3 Great Homemade Salsas

Seems everyone has too many tomatoes around here these days, so here are some more tomato recipes. 

For me, nothing beats fresh summer salsa made from homegrown tomatoes, but in the dark days of winter some home canned or frozen salsa tastes quite wonderful.

Here are 3 ways to make your own salsa, ranging from simple to complex. Any of these recipes can be eaten right away, and all can be preserved for later enjoyment. Even if you don't do home canning, a cooked salsa like any of these freezes very well.

SALSA 1:  Packaged Mix (makes as little as 1 pint)

Rated: Easy

There's a line of salsa mixes and other canning products called "Mrs. Wages®." The ingredients are all natural, basically a mix of dehydrated vegetables, herbs, salt, and spices. Choose the spice mix suited to your taste - Classic Salsa, Hot Salsa, Jalapeno Salsa, Verde, Habanero, etc. - and simply add chopped tomatoes and vinegar! The package says you can even use canned tomatoes from the supermarket. Boil, simmer, then eat, freeze or can. These mixes are available for small quantities, like just one pint, so you won't be overwhelmed. Or use several packages to increase the quantity.

SALSA 2: Simple Salsa (makes 6-8 pints)

Rated: Moderate

I made this salsa in a canning class conducted by our county extension service. I like the simplicity of just a few ingredients. The peppers can be roasted and peeled if you want a slightly more complex flavor, but I don't find this makes much difference. You can vary the balance of hot and sweet peppers to suit your level of heat. If you preserve this for eating in the off-season, you can add chopped fresh cilantro when you are ready to serve it.

5 lbs. tomatoes
2 lbs. chile peppers (or a mixture of hot peppers and sweet peppers, according to your taste)
1 lb. onion
1 cup vinegar
3 t salt
1/2 t pepper

Wash tomatoes. Scald 30-60 seconds in boiling water. Dip into cold water. Cut out cores. Remove skins. Chop tomatoes coarsely, put into a big kettle. Chop peppers in fine dice, wearing gloves to protect from hot peppers; add to kettle. Peel and chop onion into fine dice; add to kettle. Add remaining ingredients, cook over high heat so it boils for 20 minutes. For canning, fill prepared jars with hot mixture, leaving 1/2" headspace, and process in hot water bath for 20 minutes. For freezing, let the mixture cool then freeze in individual serving size freezer containers.

SALSA 3: Judy's Favorite Salsa for Canning (makes 16 pints)

Rated:  Complex… but worth it!

This cooked salsa is the closest I've found to my favorite fresh uncooked salsa, the recipe created by our friend Bob (sorry, he won't let me share his recipe). I like a thick, hot salsa, and that's how this comes out. It uses a lot of tomatoes and hot peppers, so it makes a large batch. (When I am going to all the work of canning, I like to do a lot at once, to make the set up worthwhile). I canned mine and ended up with 16 pints. I used lots of my kitchen aids and did the preparation of the ingredients on Day 1 (storing the uncooked tomatoes in a big kettle in the fridge, and all the other ingredients in a covered container in the fridge), then finishing with the cooking and canning on Day 2.

2-1/2 gallons of tomatoes
18 oz. (3 small cans) tomato paste

I process the tomatoes in my Roma food strainer, using the salsa screen. This separates the skins from the rich, thick sauce. Conversely, you can prepare the tomatoes by hand: scald 30-60 seconds in boiling water; dip into cold water; cut out cores; peel off skins; chop tomatoes coarsely. Put the tomatoes and tomato paste into a big kettle. Cook over high heat until reduced in volume about 1/3, at least 45 minutes. This will thicken it nicely.

Meanwhile, prepared the additional ingredients, mixing them in a large bowl. I juiced the limes with my electric juicer and I did all the chopping by pulsing individual ingredients in my food processor:
Juice of 6 limes (1 cup total)
2 c packed chopped fresh cilantro
1 large onion, chopped
1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
3 banana peppers, seeded
15 jalapeno peppers, seeding 3/4 of them (caution: wear gloves when handling hot peppers)
1 t ground cumin
1/4 c cider vinegar

When the tomatoes have cooked, add all the other ingredients. Cook 5 minutes, until boiling again. For canning, fill prepared jars with hot salsa mixture, leaving 1/2" headspace, and process in hot water bath for 20 minutes. For freezing, let the mixture cool then freeze in individual serving size freezer containers. Or refrigerate and eat some right away!