I made this today, ate a few test bites (delicious!), took a quick Instagram shot, and then had to run to a volleyball tournament. During our down time, a few of my teammates saw the picture and begged me to run home and grab the salsa. I did, and came back with an extra bag of chips. Four girls and one and a half bags of chips and we demolished THE ENTIRE BOWL. I sent the link to at least five people who requested it and was begged to bring more to the next game. So thank you! Not only for a fantastic recipe (to which I will only add a tiny bit more heat), but for practically making me a culinary god among my friends!
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!
I’m so glad you found this useful in using up your bounty (plus, lucky contractors!). I’m the opposite this year – the tomatoes didn’t like being eaten by the deer and then didn’t like being covered the whole season to protect them. 🙂 I keep looking at my few pounds of paste tomatoes and can’t decide what I want to make with them – this salsa, Addictive Chutney, or the freezer marinara it’s so nice to have on hand. Choices, choices. 😉
Why this meticulous approach to chili picking? Well, for the simple reason that it adds a stunning complexity to the salsa and provides the best possible product: a salsa roja that is at one time bright, fresh, fruity and acidic and at the same time rich, deep and complex in flavor with a noticeable, warming but not overpowering heat profile. This, in my own humble words, make it the PERFECT all-round salsa for every application including dipping, slathering, spreading, cooking or mixing.
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.
UPDATE 09/06/17: Lots of you have asked for a weight measure on the tomatoes. I’ve been canning this salsa the last few days and experimented weighing and measuring tomatoes. The result? Tomatoes are unpredictable! Meaning, the exact weight  (that will yield the 10 cups drained needed in the recipe) is EXTREMELY variable depending on the type of tomato used.

I’ve never attempted to use canned tomatoes in the recipe, and can’t remember the last time I purchased store tomatoes, so I’m not sure how much liquid is in there in proportion to the fruit. My best guess to make this work would be to drain the tomatoes and then weigh them – but this would be a little high since the starting weight with raw tomatoes includes skins, seeds and excess juice that’s removed/drained off. Maybe around 16-80 pounds drained tomatoes? When I’ve drained my tomatoes after chopping, I end up with around 7 quarts in volume. There is no simple answer, unfortunately. If you give it a go, you may way to get pH strips to test the finished salsa and make sure the pH is below 4.6 for safe canning. If not, you could freeze, or add more vinegar.
Explain, please, about tomato peels. My tomatoes are quartered or smaller, still with peels. What are the safety consequences? Also, BTW, thanks for the update on steam canners. I’ve used one for years (and for you canning newcomers, they’re cheap at Goodwill, etc.), with the reluctant, hard-won approval of a food science pro, only on condition of his anonomity (because of that research issue). Glad to know approval is now official!
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/.)
We just sampled this salsa and it is absolutely fantastic!!! I thought that all of the ingredients complimented each other. Way to go Mel! This is my third year in a row making red salsa. I make it to enjoy at home and to share with family and I also enter certain canned specialties each year in our local state fair. Two years ago I won Third place for my red salsa. Last year I did not receive a ribbon. This year I suspect I’ll be in good running for ribbon contention! Our North Carolina State Fair is held in October. I’ll be sure to let you know the outcome!
I followed the instructions to a T and it turned out horrible — bland, almost orange (not red) in color, and not spicy at all (2 serranos added). It’s also watery to the point of being a soup! I’m going to have to try to save at least a little bit of it and add it to some salsa verde that (thank goodness) I had in the fridge already. :/ I guess no short cuts will ever beat the real deal.
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.
I made the salsa this last weekend with tomatoes from the garden about half slicers and half roma. I followed your easy method which works great for a working mom. But for some reason it turned out not very tomatoey, good spice, thickness, beautiful. I went ahead and canned it because I thought it might get better with time, and was scared to add tomato paste putting everything off balance. Were my tomatoes not ripe enough?
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