14 pints of salsa

14 pints of salsa. Notice the blue coloring of the open jar. It is very old.

Wednesday I canned salsa. This will be the 4th or 5th time I have done it, though the first time all on my own. Previously I always had the guiding hand of my mother right next to me, with her years of canning wisdom. I first started canning salsa in grad school, and Clare joined me and my mom once or twice. I ended up calling my mom 3 or 4 times with clarification questions, which she happily answered. I harvested about 15 or 20 medium size tomatoes over the weekend, probably 2/3 lemon boy, and the rest better boy and celebrity. On Tuesday I stopped by the Bloomington Farmer’s market on my way home, and got a box of jalapeños, a box of poblano peppers, and some green peppers. Then I stopped in at the new Bloomingfood’s next door on 6th, and got 3 bunches of cilantro, and some chipotle pepper powder.

Salsa up close

Salsa up close

I had to go to Indy Wednesday morning for work, so I planned to do the canning Wednesday afternoon. After talking with my mom on Tuesday about the recipe we had used, I thought I might need some more tomatoes. I don’t think I would have gotten enough tomatoes ripe all at once from our own garden to make salsa (at least not 14 pints). On my way home from Indy, I stopped at the hardware store in Cloverdale and bought a jar lifter, and then I stopped at a little farm which had a little vegetable stand selling tomatoes for $0.50 per pound. I bought 6 pounds, and put my $3 in their little lock box.

I started the process around 3:30. The first step is to scald the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or so, then place them in ice water. This makes it easy to remove the skin. Then I chopped up the tomatoes, removing any bad spots, and placed them in a colander to let some of the juices drip out. I ended up with just about 6 quarts of chopped tomatoes, which is what our recipe called for. I chopped about 5 or 6 green peppers, 2 large onions, 1 bunch of cilantro, and 5 or 6 jalapeños and poblanos. The whole chopping process took almost 3 hours, most of which was spent on the tomatoes. I put all the ingredients in an 8 quart stock pot, which was filled to the brim, and started heating it up. I also added 2 tablespoons of salt, 3/4 cup of white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of cumin and coriander, and 1 tablespoon of chipotle pepper powder. Even though I drained the tomatoes, it was still very juicy, so I ladled off about 2 or 3 cups of liquid, then added one large can of tomato paste (12 oz.). Once it was hot, I ladled the salsa into pint jars. My basic canner fits 7 pint jars (or quart). I put them in for about 30 minutes, and had some dinner while I was waiting (and called my mom again). Once the 30 minutes was up, I quickly removed the first batch, and had the second batch in within about 15 minutes. I heard a few of the lids popping while I was preparing the second batch, indicating that they had sealed. I was done by about 8:10, except for doing dishes, which took another half hour.

On Thursday when I got home from work, I checked the jars by pressing down on the lids. Three of them popped up after pushing down on them, indicating they had not sealed. I put those in the refrigerator, and will have to eat them within a month or so. I tested one jar last night, and it was quite tasty. It was not quite as spicy as when I had tested it on Wednesday. I think the additional cooking made it a bit milder. It turned out fairly thick and chunky, and I would give it a medium heat rating.

p.s. thanks to my mom for her advice, and to Dorene Grekowicz, for some of the canning supplies.