As they come in

A couple nights ago I went shopping, just for a little bit, and guess what I found? A tart pan, yes! Of course I had to break it in right away, so the next morning I quick whipped up a nectarine tart (it helped that I had two disks of butter pastry chilling in the fridge). Pretty, no?

It’s actually not exactly what I was looking for. I was wanting a springform tart pan, but I think that for now this will do quite well, especially seeing as it only cost five dollars.

It’s a good thing I had that dough chilling in the fridge because I don’t think I would’ve had a chance to make that tart otherwise—that same morning I needed to make salsa, and do it real quick ‘cause I was leaving in the afternoon for another one of Yo-Yo’s doctor appointments and would be gone for the rest of the day. But by getting up early and chopping veggies while the sky was still dark, I managed to get both the tart and two batches of salsa made in one morning. Whoo-hoo!

We go through a lot of salsa. Two years ago we all met at my parents’ house for a salsa-making party (I bulked up our paltry few tomatoes with some cases of Romas from a local farmer) and turned out a whopping 51 quarts of the bright red, sweet-and-mildly-spicy condiment. I didn’t need to make any salsa last year, but we’ve been out for a little while now and we’re missing it, so I want to make plenty this year.

The Salsa Party of 2007:
Mr. Handsome blanching the tomatoes. I chopped, I mean cropped, his head off since he had a slightly addled expression plastered all over his face…

My Balding Bro and The Happy Pappy dealing with the peppers…

My Tiny-Little Brother getting hatchet-happy with the onions…

It’s my style to go whole hog when undertaking a project (Four bushels of apples to turn into sauce? Okay, let’s do it ALL today and knock ourselves out—what fun!), but I have to put the tomatoes up as they come in, so it’s a little bit here and a little bit there. It wears on me, the tomatoes day in and day out, but it all adds up. I’m not complaining (too much).

Valerie’s Salsa
This recipe comes from my—you guessed it!—Aunt Valerie.

Because the vegetables aren’t cooked prior to canning them, this is a very fresh-tasting salsa. Even after the hot water bath, the salsa is crunchy and light, mildly spicy with a touch of sweet. (If you prefer a hotter salsa, simply add more jalapenos or some cayenne pepper.)

One-half bushel of tomatoes is enough for a double recipe.

14 cups peeled (see note below) and chopped Roma tomatoes, or another paste tomato
3 cups diced onions
1 ½ cups diced green peppers
1/4 cup minced jalapenos (about three peppers)
1/4 cup minced garlic cloves
3/4 cup Therm Flo (or Clear Jel)
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
2 cups tomato sauce
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons cumin
3 tablespoons salt

Combine the tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the sugar, Therm Flo, and spices. Add the vinegar and tomato sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. When it is very thick and bubbly, add it to the chopped veggies and stir to combine. Ladle the salsa into jars, wipe the rims, screw on the lids and process in a hot water bath—15 minutes for pints, and 18 minutes for quarts—at a gentle boil.

Yield: 5 quarts

Note on how to peel tomatoes:
Wash the tomatoes.

Fill a large kettle with four inches of water and bring it to a boil. Drop enough tomatoes into the kettle to cover the bottom of the pan. Wait for thirty to sixty seconds, until you see the tomato skins starting to split. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes from the boiling water to a colander. Repeat the process (bringing the water back to a boil between batches) until all the tomatoes have been blanched.

Once the tomatoes are cool enough to touch, cut off their tops and any bad parts (use your sniffer to make sure you sliced all the yuck out) and slip off the skins.

About One Year Ago: Cold Curried Corn Soup. The soiree is coming up in just several weeks (!); I wonder what perfectly doctored foods we’ll get served this time around…


  • Anonymous

    This recipe is delicious, however, my kids and grandkids want more "heat/kick". To accommodate their request, would I just add additional jalapeno peppers, hot chili seasoning, red pepper flakes, maybe some liquid hot sauce?

    • Jennifer Jo

      I brought your question before a trinity of salsa-making queens. None of them had ever tried lime juice, and here is what the reigning queen (aka Valerie) wrote:

      Not sure about that one. But my uneducated guess…..Vinegar has a certain percentage of acid that is necessary to aid in preserving the large percentage of non acidic vegetables that are in the salsa. For fresh eating, fine. I don't think for canning. Maybe in addition to the vinegar. If she's afraid of tasting the vinegar tell her you don't even know it's there.

    • Shannan Martin

      You and your Queens ROCK.

      I'm doing this. Bought the Sure-Gel and everything, so I'm committed. Still thinking I might risk it all for the lime juice…I'm not worried about vinegar (nevah!) just really like a limey kick in my salsa.

      Will report back!

  • Shannan Martin

    Okay, keeping it real – the Sure Gel. Is that a thing? In Salsa? Should it be creeping me out? (Because it is, though just a little.)

    • Jennifer Jo

      Yeah, I know it sounds weird. But it's the trick for keeping the salsa homogenous and natural tasting. Otherwise, the salsa would be watery and gross. (I do not use any thickener when making salsa for immediate consumption.) I love all sorts of salsas, but this is my go-to for a canned salsa. I've never found one that beats it.

  • Jennifer Jo

    Carrie, I have never heard anything about not canning salsa in quarts. Canning in quarts works FINE. Just can it for a few minutes longer than you would pints. As long as the jars have a good seal, you should be good to go. (I don't pay much attention to all the regulations—they are often overly picky—and I don't have any trouble.)

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I know this is 2 years after this post was started but I do have a question. I just made 6 quarts salsa a couple weeks ago. I am an amateur canner also. I am now reading all over the web and the National Center for Home Food Preservation never to can salsa in quart jars. There is no scientific studies on safety for the quart. You obviously make yours in quarts. What are your thoughts? Worried about all my hard work.

    Carrie in WI

  • Anonymous

    Dear Aunt V.

    they were an italian paste tomato. not sure about the hybrid thing. they were red. we did boil them to a full boil for 15 minutes for 7 pints (that's how many fit into the water bath). my email is i only put anonymous because i am not sure how to put anything else on here.
    i did not tap, but i heard the "ping" sound and i took off the rings and lifted by the seal to see if they would come off, which they did not. 3 jars did not seal properly. i put 4 cups of vinegar in because we quadrupled the recipe
    i filled the jars 1/2inch from the top.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Anonymous,

    First of all keep up the good work. Canning isn't really that hard and I'm always glad to see someone tackle it with the enthusiasm you appear to have.

    There are a lot of variables here and I need to know a few more things before I can give answers.

    Did you use any yellow tomatoes? if so, that is not recommended as they are low acid.

    Do you know what variety of tomatoes you did use?
    -heirloom (plum or round juice type).
    -hybrid (plum or round juice type).

    did you use the full amoount of vinegar

    How long did you process the salsa and was the canner boiling the whole time? I'm guessing you used mostly pint jars.

    Do the jars have a good seal that when tapped on the center of the lid they give a good high tight "ping" sound.

    Botulism, more prevelent (but not only) in the western US, grows in the presence of air. That is why I recommend filling the jars and using the method of canning that I described in my last comment.

    I would be happy to discuss this further.
    You can contact JJ via email she can put you in contact with me.

    Aunt V

  • Anonymous

    Dear Aunt V.
    I definitley won't challenge you as i am a completely overwhelmed amateur who was taught nothing about all this. This is my first real year of canning, along with my friend. I am sure many would have had a good laught at us in the kitchen together. I must not have mixed it perfectly because when we were ladleing the salsa, we would see some blobs here and there. I wasn't sure when to add the cornstarch, so i just guessed to add it with the sugar and spices, then i added the sauce/vinegar and proceded. i stirred constantly. I may have brought it to a boil too fast as the bottom of the pan began to burn a little. terrible, eh? and here's another scary admission. we could not fit the whole lot in the big bowl we had, so we poured the excess in a small bowl and mixed the paste into both, then when the huge bowl came down a little (after ladleing), we put the remaining salsa from the small bowl into the large bowl. now i am wandering if some of those jars have a screwed up ratio of vinegar to tomato? so this is where i'm at, do i dump it, or can i boil the heck out of it and make a big chili…eat it for dinner tomorrow…and then freeze leftovers. how long does it take for botulism to grow?

  • Anonymous


    That's a lot of salsa for a first time.

    First of all. Do not freeze salsa. JJ's right it will get watery.

    If you are getting lumps of cornstarch it means you are not thoroughly mixing it in with the dry ingredients before adding it to the unheated sauce/vinegar to than be cooked til smooth, thick, and clear. Than stir it into the veggies.

    As for the cornstarch, I do not recommend using cornstarch. Not because of a safety issue, but because it separates in the canning process and can become watery over time. Thermflo stays clear and thick.

    Maybe ignorance is bliss. I've made hundreds of quarts of this and served it to many hundreds of people (Including our daughter's and son's large wedding receptions) and never once have I had anyone get sick. I used to use cornstarch, now I'm much happier with thermflo. Only because it holds up better. May I repeat that I never heard of dangers with cornstarch/thermflo and I don't think I want to mess with a good thing.

    I will also add that when actually doing the water bath step, a gentle boil should be a gentle rolling boil a bit more toward a full boil to safely get cooked in the center of the jar. I recommend 20 min per quart. Make sure the lids are screwed down tight and the tops of the jars are completely covered with water. After 20 min is up, off the heat (remove canner to another burner if using an electric stove) and allow jars to set undisturbed in the canner for 5-7 min to prevent boiling up under the lids when removed from the water bath. I also learned recently that it is recommended that when canning salsa, fill to within 1/4 to 1/8th inch from the top of the jar rim.

    Wow, I hope some of this was helpful. Please feel free to ask more questions or challenge me on any of my advice.

    Aunt V.

  • Jennifer Jo

    Wow! You must be exhausted!

    I never heard about anything dangerous in regards to using cornstarch, but then again, I haven't heard about everything.

    I'm not sure I understand about the "globs of pasty cornstarch"—I would think that you wouldn't see any cornstarch after cooking it (it should turn clear) and then mixing it with the tomatoes. If you followed the process right, I don't THINK there should be any trouble. Does it TASTE okay?

    I don't think freezing it would be a good idea, as frozen tomatoes tend to get watery and mushy… I sure hope everything turns out okay for you, especially after all that work!

  • Anonymous

    A friend and I made this yesterday. we 4x's the recipe. we had a bushel of tomatoes. my friend looked up some information regarding safety guidelines and stumbled upon some info regarding the danger of using cornstarch in canning (after mission was accomplished). something about the heat not penetrating to kill the microorganisms in the cornstarch. after mixing the paste up, there were still some unmixed small globs of pasty cornstarch that got into the jars….i am hoping that wouldn't have made it worse as well. anyway, now we have 52 jars of salsa and are hoping everything is ok. have you heard of such a thing? it seems there are sooo many rules and it's so overwhelming to an amateur canner. should i empty and freeze and just pray they're all ok. maybe there is nothing to worry about. any advice appreciated. thanks!

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