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Thursday, August 9, 2012

I made this season's tomato salsa

by Lili Mounce

So, you don't have a garden. Or your garden is much like mine, where tomatoes are few and far between. Can you make salsa with store-bought tomatoes, and still have it affordable to do so?

Most years I make my tomato salsa with canned tomatoes. (I buy the institutional-size cans at United Cash and Carry, but I've also seen them at Smart and Final, and Business Costco.) This is great, actually. The tomatoes are already peeled (woohoo!), and it means that I can make salsa anytime of the year. I've even used jarred jalapeños to make salsa mid-winter when my fav produce stand is not open for the season yet. But for most batches I use fresh jalapeños.

Here's how I make mine:

Easy Tomato Salsa (for 8 pints)

  • 1  111 oz. (3.175 kg) can whole, peeled tomatoes (#10 can), or about 3 quarts  (just short of 3 L) tomatoes, chopped, with juice
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) white vinegar
  • 1  1/2 large onions, chopped
  • 1  1/2 (22 mL) tablespoons pickling or kosher salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, or 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 8-10 jalapenos, seeded and minced (this batch I used 5 somewhat large jalapenos)
  • 2 teaspoons to 1  1/2 tablespoons (22 mL) dried red chili flakes (according to taste -- this batch I used 2 of those red pepper flake packets that you get with pizza)
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons (22 mL) dried, crushed oregano
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (a large handful will do, but this batch I didn't have cilantro, salsa still good without)
  • 2  1/4 (33 mL) tablespoons chili powder

I use my food processor to chop the tomatoes -- about 2 cups at a time by pulsing. I add the tomatoes to a large stainless (or other non-reactive) stock pot. Next I add vinegar, then chop the onions and add. I stir in salt, minced garlic, red chili flakes, oregano, cilantro, chili powder, and jalapeños.

Mincing jalapeños is hard on the throat and eyes. To mince, I cut off the stem end, then slice the peppers in half lengthwise. I use a spoon to remove the seeds, discarding those. I use my food processor to mince the jalapenos, then add to the rest of the salsa ingredients. This has to stand for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I get my jars sterilized.

Back to the stove. I bring the pot to a boil while stirring. My stove hood fan pulls jalapeño and red pepper steam away -- really, that stuff will choke you. I simmer for 10 minutes. turn off stove. Fill jars. Then seal and process for 30 minutes. And that's it.

The whole process takes me about 2 hours, start to finish including clean-up, and I'm usually doing other things in the kitchen and around the house. I estimate that each pint cost about 48 cents per jar. Not bad.

Making salsa this time of year dovetails nicely with my big batch cooking later this month, to get me over the hump when school first begins. Part of the big batch is a Mexi meat mixture, for tacos, burritos, and bun tacos. The salsa will be delish with those Mexi meals!

I'm not terribly proficient at canning, so I limit myself to high acid, and/or high sugar items (jams, jellies, pickles, salsas, relish, chutney). And, I store all of my canning in the spare fridge. Just not terribly sure I won't lose a loved one otherwise. I'm guessing that many of you are much more sure of your canning than I am of mine.

One more thing to check off my August to-do list! Tomato salsa is now to-done.

Does your food processor get a regular workout? I like to use mine when big batch cooking. And, do you make your own salsa, too? What do you put in yours? Please share!


  1. That's cool! It never occurred to me that you could make your own salsa without a giant garden--I always thought canning was just what people do when they have more tomatoes than they know what to do with! That's awesome that they came out to about 48 cents a can. Pretty sweet!

    Also, on an unrelated note--I like that you have a running to-do list on the side. I also like that it's a long-term list, rather than the "do it all right now" kind that seems to bog me down. I wonder if I could set something up like that on mine...

    1. Hi Mallory,
      I have found that for canning, it can be cost-effective if the item you're making is something that is more than just the plain produce. Like it wouldn't be cost effective to go to the grocery store and buy peaches at $1.29 a pound (which is what they are this week at a local market), and then can them at home. Once they were peeled and pitted, my cost per pound would be something like $1.40 a pound. And I can buy canned peaches for about 75 cents a pound when on sale. But, for my second salsa that I'll be making this summer, I'm thinking of doing a peach salsa. Peach salsa would run about $4 a jar in a specialty shop. But I can make it for about $1.50 a jar, or less.

      The tomato salsa is especially affordable for me, because canned tomatoes are available at a restaurant supply in the super large size.

      The list is helping me on those days where I lack focus. I can turn to the list and choose something to start on. You use Blogger, I think, right? I just went into the layout and used a text feature to set it up. That part was easy. The "coming up with what I really want to get done this month", that was the hard part.

      Thanks for visiting!

  2. My kids made a big batch of salsa this weekend. It was too spicy for me but everyone else loved it. I made some last year that wasn't as spicy and required little or no cooking. Everyone liked that batch also, including me. However, I don't remember the recipe. I'm going to have to find it as we have an excess of tomatoes that are very ripe. I would rather do that than just put them in the freezer plain.

    1. I am so envious that you have very ripe tomatoes, and too much of them! Just curious, when you've made salsa with fresh tomatoes, did you peel them? I'm wondering if peeling is necessary. If you did just pop tomatoes into the freezer plain, could you make salsa on an as needed basis with the frozen ones?

      My salsa is on the mild side. If there's too much heat then I can't taste anything else. But my husband likes it spicy, so I do a mini batch for him of the hot kind.

      Hope you find your recipe!

    2. My kids followed the recipe which called for a little blanching and then peeling of the tomatoes. When I do it, I just peel what is easy and don't worry about the rest. However, the texture is best without the peel. But having a little peel in it doesn't bother us.

    3. I haven't had garden tomatoes enough to do salsa for several years. But when I did, I remember being up to my elbows in tomato liquid, trying to get that last bit of peel off (so much that I broke out into a horrible rash all up both arms). Next time, I'll try peeling what comes off easily, and just leaving the rest. Thanks for responding.

  3. I've made salsa from canned tomatoes from the supermarket that I got at a steep discount. It does work out to be much less money per serving, and as a bonus, you know what is in it!

    1. Hi Pamela,
      Knowing what's in it is a huge bonus! I just want to eat real foods with real-food names. It's better for me, yes, but also I just think it tastes better.

      I think many of the big manufacturers are "stretching" the real foods in their products with artificial flavorings, colorings and added starches, just to fool us into thinking something will be good. Like boxed mac and cheese. there's practically no cheese in there, and you can tell by the taste.

      Homemade salsa, even with using canned tomatoes, tastes much better, IMO, than the big manufacturer brands.There are better brands of just about everything these days, but they cost more. Making things myself saves me the time and trouble of having to earn more money.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I make my own salsa here too. It's such a good feeling to put up my own food like that and then use it year round. :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      I know, isn't it a great feeling when you look inside your cupboards (or in my case the fridge, as I'm sure I'll knock off a family member with my less-than-great canning skills and make-do equipment), and you see all those jars. They look so pretty, and you can see what's in them. There's no goofy label blocking my ability to see the actual food.

      As you can quite a it, can I ask, do you always buy new lids? And do you ever use jars like old mayo jars? I know some canners will reuse their lids (which the manufacturer says not to do), and some use glass mayo jars (which has also been one of those things that's controversial). I'm just wondering what other home canners do.

      Thanks for your comments!

    2. I agree with the manufacturers. Do not use old lids, but you can reuse rings. There is just too much of a chance that the jars won't seal with old lids.

      Also, I have used mayonnaise jars, but only in a pinch. The problem with them is that they are not as structurally as strong as regular canning jars and can break during the of the canning process.

    3. Lili, I do buy new lids since they recommend that and I don't use mayo jars although I do save them for other uses like storing beans and similar items. I've also been reading about that new reusable lid called the Tattler, but I've not tried those yet.

    4. Belinda,
      I didn't know about Tattler's so I checked them out. They are just like the lids and rings my grandmother used except they are made out of plastic and the old ones were made of aluminum and glass. I don't know about the Tattlers, but the old ones worked just fine. What I remember the most was we would use the used rings as hop-scotch markers.

    5. Thanks, that was going to be my next question, if anyone has tried the reusable lids? I only recently found out that they existed. I'm interested in finding out more about them. I'd like to know about how many uses you can get out of each. And if they give a thoroughly good seal (one that I could feel confident about using).

      And one, two other questions, where has everybody found the best price on lids?And is there a brand of bands which tend to rust least? Not had good luck in that area.

      Thanks for all your input on this.


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