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!
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.
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.

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!
Hi Hannah. We have used cherry tomatoes in the past. (Same ‘problem’ with an over-abundant garden harvest. 🙂 ) We just diced the cherry tomatoes like we would have the regular tomatoes. They do give more skin than a larger tomato, but we didn’t notice that that negatively impacted the texture of the salsa. Also, the cherry tomatoes have less juice to strain out, so you might find that you want to add a little extra tomato juice (try to find some without added salt or seasonings). But, it will all depend on how juicy the tomatoes are and how much liquid you like in your salsa. (We like ours thick, so it wasn’t an issue for us at all.) Enjoy!
Absolutely wonderful! Just finished making IT! I made it with all fresh ingredients and added some extra little skinny cucumbers! For extra flavor a bit of Heinz Ketchup and Sriracha sauce! My husband just left to pick up some bags of Doritos. We can’t always get the “stuff” we so took for granted in Canada. Thanks so much for this incredible recipe….we both appreciate it!
And now a white boy from Scandinavia wants to tell you how to cook Mexican Food? Yeah, listen, I know how silly that sounds. But here’s the thing. Mexican food is as much of a state of mind as it is a type cuisine: it’s about forgoing the shredded cheddar cheese, the hard-shell tacos, the ground beef and the spice mixes. It’s about exploring the ingredients and key elements of the Mex part of the Tex Mex equation and about producing something that would be recognized as original and not foreign. And in my 15 years of research, I believe I’ve achieved just that.

Some of the online recipes and comments totally scare me to think what some people are doing, either by direct choice or lack of canning knowledge, that endangers their families’ lives! There was a lot of unexplained illness and death in the old days that I think could be partly due to food storage issues. It’s the opposite of the Lottery–you want to be the 1 in a million to win the lottery, but you DON’T want to be the 1 in a million to win the botulism contaminated canning jar! Canning is one process that you MUST follow the safety rules whether you’re a natural rule follower or a rebel!


The two most common salsas in Mexico are salsa roja, a red salsa prepared with tomatoes and salsa verde, a green salsa prepared with tomatillos. Both are versatile salsas enjoyed with a wide variety of dishes.  Every family has its favorite variations. Give this very easy recipe for an authentic salsa roja a try. Guaranteed happiness!  Make a double batch to freeze so that you always have salsa on hand when you want it.
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!
Alright, enough talk. Let’s cook! Well, okay, one last thing before we get down to business. Please note that this salsa roja recipe uses whole, dried chilies which is my absolute preferred and highly recommended way of doing things. If, for whatever reason, you would like to use dried, ground chilies instead, you should add them near the end at step #7 in the recipe below.

Yes, I get 4-5 pints normally, though it does seem to depend on if I’m exact with the tomato measurements. For example, I always weigh them first and then cut and core – maybe I’m losing more flesh when I seed them, or having to cut some spots off. Then after processing if I’m 1/2 cup or so more than the measured amount, I throw them in, since the tomatoes are the acidic veggie and so more can be added. Lots of variables when canning!
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.
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