Bear in mind that Mexican Cuisine is an overwhelmingly large subject. In this series, we’ll shy away from the most complex of dishes and stick with some basic sauces, staples and dishes. They will be familiar to most, but probably not in the form you will see them here and that’s exactly my idea behind this series: to explore the recognizable in more authentic ways! By Mexican standards, the dishes in this series would mainly be considered street food, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with street food… Street food is a huge part of Mexican food culture – and hey, tacos are street food!
Tear all the chiles into large pieces and toast them in a large dry skillet over medium heat until they change color a bit, about 2 minutes. Add the spices and continue to toast for 2 to 3 minutes until everything is fragrant. Remove from heat and carefully add about 1 cup of hot water to just cover the chiles. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.
I’m making your salsa today. Your ingredients are right on with the ingredients I use to make it fresh. The only difference for me is, I had an abundance of tomatoes this summer. I cored them and froze them whole. I just put them in my stockpot and will cook them down until the water is just about gone. I’ll use my emulsion hand blender to run through the peels. I’ll add the other ingredients after this, that way I still get a little chunkiness. I did the process yesterday with pizza sauce (canned) and used about 2 gallons of tomatoes. Turned out great.
Combine all ingredients except cumin, oregano, and cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add spices and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot salsa into pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a 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.
A food processor makes chopping easier and less time consuming. Seed and cut the peppers into chunks, weigh them, then pulse the peppers into smaller pieces in the food processor. Add the chopped peppers to your saucepan. Chop your onions into pieces, weigh them, pulse in the food processor, and add to your saucepan. Skin your tomatoes, cut into smaller pieces, weigh them, pulse in the food processor, and add to your saucepan.
I make a very similar salsa recipe and am very intrigued by your method of removing skins. To tell you the truth, I always leave the skins on (gasp!) because I hate peeling tomatoes, and can’t say I notice a difference in taste/texture, although maybe it makes the salsa more acidic? Salsa making/canning is the plan for today, and I’m going to try your oven method for the skins. Thanks, Mel!
CAUTION: Most salsa recipes contain a mixture of low-acid foods, such as onions and chiles. Acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, must be added to prevent the bacteria Clostridium botulinum from growing. This bacteria produces a deadly toxin (botulin) that can cause serious damage to the central nervous system or death (botulism) when eaten even in small amounts. These salsa recipes have been tested to ensure that they contain enough acid to be processed safely in a boiling-water canner.
Hi Lisa, yes, all the sources I’ve read say that bottled lime juice can be substituted for vinegar. Bottled is the key, not freshly squeezed. And adding some roasted green pepper should be perfectly fine as well. But if you have any doubt you can always buy some pH test strips (you can find them online, like on Amazon) to make sure the acidity level is correct.
Seasoning mixes can be prepared from scratch or purchased pre-mixed. Ingredients that are frequently used in the mixes include garlic, chili powder, salt, pepper, sugar and cilantro. Vegetables such as peppers or onions can be dehydrated and included in seasoning mixes or added fresh into the recipe. Many cooks taste the salsa as they are preparing it, adding spices until the desired flavor is reached. Several drops of hot pepper sauce can be added to most recipes to create a spicy salsa.
Hi Laurie, I want to thank you for your quick reply! You were right about the equal amounts of cider vinegar and lemon juice, it did give the salsa a bit of a Strange but not bad taste to it. I’m still hoping that the zing gets better as it sits though, or will the flavor be more pronounced? Either way, I’m still going to add more fresh tomatoes and other ingredients to it before I serve it to give it a fresher taste and maybe that will help. Thank you for your time
GREAT salsa recipe. My first time making salsa from my own tomatos and peppers, read many different recipes online and in books, decided to try yours first. So good!! This salsa is also amazing before it’s cooked. I filled a container and put it in the fridge and then cooked, canned four pints. Just personal taste, I cut way back on jalapeños, used about two, and really let’s the taste of the tomatoas and green peppers shine. Thanks very much for sharing this!
This recipe is great as long as you don’t use all of the cooking water when adding the vegetables to the blender. If you do, you’ll end up with the runny, watery “soup” that commenters above complained about. Spoon the boiled vegetables into the blender, then add the water from the pan *as needed* to liquify the ingredients. You need maybe half the amount of water that you boiled the ingredients with. And if it’s still too watery, simmer it for longer during the final stage until the consistency is right. I think the recipe should be re-worded a little to reflect this issue.
Made this today and it came out very good. Nice, easy recipe. I loved the tip about putting the tomatoes under the broiler for easy peeling, so much easier than dinking around with boiling water and ice baths. I am taking the lazy way out and freezing it in serving portions as I am all “canned out” for this summer. I used the rest of my garden tomatoes, which were a generic slicing type and tons of red grape tomatoes. I didn’t plant any romas this year as they failed last year.
I think that garlic will work fine. You can use a water bath canner or a steam bath canner – but you need either one of those to properly seal the jars. Sorry for the incorrect link. I’ve fixed it: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000DDVMH/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=melskitcaf0b-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B0000DDVMH&linkId=2b53645dcd7f209be06b0641dbb4edab
The salsa is so easy to make, you’ll have the perfect condiment to use on anything and everything in a matter of minutes. The tomatoes and chili peppers are first charred in a skillet for an amazing hint of smoky flavor and then pulsed a few times in a food processor or blender with generous squirts of lime juice, onions, and garlic to desired consistency. It is finished off a hefty bunch of chopped cilantro for an additional layer of flavor.
Cilantro gives that fresh and almost citrus-like taste into your finished salsa. You might confuse this with coriander because both refer to the same herb, but their terms may vary in different countries. If the recipe originates in the United States, cilantro refers to the leaves and stalks while coriander refers to the seeds. If the recipe is made in the United Kingdom, the term cilantro doesn’t exist because they use coriander to refer to the herb.
As with all canning recipes, this recipe has been developed and tested specifically to make sure the pH level is safe for canning. Don't alter the amount of acidity (vinegar). You CAN substitute some of the vinegar for bottled lemon juice if you want to play around with flavor. Dried spices won't affect pH, so you can also experiment with those, but the amount of vegetables and tomatoes and acidity need to stay the same. I have not canned this recipe in a pressure canner, but I have given details in the post above about steam canners vs. water bath canners. Please do your own research to decide what method is best for you.
That said, it’s a solid base recipe to add to and tweak as you see fit in regards to ingredients and “feel”. I made this and added a few flourishes: cumin, Spanish smoked paprika (inauthentic, but fabulous), a few dashes of Tajin spice, and once the salsa was blended I added the zest of 1 lime and the juice of half of it. I felt that my tomatoes – out of season and not spectacular – needed some extra zing.
Chris Munn, it's so nice to meet someone with Peruvian connections! What a treat that your wife has introduced you to so many Peruvian favorites. I've found that Peruvians are very proud of their cuisine and every region has their own specialties. I'm glad you found this salsa recipe. It's simple to prepare and my favorite salsa. Thanks for coming by and leaving a meaningful comment.
Not many paragraphs into the introduction, the working title warped into something more along the lines of “Mexican Food: A Love Affair!”. When, a few more paragraphs into the original article, I realized that one post was simply not enough to detail my admiration for Mexican food culture: I threw the question up on my Instagram: “Should I do an entire beginner’s guide to Mexican Food?”
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!
Fresh cilantro would decrease the acidity, Rose, so I’d be careful – maybe 1/4 c. but then decrease the onions or peppers by a couple tablespoons or increase the vinegar by a tablespoon? I like to play it safe – I know many people can salsa that’s full of fresh ingredients, but food is just not worth playing with for me, so I try to go by the book. Personally, if we want cilantro, we add it when we use it – it tastes fresher then, too. 🙂
When your tomatoes and onion look softened, it’s time to remove them and set aside or place in your blender or food processor along with the garlic. Now add the Arbol peppers to the hot griddle and slightly roast them, this will be a very fast step since the peppers skins burn easily, which gives them an unpleasant bitter taste, so be sure to turn them and roast the peppers without burning them.
The one thing I learned when teaching myself to can salsa was that in order to use a water-bath canner to make salsa shelf stable, it’s important to use a recipe from a trusted source that uses USDA guidelines. This is because there are so many low-acid ingredients in salsa (peppers, onions, and garlic) that it creates a delicate balance between the acid (tomatoes and usually another ingredient like vinegar or lemon juice) and the low-acid ingredients.
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.
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/.)
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!