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.
I just made this. It’s great. The prep time and cooking time combined took me 6 hours. I did it all by hand. Also, I used only 6 garlic and will probably go down to 5 next time. I only used half the tomato paste and it’s still too thick, so next time I may sub half the paste with another can of sauce if that’s ok. Otherwise, the taste is great. Is there a faster way to cut and chop everything and remove all the seeds? The tomatoes took the longest by far. It tool about 3 hours just to core, cut, seed and strain them. I used to make tomatoes and I used about 12-15 pounds.

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!


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/.)
When I used a combination of Roma/paste tomatoes and everyday garden tomatoes (don’t know the exact variety, but in this batch, Romas probably made up about 1/3 of the total amount of tomatoes), I needed almost six pounds of tomatoes to equal 2 1/2 cups of drained tomatoes. That’s because my non-paste tomatoes have a ton of liquid that drains off. Today, I measured 2 pounds of JUST paste tomatoes (about 12-14 small to medium Romas from my garden) and after taking the skins off, crushing lightly and letting drain, I had a little over 1 cup of drained tomatoes to use for this salsa. I do tend to err on the side of over-draining, as an FYI.
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.
Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.
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!
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.
The key to canning the freshest tomato salsa is doing so when the tomatoes are in peak season. Also be sure to find a canning recipe that is tried and true, because canning tomato salsa improperly can cause it to spoil. And peeling the tomatoes first is worth the effort. Canning tomato salsa is not the same as making it fresh to eat the same day. The skins will become tough and chewy once canned.
This is a great salsa for beginners in Mexican cuisine. There are other salsas that are a little bit more complicated, and which require that you char the tomatoes and other veggies first. This salsa roja recipe, however, just requires that you blend the raw vegetables together, and then cook them with a bit of olive oil before adding onions and cilantro. 
It’s pretty good. I did like someone else and halved the vinegar and squeezed five limes into the mix. I gave it four stars because I’m not a big fan of vinegar in salsa recipes. More like 4.5 stars but there is no option. It’s better than store bought and holds up to dipping without dripping on a quality corn chip. I will make this again as it gave me eight pints which is convenient for my hot packing pot. So for a cold wimter night this recipe will find its way to snack and a movie. One thing I didn’t do was using a food processor, tnough I have them, because I wanted my pepper and onion bits to be sliced into little cubes for a more professional look or appeal. Got a really sharp thin six inch damascus steel Japaneese knife which is fun to use as it is precise and makes clean cuts. The bottles look great when packed. So overall, this recipe gets a big thumbs up. I have marked this recipe on my tablet for future use. Again….well done Mel.
As you will notice when we dive a little further into these recipes, Mexican food has a stunning range of somewhat special ingredients. From Masa Harina, the essential ingredient of corn over a wide array of chilies either fresh, dried or ground to Mexican oregano and tomatillos. Some of these may at first glance seem foreign and difficult to come by, but fear not we’ll discuss the individual ingredients as we go and they’ll be easier to come by than you think.
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/.)
Update: Because I was paranoid about the peppers, I actually could have upped them a smidge. OTOH, right now it has a gentle heat which won't burn you out after a couple bites. I did lie though. I omitted the celantro because I am one of those whose tastebuds interpret it as soap. Something tastes like it needs a little more of something, but possibly I mis-measured because the taste is wonderful..I might not whirl the tomatoes quite as much next time though. Boy, this a long comment to basically say Brava.
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.
Chop all of the ingredients. To make things easier, you can use your food processor. I did one batch chopping everything by hand and one roughly chopping using the food processor and they results were really similar. If you want your salsa to have more texture, then I recommend chopping the tomatoes by hand and using the food processor for everything else.
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.
You need some fresh lime juice to add a citrus taste to your salsa. Not only does it add flavor, but its acidity can also help inhibit the growth of microorganisms in the salsa mix in case you decide to store them for longer days. Although using an already manufactured lime juice is convenient, it may not be advisable for this recipe because what we’re aiming here is natural freshness.
I like using apple cider vinegar in canning because I like the flavor, and it comes from apples. Most white vinegar comes from a variety of sources, including wood pulp. I use it white vinegar for cleaning, but it can be substituted in canning recipes if you like. The pH is the same. Lemon or lime juice can also be substituted for the vinegar in this recipe – but they give a more pronounced flavor.
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.
You can’t really appreciate this salsa until about a month after canning. I’ve tasted many versions of homemade canned salsa and this is the best! Has a very nice consistency. Here’s what I found: I tasted it during the canning process and was somewhat disappointed at the vinegar taste but that pretty much disappeared after it cured for a month. I had added almost all of the sugar to counter the vinegar flavor and was sorry I did because it was a little sweet after curing. (I used Big Boy and Early Girl tomatoes.) The ground pepper was also very strong during the canning process but mellowed after a month. I like a medium hot salsa and was a little shy on the jalapenos…used only 3. I would definitely increase that to 5 or 6. In the meantime, I’m stirring some red pepper flakes into each jar as I open them. I also couldn’t taste the cilantro after curing so I would increase that as well. Thanks for sharing this recipe!
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.
Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 10 to 15 minutes.
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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.

Hi Laurie! Thank you for posting your canning experiences and recipes. I have NEVER attempted canned and have always found it freaking scary! Lol! However, I would like to try your salsa recipe. I have a question though. ..what’s the difference between a hot water bath and actually using the pressure cooker? How do you know which method to use? Is either safe for salsa? Thanks again for your help! ????
I made this recipe yesterday. It was very labor intensive but I’m happy to report after sampling the salsa today that it was worth it. I have to admit that after tasting the salsa shortly after starting the cooking that I very skeptical it but the vinegar taste mellowed as it cooked and the flavors melded together beautifully. After 10 minutes of cooking, my onions and peppers still looked raw so I cooked it for about 30-35 minutes. I would recommend saving some of the tomato juice that drains off after preparing the tomatoes — my tomatoes ended up being on the dry side so I added a little juice back to the cooking salsa until it loosed up a bit and I was happy with the consistency.
Here is a link to the ones I use (NOTE: It’s an Amazon Affiliate Link – $$ for me!) – SET OF 2 — 24 Oz. Condiment Squeeze Bottles. It makes it feel that much more authentic. You can also serve this up as a salsa with some salted tortilla chips. The flavor is the same and honestly, it works as a simple salsa serving. This will easily last a week in the fridge, if you haven’t eaten it all.
Essentially, this makes Salsa Roja the Mexican equivalent of BBQ sauce: An all-purpose condiment with a secret recipe. Every Mexican grandmother has her own recipe and hence every family their own, “authentic” Salsa Roja recipe. In other words: as with so many other Mexican dishes and sides, there is no authentic, codified Salsa Roja recipe! To each their own! And thank God for that. This is exactly the beauty of this condiment. Every chef can (and should) tweak it to their own liking – as I have done with mine!
This is how I make mine, minus the Cumin. I’m going to try it the next time I make a batch. Family and friends are always asking me to make them some. It’s so easy and sooooo good!! Sometimes I can it too. All you have to do is put it on the stove and heat it up slowly, then into your cleaned and prepped mason jars. It keeps for about 3-4 months unopened.
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