When my friends at Nuts.com asked me to create a recipe with their stemless chiles de arbol, I knew right away that I had to share the authentic salsa roja recipe. Sold in one pound bags, Nuts.com makes it easy to order any chile you wish from the comfort of your own home. Since I don’t always have time to get the the Mexican grocery store, this was music to my ears.
TIP: if you want a milder salsa, you can skip the jalapenos and use 1-1/2 cups of milder peppers. If you’d like it spicier, decrease the mild peppers to 3/4 cup and increase the jalapeños to 3/4 cup. You can play around with the types of peppers you like best, just not the amount – a total of 1-1/2 cups of peppers for one batch is the limit for safety.
Remove the skins from the tomatoes. To do this, make an “X” in the bottom of the tomatoes, than place in boiling water for 60 seconds. Then, remove the tomatoes from the water and place directly into a bowl if iced water to shock. The skins should slip right off. (I use my spider to transfer the tomatoes from the boiling water to the ice water without getting splashed.)
My first experience with canning salsa (around 17 years ago, I think), included recipes from the Ball Blue Book (one batch of each) and some “mild” Tam jalapeno peppers. Those “mild” peppers ate through two pairs of rubber gloves and filled the house with fumes so strong that I could hardly breathe and my husband started tearing immediately as he soon as he entered the house when he came from work. The salsa was thin and watery, strong on vinegar, and not too tasty. I gave up on home canned salsa for quite a few years – I couldn’t put myself through that again.
Organic spices are great if you can get them. More grocery stores are starting to carry bulk organic spices, allowing you to stock up on a quality product at a great price, or you can buy them online. Cilantro gives you a more authentic flavor, but my parsley grows much better than my cilantro. I’m also one of the people who think cilantro tastes like soap, so I usually use parsley.
i have found adding a small amount of cucumber (just the skin and flesh, not the watery seedy part) to fresh salsa really intensifies/perks up the “fresh flavour” with the cilantro! have never gone back now that i have tried it…learned this tip in Puerto Morelos this year from a local….just add it to the blending stage in a recipe so the flavour is evenly distributed
I have 2 Victorio brand steam canners that I love hard. They both have temperature gauges on top and show when you are in the correct temperature range to start timing. It’s been life changing! I had two other steam canners without the gauges that I got rid of and replaced with these. I have also found by watching the temp gauges that I can turn the heat down to med-low and still keep the temp in the correct range. Yay! It saves propane! (I can outside on my camp stove.)
Do take a look at this post about how to choose hot peppers, when making your decision, but if you are just starting out, we would recommend starting with jalapenos. Jalapenos will give your salsa a flavor similar to a lot of store-bought brands, and they can be anywhere from mild to spicy, depending on how much veining appears on the individual pepper.
For canning whole tomatoes, I like those that are firm, but small and round. They hold up better during canning if they are not overripe. Pearly Pink, Stupice, and Glacier are some of my favorites. You can see some examples in the post about pickling cherry tomatoes – https://commonsensehome.com/pickled-cherry-tomatoes/ and there’s also the post “How to Can Tomatoes in a Canner or Large Pot – Easy Instructions“.
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.
Kate, this is my first time to comment, but I have been making your recipes for over a year now and love them! I am also an RD, but living in Dublin, Ireland and not practicing. We don’t have quite the selection of canned tomatoes here, so I used a box of plain organic tomatoes and the tomato sauce in the box. It was still delicious! Good salsa is not easy to find here as well, so I will be making this often. Many thanks!
Salsa Roja, as stated above is a red salsa in which the ingredients tomatoes, hot peppers, white onions and all have been cooked and blended as part of the preparation. This creates an intensely flavorful, relatively runny salsa perfect for slathering on tacos or using as a dip, but also suitable for many other uses. This versatility has made Salsa Roja a staple at many Mexican restaurants as a table-side dipping sauce, often made fresh in house.
Tomatoes are the most important ingredient. The fresher they are the better your salsa will taste. Look for the ripest ones you can find. Getting a good char on the vegetables is another key to developing the flavor. The lime juice brightens and enhances the flavor. The recipe calls for two serrano peppers but only add one if you want to reduce the heat.
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/.)
Using two kinds of chiles creates the depth in this salsa. The dried arbol chiles add a vivid pop of heat, and the jalapeños contribute a freshness that's perfect with tomatoes. The salsa comes from Barbara Mozqueda, a San Francisco cook who with her husband, Vidal, hosts big backyard parties. The salsa is excellent with Vidal's Carne Asada with Nopales and Spring Onions.
While I was visiting with my family in Mexico, my tía Minerva would prepare a small, fresh bowl of this salsa at least every other day. She would add all of the ingredients in a glass bowl and cook it quickly in the microwave! I will never forget my reaction when I saw her do this the first time! I instantly thought of my Mom and how she would have loved that quick method instead of boiling everything on the stove top.
I tried this and loved it! I used one banana pepper, one large jalepinio (sp) and topped the rest of the cup with yellow peppers. I don’t care for green peppers so I just used one cup of them and the second cup of a mix of yellow and orange. I love garlic, so a added 4 cloves total. I used fresh cilantro and oragano. I chopped my tomatoes and tried to remove seeds and extra juice as I went along. It turned out fantastic. This recipe is a keeper. Thank you so much for sharing it!! 5 stars!!