Sunday, August 15, 2010

Can Jam August: Salsa #5

This month's Can Jam challenge was the obvious choice for August....tomatoes.  For many people, canning tomatoes is what canning is all about. Folks will wax poetic about putting tomatoes up in jars just like Grandma used to do, etc. Maybe it is because I am Polish, not Italian, but I really don't see the point to it.  Canning tomatoes are a lot of work - all that peeling, seeding and chopping.  There are so many commercially available brands out there that taste great and are a good value.  I never can anything that I can't make cheaper and better myself.  It's not worth my time.    
That being said, canning tomato based condiments is something I often do....the price of really wonderful artisinal condiments is out of this world.   Condiments make great gifts! Right now, it is hard to imagine that the holidays are just around the corner.  This summer in Michigan has been the hottest one I can remember.  The mosquitoes are vicious!   Every day it feels like I am living in the tropics....temps over 90 most days, humidity in the 90% range.   It's too hot to even think about Christmas presents.   Besides the usual overload of zucchini, it seems we have a bumper crop of the best sweet corn I have ever tasted.  And everywhere you look, tomatoes are overflowing.   It's hard to know what to do with them - the best answer for me is to make condiments.    After all, December is just 4 short months away.  Can it be?

Sadly, summer really is on it's way out already.  The other day I was walking down the street and I got a distinct whiff of fall, even though everything around me was a lush green. My black walnut tree is already starting to shed its leaves.   My daughter has started marching band practice because it is almost football season.  It's hard to believe that soon I will be freezing my butt off in the bleachers at the high school watching this halftime show based on Michael Jackson's Thriller.    For now though, I bought a half bushel of paste tomatoes and I have to figure out what to do with them.    Note to self: a half bushel is too many, even though they were only $12 from Ruhligs.   I still have a ton left.  I will probably make them into bruschetta in a jar...this recipe I've made a ton of times before and it is a great one.   I also made some slow roasted tomatoes a la Orangette.    Of course, the BBQ sauce I made for the alliums Can Jam back in March is an excellent choice, too, but I still have lots left over.    This year, I decided, is the year I find a canning recipe for salsa that I really like.   

For years, I have canned salsa, which is one of the most difficult and time consuming things to preserve.   In fact, after canning salsa in 2006, I reckoned that canning salsa is a lot like going through the stages of grief, i.e. shock, denial, anger...etc.  Check out this blog post I wrote about it.  Like grieving, salsa making is best to do with friends.  This year, all my canning buddies were busy on the day that I decided to foolishly buy the half bushel of tomatoes, so I was on my own.   

Truth be told, I have never been thrilled with any of the canning recipes I have for tomato based salsa.  It always comes out too watery.   This year, I wanted to find a recipe that wasn't watery.  I noticed there were lots of postings about "Annie's Salsa" on the interweb, which is a salsa recipe that has tomato sauce and tomato paste in it.   Also, at the National Center for Home food Preservation site, there is a tomato/tomato paste salsa recipe that looks quite similar.   Somehow, the addition of canned tomato paste or sauce to a canning recipe seems a little like cheating.   But I was determined to develop a recipe that was less watery than the others I tried.  I was picking apples yesterday to make pectin stock with my friend Vivienne, and we were lamenting about it.   I suggested that if we wanted to, we could prepare the salsa in two days, spending the first day making the tomato sauce and paste from scratch.   However, since salsa is labor intensive, I give you special dispensation to just use the store bought canned stuff.   After all, as I said before, there's lots of excellent and inexpensive commercially available product on the market.   

The results of my labor is Salsa #5, which is the very best home canned salsa I have ever tasted.  In the picture is also Salsa #6, a much easier salsa to make, but it isn't as good.   Stay tuned for a future post about it.   I originally called it Salsa #5 simply because it is 5th tomato salsa recipe I tried, but I think I am going to keep the name because it reminds me of this Lou Bega song.  Ladies and gentlemen, Salsa #5.....

7 lb. paste tomatoes, peeled, chopped, seeded and drained
1 lb onions, peeled and chopped
1 lb peppers (mild or hot or a mix) stemmed and chopped but include the seeds and membranes for max flavor).  I used a mixture of Hungarian Hot Wax, Serrano, Jalapeno)
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 t ground cumin
2 t ground pepper
2 T canning salt
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 c sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce - low salt variety or make your own from scratch
2 8 ox. cans tomato paste - or make your own from scratch

Mix all ingredients, bring to a boil for 10 minutes.   Pour into hot jars and process in a boiling water bath  for 10 minutes.   Makes about 8 pints, give or take.  


Vivienne said...

Thanks for publishing the salsa recipe. As we discussed, I gave up on salsa because mine was always too watery and I might try the cook-ahead thickened prep (can't bear to buy canned).

Something I found helpful that may not be obvious to everyone - wear latex gloves while preparing the peppers for a lot less grief later.


Michigan Food Blog said...

lol! i remember that song. nice to meet another michigan resident

Anonymous said...

I also made salsa and thought it was soooo time-consuming. And then, the result wasn't as good as the salsa I always buy. Bummer... Thus, I'm looking for other recipes to try - maybe yours works out for me! ;o)

abigail said...

thanks for the recipe! I made sauce and paste today and will make the salsa tomorrow. I'm looking forward to trying it!

hima said...

I just made a half-batch of this salsa using all jalapenos. Hot hot hot, but so delicious! Thank you for sharing the recipe!

Bob Loescher said...


Can you provide a "one-batch" version of the recipe?

I am more of the "chunky" salsa type person, so the idea of too watery never comes into play.