always have something spicy and delicious in the pantry to brighten up a taco or burrito, scoop up with tortilla chips, serve atop grilled chicken, fish and burgers, even spoon over your breakfast eggs and avocado toast.
If made to order, salsa is even easier to do, so I'm including a recipe for traditional Mexican salsa made with roasted tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers, no canning required.
Enjoy salsa season!
MY GO-TO SALSA
Sure, the supermarkets are full of commercial salsas—but nothing beats the intense flavors of this homemade salsa, something you can proudly serve as an appetizer with tortilla chips or haul along to a party as a thank-you gift. Make it in late summer, when the farmers’ market is overflowing with cases of ripe Roma tomatoes and multicolored hot and sweet peppers. You can even double or triple the recipe and organize a salsa bee with friends — it’s worth the work From The Guy Can’t Cook by Cinda Chavich.
8 cups (2 L) chopped plum (a.k.a. Roma) tomatoes, about 3 lb (1.5 kg)
4 cups (1 L) chopped yellow banana peppers (medium-hot), seeds removed
1 cup (250 mL) chopped jalapeño or serrano peppers (hot), seeds removed (serrano are hotter)
2 cups (500 mL) chopped onions 1 cup (250 mL) apple cider vinegar 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) chopped red bell pepper
1⁄2 cup (125 mL) chopped yellow bell pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced one 5 1⁄2-oz (156-mL) can tomato paste 2 Tbsp (30 mL) granulated sugar
1 Tbsp (15 mL) salt 2 tsp (10 mL) sweet Hungarian paprika 2 tsp (10 mL) dried oregano 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh cilantro 2 tsp (10 mL) Asian chili paste, or to taste
Dice all the vegetables into relatively uniform chunks (1⁄4 inch/6 mm). Wear surgical gloves while chopping the hot peppers and make sure you don’t touch your face or eyes — these babies burn!
In a large, non-reactive pot (stainless steel is the best), combine the tomatoes, banana peppers, jalapeño peppers, onions, vinegar, bell peppers, garlic, tomato paste, sugar, salt, paprika, and oregano. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often to prevent the salsa from sticking and burning on the bottom. When the pot boils, reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to simmer for 1 to 2 hours, until the salsa is thickened to your liking. Remember, you want it to be scoopable, not runny.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chopped cilantro. Add enough Asian chili paste to make the salsa as hot as you like. My recipe changes slightly from year to year, as the hot peppers have different levels of heat depending on how they have been grown.
When you’re satisfied with the flavor and texture, prepare the jars. Use the canning jars with two-part metal lids (the only kind that truly seal and preserve your efforts). Wash the jars and lids well and rinse in boiling water.
Using a wide-mouthed funnel to guide you, ladle the salsa into 1-cup (250 mL) jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) of head space at the top to allow for expansion. Wipe the edges of the jars with a clean cloth, center the lids on top and tighten the screw bands. They should just be “finger tip” tight.
Place the jars in a canning kettle or very deep large pot filled with boiling water. The water must be a couple of inches above the tops of the jars. Return the water to a rolling boil and process the salsa (boil) for 20 minutes.
Lift the jars from the water using tongs and cool on a folded kitchen towel on the counter. The lids should pop and snap down as the salsa cools, indicating that the jars are properly sealed and safe. Your salsa will keep in a cool dark place for one year or more. Refrigerate it after opening. Makes about 8 cups (2 L) of salsa. You can easily double or triple the recipe. Store in a cool dark cupboard and this shelf stable salsa will last for a year or more.
ROASTED TOMATO AND TOMATILLO SALSA
Chef Israel Alvarez Molina of Maiiz in Victoria offers fresh house made salsas alongside his nixtamal tacos. His tomato salsa gets its charred, smoky notes from a traditional roasting technique — don’t skip this traditional step, it’s the secret to exceptional salsa!.
3 medium ripe whole tomatoes (350 grams)
¼ pound green tomatillos whole, no husk, washed (100 grams)
4 jalapeños peppers, stemmed
1 (or 2) habanero pepper, stemmed
1 large white or yellow onion (150 grams)
5 cloves garlic, peeled.
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 fresh lime, juiced
1⁄4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Roast all of the vegetables until lightly charred on all sides on the barbecue (or on a baking sheet, lined with foil, in a 450˚F oven) for 10 minutes. If you have a heavy cast iron pan (or traditional comal), it’s even easier to get a good char on your vegetables.
Remove garlic and peppers when you see blistered and charred spots. Tomatoes and tomatillos will take longer —keep roasting them until they become soft.
Combine roasted vegetables in a food processor (for chunky texture) or in the blender (for smooth texture) and blitz until the desired texture is achieved.
Transfer the salsa to a bowl and stir in salt, lime juice and chopped cilantro. Serve salsa with tacos, quesadillas or tamales.