Hi Cheryl. Thanks for your question. The reason is two-fold. First, you want to salt your veggies to pull some moisture out and help them to stay more crisp after canning. (You’d do something similar if you were pickling cucumbers.) Second, you need a hot liquid to can your salsa in. We hate to throw away the flavorful juice. So, instead of using water or a store-bought can of tomato juice to create the liquid, we just recycle the juices that were already in the tomatoes.
I don't like messing with a water bath and bowl of ice water to peel the tomatoes; instead, I cut them in half and place them cut side down on a large baking sheet (really cram them in there in a single layer). I broil them for 3-4 minutes until the skins begin to pucker. Once they come out of the oven, the skins will wrinkle and peel right off and the baking sheet is easily cleaned. For this recipe, I use about three sheet pans of tomatoes (again the exact amount will depend on variety).
Katie, a 35 minute processing time is TOO long for salsa- the reason your canned tomatoes need that long is because you don’t add a cup of vinegar. Do a quick Google search to find that all the reputable salsa recipes call for 15 minute processing time (extension services, and the Ball Blue Book are two)- even for the recipes that have tomato paste added. I know you said it will make you feel better to go longer, but there are good reasons not to: energy costs and over-cooking the salsa are two good ones.
During processing, a vacuum is pulled in the headspace of the jar. This vacuum naturally pulls down the lid. (Giving us that distinctive “popping” noise when the jars seal.) On Tattler lids, you manually screw down the lids at the end of processing. This may create a false seal where the air in the headspace has not been properly evacuated, leading to food spoilage. More on that here – https://commonsensehome.com/comparison-of-jarden-and-tattler-lids/

I fell in love with Mexican food during a 2003 trip to California. Head over heels in love. I’m not talking your Chipotle Mexican Grill nonsense or your Taco Bell Tex Mex disgrace, I’m talking the sight and sounds of your host family’s Latin American sister-in-law chopping up wine-ripened tomatoes and fresh Jalapeños for Pico de Gallo on Thanksgiving. I’m talking pounding Coronas with Rudy all day and talking cultural differences, dreams and life in general. I’m talking the sound of Mariachi bands playing tableside in a side alley eatery near LA’s historic Olvera Street. The banging of pots from the stuffed taqueria kitchen. The smell of the spices hitting the heat of the stove… I love Mexican food. The authentic kind of Mexican food that few of us get to experience and shockingly many of us never knew existed… THIS, the authentic and the real, I love it!

1 Sterilize jars and lids in water bath: Place steamer rack in the bottom of a large (16-qt) stock pot or canning pot. Place new or clean mason jars on the rack. Fill the jars with water and fill the pot with just enough water to come to the top of the jars. Heat water to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes. (Keep the jars warm while preparing the salsa.)


Blanch and skin the tomatoes. To blanch tomatoes, place them in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, until the skins start to split. As soon as the skins start splitting, remove the tomatoes and place them in a cold water/ice water bath. This stops the cooking so they don’t get mushy, and makes them cool enough to handle for peeling. Slip off skins.
I love tomato season and this year I made salsa.  Fire roasted salsa that I canned.  I used tomatoes and poblano peppers from the farm stand and roasted them on a hot grill until they were charred and blistered all over.  I love the flavor of grilled tomatoes and peppers.  Then you just peel off the skins, chop chop, add a bunch of good stuff to the pot and you’ve got fire roasted salsa.  It’s perfect for canning to enjoy year round.
Lemon is more acidic than vinegar. If you replace the vinegar with lemon, it should be fine. If the pH is too high and you’re breeding botulism spores, there would be no obvious signs of the problem. If the pH is low enough to prevent botulism (4.6 or lower), spoilage would be likely be indicated by mold growth, bulging lids or other obvious signs of spoilage. If reprocessing is needed, it should be done within 24 hours.
Thank you for a great salsa recipe!  I’ve made it twice now.  The first time I did vinegar as stated and it was great but the vinegar taste was a little strong….it will still be gobbled up!  The second time around I researched the USDA guide for tomatoes and found it said you can add 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each jar as you fill it!  Now to test them and see which we like better! 

Ever since my return from California, I knew Mexican Food was something I had to perfect at home. A noble cause since I knew next to nothing about cooking back then and had no idea about procurement and use of special ingredients. For nearly 15 years, though, I have tried. For nearly 15 years I’ve experimented, failed, learned my lessons and adjusted… To a point where I now feel reasonably confident doing what I joked about upon leaving sunny Southern California: Writing a Beginner’s Guide To Mexican Food.
Here is a tasty homemade salsa to accompany your crispy tortilla chips.  Many salsa recipes call for canned tomatoes and chilies (i.e., already cooked).  I find that using fresh ingredients, and then cooking the salsa briefly, yields the best flavor.  It sweetens the tomatoes and brings out their flavor.  (Note, canned tomatoes have also been semi-cooked)  The other purpose cooking it serves is to bring the mixture up to the required temperature for canning.
The problem with simply heating up the sealed jars is that during normal processing, the goal is to drive all air out of the headspace (the space between the food and the lid). That’s why you only put the lids on finger tight instead of cranking them on as tight as you can. While boiling, the air is forced out, and then the vacuum formed by lack of air sucks down the lid, making a tight seal. No air trapped in the top of the jar = no opportunity for microorganisms that need air to grow to spoil your salsa. If the pH is low enough, botulism (which releases spores in an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment) will also be out of commission. (For more on botulism in canning, read here – https://commonsensehome.com/botulism/.)

Combine ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently until thick (about 1 hour). Ladle hot mixture into pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in boiling-water canner for 15 minutes at 0–1,000 feet elevation, 20 minutes at 1,001–6,000 feet, and 25 minutes above 6,000 feet.
Salsas verde and roja are staple Mexican sauces, used daily by the average family. Salsa verde, or green sauce, is typically made with cooked tomatillos, jalapeños, white onions, cilantro, and sometimes lime to taste. Salsa verde can be served warm or cold and can range in spiciness from very mild to completely mouth-searing. Salsa roja, or red sauce, is usually used as a condiment and made with tomatoes, chili peppers, onion, garlic, and fresh cilantro. Both are frequently used as a dip for tortilla chips or served with tacos, grilled meats, and even fish.
Hi Holly – I’m honestly not sure in regards to food safety. From what I understand, the ingredients that can be altered without affecting food safety are: leaving out the tomato paste (not sure about the tomato sauce), altering the spices like cumin and salt and cilantro, etc., and modifying the amount of jalapenos. I don’t know the pH of radishes and how the would sub in for green peppers – and of course the amount of tomatoes and vinegar (for the main acidity) need to stay the same.
On adjusting recipes: I know you want to “make this your own,” but with canning recipes, you can only do so much. It’s important for food safety to have the proper ratio of acidic to non-acidic foods. The tomatoes are acidic, but the peppers, onions, and garlic are not. That’s why you must add the vinegar, and you can’t really mess with the amounts of peppers. You could, however, fiddle with green peppers and colored bells, or sub some of the jalapenos out for a milder pepper if you don’t like it so spicy. Just don’t be too generous with your helpings and overdo the amounts. That’s one thing I love about this recipe – it gives quantities in cups, rather than forcing me to scratch my head and wonder which onion is “small” and which green pepper fits the “medium” category. See this article on Modifying Canning Recipes and Food Safety for more details.
This year I wanted to can salsa again, and I’d just had a little bit of that Mexican salsa (served with a quesadilla at a local organic restaurant, if you’re curious) and it reminded me that that was what I wanted to go for.  So, I set into my kitchen with 54 lbs. of tomatoes and decided to use some of them to make a small batch of salsa.  If it was just “okay” I’d have a few pints to eat up through the year and that would be it.  If it was great, I’d make more batches.  It’s pretty safe to say I’ll be making more. 🙂
I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this recipe it really is the best salsa. My family is very picky when it comes to salsa, especially my husband. We tend to pick favorite Mexican restaurants more by their salsa than the menu items. This salsa is delicious and very much like a restaurant style salsa. I’m making my 3rd batch now and I’m excited to have this on hand for my family. Thank you, for sharing!
Thank you for such a well thought out recipe! I am a beginner and will be attempting your recipe today. I have some overripe tomatoes and just ripe tomatoes that would be perfect for canning. I am thinking of just doing two batches – one that I will refrigerate or eat right away and the other batch will be for canning. I have enough tomatoes to do both and I am devoted to getting them canned and store asap! Anyway – I will let you know how it turns out. You have made me hopeful that I can do it 🙂
In theory, yes – BUT – there’s no way to test the finished product and confirm that it will heat evenly to ensure safe processing. You’re adding chunky,starchy bits that are likely to make the salsa thicker. Thick product slows down heat transfer. This may mean that the processing time needs to be increased to make sure that it heats all the way through, or it could push it to the point where it would not be recommended for home pressure canning, like pumpkin butter. (It’s safe to can pumpkin chunks, but it is not safe to can pumpkin butter.)
Well – I have to share with you this recipe was amazing!  I’m a first time vegetable gardener and was a bit intimidated by the whole canning gig. I guess I had always felt growing veggies and canning are like “peas and carrots” as Forest Gump would say. I read a ton of recipes but yours caught my attention because of the step by step process and super great pics. I followed it to the “T”. My entire family was so happy for me but I have to say thank you to the creator as you made my first canning journey a complete success. I look forward to a bright future in the garnering world 🙂
The only salsa recepie you’ll ever need, so stop looking, this is it!!   It has the perfect blend of everything, I have an abundance of tomatoes this year and I am on my 4th batch, I have followed the recepie exact, except for the last batch I made and that was because I wanted a bit more heat.  Easy to follow recepie, thanks, I hope to see more of your posts,
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I did make it and it was delicious.   I actually froze the tomatoes until I had time to use them.  I washed them and froze them whole in gallon size freezer bags.  When time to use, I defrosted tomatoes on counter top  for about two hours,  the skin came off easily and chopping the tomatoes up wasn’t a mess because it was still semi frozen.  This method worked perfectly actually.  Then I followed the instructions for this recipe.  The salsa turned out perfect.  Very tasty.  I canned several for later enjoyment.  Excellent recipe, thanks for sharing!
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