Monday, August 31, 2009

How to Make Salsa

The purpose of this post is to show you the basic preparation steps to make your own salsa. What you won't find here is a recipe. That's because the first rule to safe home canning is to use a tested recipe and to follow its processing instructions exactly.

Companies like Ball have tested their recipes and have altitude charts for processing, so you can be assured that if you follow their instructions, your product will be safe.

So, once you have your recipe and understand how to process it correctly and safely, you'll probably go through a process similar to this.

Step 1: Getting started. You'll need the following supplies:
  • At least 3 very large bowls.
  • Two to three pots for blanching
  • Hot pads & apron
  • A large slotted spoon
  • A couple of plastic sacks
  • A pairing knife
  • Stock pot
  • Pressure canner or water bath canner, depending on recipe

Step 2: Pick and wash your tomatoes. Make sure you select firm, ripe (but not overly ripe) tomatoes. Discard any diseased tomatoes.

Step 3: Stem and prep the tomatoes by cutting out any bad parts. I like to stem before blanching because the fruit is firm and it's less messy. One time-saving tip I learned is to put all the stems and discarded parts into a double-bagged sack in the adjacent sink. This really helps minimize the mess.

Step 4: After all the tomatoes have been washed and stemmed, set them aside in a large bowl. It's now time to prep for blanching. Quickly scrub out your sink again and fill one side with COLD water. Also, keep that double-bagged sack handy. You'll need it again for the skins.

Step 5: Blanching means to dip the tomatoes into very hot, nearly boiling water for a minute or two so that the skins will crack and will easily slip off.

I've learned a few tricks to blanching. First, I've found that it is better to use more than pot so I can blanch several loads at once. Also, it takes longer to heat up a really full pot than 2-3 or partially full pots. Second, I've found that doing step #3 and step #5 at the same time, in an effort to multitask, is chaotic unless you have someone helping you.

So, get your water nice and hot first and then pop the tomatoes in.

Step 6: Using your slotted spoon, pull out the tomatoes when the skins begin to crack.

Step 7: As I pull the blanched tomatoes out of the hot water, I place them into a large bowl and then quickly transfer the tomatoes to the sink filled with COLD water. You don't want the tomatoes to continue cooking and to get mushy; that would make skin removal more difficult.

Step 8: As soon as the tomatoes cool enough that they can be handled, begin slipping off and discarding the skins. Once again, using the double-bagged discard sacks is handy. I take this time to look over the tomatoes one more time, looking for any defects that need to be removed.

Step 9: Before you begin the salsa-making part, scrub out the pots you've used and clean out your sink again. It's much easier to deal with the mess as you go than to deal with it all at the end.

Now the tomatoes should be ready for salsa making (or bottling them if you just want stewed tomatoes). Here's a tip: Don't waste your time chopping them up. With clean hands, just squish them to oblivion. It won't matter in the end.

Step 10: Now follow your tested recipe exactly. Proper acidity needs to be maintained, so you shouldn't add or omit ingredients, change quantities, or make substitutions. Doing those things could alter the acidity and make the product unsafe. If you don't like the way a recipe tastes, find another recipe; don't try to fix it.

Step 11: My recipe calls for cooking the salsa. I really need to invest in a stock pot, but I've found that using my roaster over two hot elements works fine.

Step 12: If you want to thicken the salsa more quickly, dip a strainer into the pot and spoon off some of the juice. You can freeze it and use it in taco soup later.

Step 13: When the salsa is nearly ready to be put into jars, warm the rings and lids in a pot. Don't boil them.

Step 14: Fill your jars, wipe the rims, and affix the lids and rings.

Step 15: Process according to the proper method and for the proper time. Pressure canning and water bathing are NOT interchangeable methods. If the recipe you are using calls for pressure canning, do it! Most likely your recipe will call for water bathing, though. Be sure to adjust processing times for elevation as per the published instructions.

Step 16: After processing, make sure they have properly sealed before you store them. The lid, when sealed properly, should not make a clicking sound when pressed. Don't stress out if the lid is still clicking after you've pulled them out of a water bath canner. It sometimes takes a bit before they seal. You'll hear a **POP** when it seals, and after it does, the lid will no longer click when pressed.

If the jars are completely cool and the lid didn't seal, you either need to reprocess immediately or store the jar in the refrigerator and use its contents soon. Jars that have not been sealed properly should not be stored at room temperature.

After the jars are totally cooled and lids checked for proper seal, the rings can be removed and the jars stored at room temperature. Be sure to date and label each jar.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More About Steam Canner Controversy

Jodie posted about the controversy regarding steam canners. I found a tidbit of info that unfortunately does not clear anything up (how helpful, eh?)

I happen to own the Back to Basics Steam Canner, a popular product sold in Utah stores. I have the 2008 instruction manual which includes this statement on page 2:

"Research scientists at Utah State University have tested steam canning and pronounced it as a safe and effective way for processing fruits, jams, tomatoes and other high acid foods."

However, the Back to Basics Steam Canner 2009 instruction manual does not contain that statement (at least that I could find).

NOTE: Utah State University Extension center has weighed in on this topic with a position statement against the use of a steam canner. It also explains the confusion regarding the statement made by the Back to Basics company.

Steam Canner Controversy

Well, I was all set to buy a steam canner when a friend of mine told me that they are not recommended. Have you guys heard this? Maybe some of you have but, being new to canning I had not. She recommended that I call the Utah State Extension office and ask them ( I had not heard of them either but now it's my new favorite place for all my canning questions).

They did say that they do not recommend them. I will quote now from a paper I got at their office.
" Steam canners are not recommended because processing times for use with current models have not been adequately researched . . . Due to the lack of definitive research into the safety of steam canning the Utah State University Extension program currently agrees with the USDA and National Center for Home Food Preservation recommendation against using steam canners. For those who still wish to use steam canners we: firmly advise against steam canning any low acid (e.g. vegetable) or borderline acid foods (e.g. tomatoes). Under processing these foods can lead to botulism food poisoning. For acid foods like fruits, jams or jellies we recommend following Dr. Mendenhall's six steps to successful operation of a steam canner. "

Here are his steps :

1. Place appropriate amount of water in the base. Place the perforated
cover over the base and bring water to a low boil.

2. Pack and fill jars. Secure lids firmly, but not over tight. Set each full
jar on the base and allow it to warm up while packing and filling
enough jars for one batch.

3. When the last full jar has warmed up for 1-2 minutes, place the dome
on the base and slowly(4-5 minutes) increase temperature setting of the
stove untill a column of steam 8-10 inches is evident from the small
at the base of the dome.

4. Begin timing the process, maintaining the column of steam following the
water bath canning adjustments for your altitude. Do not reduce
temperature setting of the stove. The dome should not bounce from the
base during processing.

5. When processing time is complete, turn off the stove and wait 2-3
minutes before removing the dome. Remove the dome by turning it
away from your face and body to avoid burns.

6. Allow jars to cool and seal. Remove metal bands and store jars in a
cool dark place.

I know this is a lot of information. Like I said some of you may already know this, but it was new to me. If you have any questions about this you can call the Utah State University Extension office. The Provo office number is 801 851 8460. The web address is

They also teach classes about canning and lots of other things. You can even call about lawn questions. It's a really amazing source of information.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Great Salsa Recipe for Canning

1/2 Bushel Ripe Tomatoes (Roma's work best)
8-10 Yellow Gems or Banana Peppers
2-3 Bell Peppers
3 Tbl Crushed Chili Peppers
10 Anaheim Peppers 6-8"
6-8 Jalapeno Peppers
3 Large Onions
1/2 Cup Salt
1 Garlic Head

Scald and peel tomatoes. Dice all ingredients and add to large Stainless Steel Stock Pot. Simmer on low heat 2 hours or until sauce has thickened. Mix occasionally. Pour into pint jars and seal and process according to manufacturers guidelines and local requirements for Hot Water Bath.

* For mild salsa remove all seeds from Anaheim and Jalapeno Peppers. For hot salsa include all the seeds.
* ALWAYS follow local guidelines for canning times and methods. To find out requirements for your area contact your local extension service by following the link.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Contributor

My new friend and neighbor, Jodie, will be joining as a contributor. By way of intros, let me give Jodie the rundown about the other contributors on this blog:

Debi and Ted are my sibs.
Lisa and Jana are by cousins.
Angie is my sister in law.
Kat is my good friend from Roy.

Debi and Angie have been working on meals and recipes. Ted has been working on water storage and fuel, and Lisa and Jana have posted yummy recipes. Kat likes to bottle and can and also owns a kitchen supply business. Jodie has been building her food storage by using Deals to Meals and is learning to can.