Making and Canning Homemade Salsa from Fresh Tomatoes!

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Making and Canning Homemade Salsa from Fresh Green Tomatoes!

Click here for a PDF print version!

If you have loads of fresh GREEN (as in unripe) tomatoes from your garden, you CAN make salsa from them. In the middle of the winter, you can have tortilla chips and your salsa and taste the summer flavor of fresh tomatoes. If you like cilantro in your salsa, see this recipe instead. Many of the photos show red tomatoes, but the green will work exactly the same.

Here's how to do it, in easy steps and completely illustrated.   This method is so easy, ANYONE can do this!  It's a great thing to do with your kids!

Ingredients

  • Tomatoes - about 15 lbs (yes, quite a few - you remove the skins, seeds and a lot of the water, so it takes a lot to start.) You'll need about 3 quarts of prepared chopped tomatoes. You can use unripe, green tomatoes, ripe tomatoes of a mixture. This makes about 8 pints of salsa! If you only want to make a single jar, see this page instead!
  • Salsa mix or your own seasonings. The Ball salsa mix sells for about $2.00 to $4.00 per packet. A packet will make about a 7 pint jars. See step 7 below for seasonings.
  • 2 cups Lemon juice (if you make your own seasoning) or vinegar (if you use the Ball or Mrs. Wages mixes)

Equipment

  • 1 Water bath Canner (a huge pot to sanitize the jars after filling (about $30 to $35 - $30 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores.  Note: we sell canners, supplies and kits through our affiliates: click here or see the bottom of this page) Tomatoes are on the border between the high-acid fruits that can be preserved in a boiling-water bath and the low-acid fruits, vegetables  and meats that need pressure canning.
  • Pint (or smaller) canning jars (Ball or Kerr jars can be found at Publix, Kroger, Safeway and local "big box" stores - about $9 per dozen jars including the lids and rings).   
  • Lids - thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder that seals them against the top of the jar.  They may only be used once.
  • Rings - metal bands that secure the lids to the jars.  They may be reused many times.
  • Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars) 
  • Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sanitize them. ($2 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates)
  • 1 large pot.
  • Large spoons and ladles
  • Jar funnel ($3-Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger and Safeway and local "big box" stores; sometimes even hardware stores)

Process - How to Make Salsa from Fresh Green Tomatoes

Step 1 - Selecting the tomatoes

It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality tomatoes!  

At right is a picture of tomatoes from my garden - they are so much better than anything from the grocery store. You can use any variety, and they can be green, red or in between.

Also, you don't want mushy, bruised or rotten tomatoes!

 

green tomatoes

Step 2 - Removing the tomato skins

Here's a trick you may not know: put the tomatoes, a few at a time in a large pot of boiling water for no more than 1 minute (30 - 45 seconds is usually enough)

then....

 Plunge them into a waiting bowl of ice water.

 

This makes the skins slide right off of the tomatoes!  If you leave the skins in, they become tough and chewy in the sauce, not very pleasant.

Step 3 -  Removing seeds and water

After you have peeled the skins off the tomatoes, cut the tomatoes in half.  Now we need to remove the seeds and excess water. 

 

Step 4 - Squeeze of the seeds and water

Just like it sounds: wash your hands then squeeze each tomato and use your finger or a spoon to scoop and shake out most of the seeds.  You don't need to get fanatical about it; removing just most will do. Another way to do it is to cut each tomato in half, across it, instead of lengthwise. Then just shake the seeds and juice out.

 

Step 5 - Drain and dice the tomatoes

Toss the squeezed (Squozen? :) tomatoes into a colander or drainer, while you work on others. This helps more of the water to drain off.  You may want to save the liquid: if you then pass it through a sieve, screen or cheesecloth, you have fresh tomato juice; great to drink cold or use in cooking!

Next chop them up - I like 1/2 inch size cubes. You'll need about 3 quarts of  peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes

Step 6 - Get the jars and lids sanitizing

The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle.  I get that going while I'm preparing everything else, so it's done by the time I'm ready to fill the jars. 

Be sure to let it go through the rinse cycle to get rid of any soap!

 

 Lids:  Put the very hot (but not quite boiling; around 180 F, steaming water is fine)
water for at least several minutes. 

Note: everything gets sanitized in the water bath (step 7) anyway, so this just helps to ensure there is no spoilage later!)

 

Step 7. Mix or your own seasoning?

Either works equally well. The salsa mix for canning has the advantage of being tested and easy. It's basically corn starch, onion powder, salt and seasoning. It doesn't have any preservative to improve the canning, so the advantage is only that it is easier.  However, I like my custom-made from fresh seasonings better, so here is the recipe for that:

I use an electric chopper (food processor) to dice the seasonings fairly fine, about 1/8 inch cubes.

  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 6 jalapeño peppers, seeded, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 six-ounce cans tomato paste (adds body)
  • 2 cups bottled lemon or lime juice (if you are using a mix, be sure to follow their recipe; the packet mixes often use vinegar instead of lemon juice)
  • 1 tablespoon salt (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (optional - you use Stevia (in a prepared form like Truvia, it measures same as sugar; if you use another form, you'll need do your own conversion) - or Splenda, if you prefer, if you are on a sugar-restricted diet, or simply omit the sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons oregano leaves or chopped cilantro (optional)


Either works fine!

 

Step 8 - Mix ingredients in the pot and bring the sauce to a gentle simmer

<-- Start with the chopped tomatoes in the pot...

 

Add the seasonings and bring to a gentle simmer, just to get it hot (180 F, if you have a thermometer) there's no need to cook it; only to get it hot enough to ready it for water bath processing to kill any bacteria and enzymes.. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taste it as it cooks. If you like the sauce hotter, add 1 teaspoon of chili powder.

Step 9 - Fill the jars with sauces and put the lid and rings on

Fill them to within ¼-inch of the top, seat the lid and hand-tighten the ring around them.  

Be sure the contact surfaces (top of the jar and underside of the ring) are clean to get a good seal! 

   

Step 10 - Boil the jars in the canner

Put them in the canner and keep them covered with at least 1 to 2 inches of water. Keep the water boiling. Process the jars in a boiling-water bath for:

Recommended process time for Tomato/Tomato Paste Salsa in a boiling-water canner.
  Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot Pints or 8 oz jars 15 min 20 25

IMPORTANT:
The USDA says the only change you can safely make in this salsa recipe is to change the amount of spices and herbs. Do not alter the proportions of vegetables to acid and tomatoes because it might make the salsa unsafe. Do not substitute vinegar for the lemon juice.

I prefer a pressure canner or a taller water bath canner, shown at right - To order one, see the bottom of this page or Canning supplies!

Step 9 - Done

Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight)  You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.

 

Adapted from the USDA/UGa National Center for Home Food Preservation's recipe

Other Equipment:

From left to right:

  1. Jar lifting tongs 
            to pick up hot jars
  2. Lid lifter 
            - to remove lids from the pot 
            of boiling water (sterilizing )
  3. Lid 
           - disposable - you may only 
           use them once
  4. Ring 
          - holds the lids on the jar until after
          the jars cool - then you don't need them
  5. Canning jar funnel
          - to fill the jars

 

   

Summary - Cost of Making Homemade Salsa - makes 9 pints

Item Quantity Cost in 2009 Source Subtotal
Tomatoes 15 to 20 lbs (to make about 12 cups (3 quarts) of prepared tomato) free from the garden, or $0.50 cents at a PYO Garden  $0.00
Canning jars (pint size, wide mouth), includes lids and rings 9 jars $8.00/dozen Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger and Safeway and local "big box" stores; sometimes Big Lots and even hardware stores $6.00
seasonings See step 7 $2.00?  Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger and Safeway and local "big box" stores $2.00
Salsa mix 1 packet $4.00 per package Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger and Safeway and local "big box" stores; sometimes Big Lots and even hardware stores
Total $8.00 total
 or about  $0.95 per pint INCLUDING the jars - which you can reuse!

* - This assumes you already have the pots, pans, ladles, and reusable equipment. Note that you can reuse the jars!  Many products are sold in jars that will take the lids and rings for canning.  For example, Classico spaghetti sauce is in quart sized jars that work with Ball and Kerr lids and rings

Home Canning Kits

This is the same type of  standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer, and the bible of canning, the Ball Blue Book. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars & lids! To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!For more information and current pricing:



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Answers to Common Questions

What did I do wrong if my jars spoil?

Tomatoes are a borderline acid / low acid fruit (see this page about tomato acidity for more information) - adding lemon juice helps, processing according to the specified times (determined by the USDA) in the water bath canner, or better still, using a pressure canner almost eliminates spoilage.  If you don't have a pressure canner, you must boost the acid level of the sauce, by adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per quart of sauce. (or half that, for pint jars)

Can I can my own salsa recipe, that is, a recipe different from that above, one I made up or inherited from Grandma?

Probably not.  According to the USDA's National Center for Home Food Preservation:

"Salsas are usually mixtures of acid and low-acid ingredients; they are an example of an acidified food. The specific recipe, and sometimes preparation method, will determine if a salsa can be processed in a boiling water canner or a pressure canner. A process must be scientifically determined for each recipe. "

The USDA does accept that if you take an approved, tested recipe and make minor alterations to ingredients that does affect the preserving properties, that should be ok.  But there are a lot of if's in that statement.  For example, substituting 1 teaspoon of ground chili spice for 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper is probably fine, but substituting 1 cup of apple juice for 1 cup of lemon juice would not be.  Unless you really know what you're doing, you should probably stick to the approved recipes.  The preserving recipes I publish, like the one above, are all from the USDA, universities or established canning authorities. Granny probably never did lab cultures and bacteria counts to test that her recipe was safe; you were her test guinea pig, and that's not as reliable as a culture (next time you might get sick)

Here are some Salsa Guidelines from Penn State University:

  • Do not substitute vinegar for lemon juice, but you can substitute lemon juice for vinegar. Lemon juice is more acidic.
  • Do not reduce the amount of lemon juice or tomatoes.
  • Do not add extra peppers, onion, or garlic. You can reduce the amount of peppers, onion, or garlic.
  • Canned chilies may be used in place of fresh.
  • You can substitute one type of pepper for another. For example, hot jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, yellow peppers, banana peppers, chili peppers and cubinal peppers may all be substituted 1 for 1.
  • The key is not increasing the amount of low acid ingredients in relation to the amount of high acid ingredients

My question is about salsa. I was going to borrow a pressure cooker to make salsa this year (for the first time). My grandma told me that I didn't need the pressure cooker, I could just make salsa using the "inversion" method like I did the blueberry jam. Can I do this?


Well, Grandma may be sweet, but a lot of her generation died of cancer from smoking, heart attacks from eating too much saturated fat... And food poisoning! :) Jam should get 5 minutes in the boiling water bath, too.

Tomatoes have enough acid to require only a water bath for processing; but by the time you add the other ingredients which have no acidity, you've got a food that can spoil easily. That's why most salsa recipes include a couple of cups of vinegar or lemon juice (both very acidic).

Even so, a pressure canner affords greater safety that a boiling water bath, and is more versatile. But if you follow my recipe and use vinegar or lemon juice as stated in the recipe, the boiling water bath will work fine.

And let Grandma make the cookies rather than the preserves! :)

Coments and feedback

Comments from a visitor on September 15, 2011: "I made your salsa recipe last night and we LOVED it! I look forward to canning some for the winter! Thank you for sharing! (I never removed tomato seeds/water when I make spaghetti sauce until reading your site. It cut my cooking time and I can't wait to taste the new, thicker sauce!) "

 


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Remember to ALWAYS call the farm or orchard BEFORE you go - weather, heavy picking and business conditions can always affect their hours and crops!


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Our other free, informative sites you may like:

EHSO.com - Environmental health and safety information and guidance for the home
ConsumerFraudReporting.org - Information about identity theft, frauds and scams; how to report them and how to protect your identity.
FitnessAndHealthScience.org - Practical fitness, health and diet information that works.
And our other related websites!


Care to Donate to help me keep the website going? Donate to me at Benevia here:

Use the feedback form for questions, comments and feedback about farmsUse this form suggest a farm to add to the website
Or as a last result (I reply to the forms FIRST),write me at 
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Permission is given to link to any page on www.pickyourown.org Do NOT copy and republish this page in whole or part, that is a copyright violation which will be prosecuted: link to the page instead!
Looking for jobs on farms?  Farmers:
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Remember to ALWAYS call the farm or orchard BEFORE you go - weather, heavy picking and business conditions can always affect their hours and crops!


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