Preheat the broiler. Put the quartered tomatoes, sliced onion, and whole garlic cloves onto a roasting tray, spreading out evenly. Drizzle with plenty of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle with cilantro sprigs. Broil until everything is nicely charred, about 10 minutes (you want lots of deep rich color so don't be afraid if some of the edges get pretty black).
Sadly, my search for the best recipe wasn’t at an end, though. We found that the salsa wasn’t very spicy and when I took the time to look at the ingredients of bottled lemon juice (it must be bottled – fresh lemon juice doesn’t have the consistent acid level for canning) I saw that it’s full of preservatives! Great. I’ve got all these organically grown vegetables and I’m adding preservatives. Double boo.

If you live in a town with a noticeable Mexican or Latin American community, chances are you’ll be able to find a specialty store carrying these goods, if not there’s always the good, old, world wide web. Many websites carry and even specialize in Mexican and Latin American ingredients. If you live in Denmark like me, try out chilihouse.dk for example, they’re a great one stop resource and they’re not even paying me to say that!


If you are canning salsa, is important to use recipes that are formulated and tested for safe home canning. Salsa recipes for water bath canning must meet acidity-level requirements to prevent the growth of botulism bacteria. This recipe is from the “Zesty Salsa” recipe in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. The only differences between the recipe below and the “Zesty Salsa” recipe is this recipe is cut in half. The ratio of ingredients is the same and maintains the proper acidity level required for safe canning.
Douglas, I was just wondering about using the iron skillet or comal and the tomatoes. I tried a different recipe the other day and used my iron skillet to toast the ancho chilies, tomatoes and serrano peppers it called for. After blending all the ingredients, I used the same skillet to heat and cook the finished sauce. I only thought about it after the fact and wondered if the acidic sauce changed in flavor by using the iron skillet. I am sure our grandmothers used their iron for everything and never worried about the acid in them, so I am sure this question is moot, but I still want to know. I am not a very good cook, even though I try, and last weeks sauce did not turn out very tasty. I am going to give this one a try and hope it comes out better. Thank you for posting this.

Hi Heather – from all the reading I did on that recipe, the lady who created the recipe, Annie, developed it and had it tested at her local extension office years ago. There are a lot of threads on the Garden web forum – I looked for a few minutes and couldn’t find the original thread I had read but here’s a couple that might help (there’s LOTS of discussion on there about the proper way to make the salsa without messing up the pH levels and making it unsafe):
I made this and cut the recipe in half, I have a question about safety because I accidently added 2 tsp sugar instead of 1.5 tsp ( half of 1 Tbls) I also added a bit more white vinegar and then 1/4 tsp cumin and 1/8 cup fresh lime juice. I didn’t peel the tomaties or get rid of the seeds and now I’m concerned I will die of botulism ….. I’m new to this so should I toss them or will it be ok?
Sanitize all salsa jars prior to canning tomato salsa by running them through a dishwasher or hand-washing them with soap and hot water. Boil lids to ensure that they are clean. Avoid adding extra ingredients such as cornstarch or flour in an attempt to thicken salsa prior to canning it. Jar lids should be checked 24 hours after canning. If they have not sealed according to the sealing characteristics of the particular brand of jars, the cook should consume or discard the salsa within one week of refrigeration.

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.)

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.
Mexican food, essentially, mirrors the country of Mexico itself: a proud indigenous culture attempted destroyed by an overpowering invading force but managing to somehow withhold enough principles and key elements to remain entirely its own while becoming something decidedly new: A mix of tradition and innovation all stirred up in a melting pot for some 500 years to create flavors that are neither Mesoamerican nor Spanish, but decidedly Mexican: hearty, comforting, powerful, colorful and full of spice!

In the blender, add bell peppers, onion, assorted peppers, lime juice, cilantro, salt, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin. Once jalapenos have sat for 10 minutes, remove from zip-lock bag and pinch the skins off. Discard skins and place jalapenos in blender. Blend on medium speed until contents are blended but slightly chunky. Pour contents in pot with tomatoes.
IMPORTANT: Follow the directions carefully and exactly for each recipe. Use the amounts of each vegetable listed in the recipe. Add the amount of vinegar or lemon juice listed. You may decrease the amount of spices if desired. Do not can salsas that do not follow these or other research-tested recipes. These salsas may be frozen or stored in the refrigerator. Do not thicken salsas with flour or cornstarch before canning. After you open a jar to use, you may pour off some of the liquid or thicken with cornstarch.

I found that cutting your tomatoes in half & putting them face down on a cookie sheet to broil for 4 minutes works great for removing the skins! Also super important to drain your tomatoes after you cut them up! I guesstimated my 13 Cups after I removed skins, cut up and drained. I added a 1/4 tsp more salt, an extra clove of garlic and a couple of extra jalapenos. This is a great recipe! A little watery but consistent with authentic Mexican restaurant salsa! Can’t wait to share w/friends and family!


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.
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.

I am going to try this recipe today using roma tomatoes. I just wanted to add, most recipes call for de-seeding and squeezing out all tomato juice from the tomatoes. I have learned that you can cook down the juice and seeds, ( one year I had 2 quarts of tomato liquid …slowly cooked down to 1 half pint ) this way all my ingredients were fresh garden and not canned. The thickened tomato seed juice was so close to paste that it thickened the salsa I made. I just incorporated it into my tomatoes measurements. Trying that with your recipe. Ty

This recipe is a great starting point to develop your own Mexican salsa recipe. Adjust any or all of the ingredients to suit your tastes. Although this recipe calls for charring the chiles, you can also make it without charring them. Add more chiles for a spicier sauce or reduce the number for a milder version. Substituting jalapeño chiles for the serrano chiles will make a milder salsa too.
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