Great question, Liz…and very timely. I’ve been making batches of this salsa for the last few days and keep forgetting to weigh the tomatoes for a precise measurement. I am making another batch tomorrow and will do so and report back! So much depends on the variety and exact size of the tomato, so I’ll get a weight measure that will take the guesswork out of it. You definitely want to use a full 10 cups of chopped tomatoes for proper pH levels.
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!
I don't like messing with a water bath and bowl of ice water to peel the tomatoes; instead, I cut them in half and place them cut side down on a large baking sheet (really cram them in there in a single layer). I broil them for 3-4 minutes until the skins begin to pucker. Once they come out of the oven, the skins will wrinkle and peel right off and the baking sheet is easily cleaned. For this recipe, I use about three sheet pans of tomatoes (again the exact amount will depend on variety).
UPDATE: Since many of you have asked about a weight measure for the 10 cups of tomatoes, as I've been canning the salsa the last few days, I've done a little experimenting/research. Basically, I've found it varies GREATLY depending on variety. When I used SIX pounds of garden tomatoes + Roma (the paste tomatoes probably only made up about 1/3 of the total), after taking the skins off, lightly crushing, and draining, the yield of tomatoes to use in this recipe was about 2 1/2 cups. When I used TWO pounds of only Roma/paste tomatoes, after taking the skins off, lightly crushing, and draining, the yield of tomatoes to use was a little over one cup. I tend to err on the side of over draining the tomatoes, if anything, so that makes a difference as well. For me, because I usually use paste tomatoes in this recipe, I would plan on around 18-20 pounds (give or take) of Roma/paste tomatoes to get the 10 cups for this recipe...and even more if using tomatoes with a higher water/lower flesh content.
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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 cook for 30 more minutes.
Author and culinary arts teacher James Peterson suggests chopping the firm ingredients very finely. Several ingredients that you need to chop finely include chiles, garlic, and onions. For softer ingredients, like tomatoes, you can prepare them coarsely. If you want a chunky textured salsa, use a food processor, but if you want it smooth, use a blender.
The exact weight of tomatoes will depend on the variety you use. I like to use roma (paste tomatoes) if I have them because the water content is less but any kind of tomato will work. The key is to peel the tomatoes and let them drain. See the step-by-step tutorial below the recipe for a visual. I like to pull out and discard the thicker white core of the tomatoes.
I made this with 7 red jalapeños, no sugar, 3 1/2 tsp cumin and double the garlic. I used kosher salt instead of canning, and 3/4 cup cider vinegar and used bottled lemon juice for the other 1/2 cup of acidifier. I also tripled the cilantro. It’s lovely. Thank you. I tend to make a roasted salsa so this was a nice change. A note on peeling and draining the tomatoes – let them cook int the broiler until a few skins blacken. This allows for easier peeling as you noted, but also allows much of the water to flow into your sheet pan. I found I squoze them slightly with my tongs and put them directly into the food processor then
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!
Yes, you can change both the cumin and jalapenos – you don’t want to change the amount of tomatoes or acidity (or drastically change the peppers). I think others in the comment thread have said bottled lime juice works ok as a substitute. I can’t speak to the canning safety on that, but it’s probably fine. Glad the blanching skin method is working so well!
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?