I've made this salsa a bunch of times, tweaking and refining. The following instructions are how I've made it the last two times and, I have to say, I think we nailed it. I make it in BIG batches, so we have enough to last all year. In fact, in 2014, I doubled the recipe so we actually didn't run out until spring of this year. (We had to buy salsa all summer waiting for the tomatoes. Believe me, homemade is so much better.)
I find the lime juice gives this salsa a brighter, more summery taste than those made with vinegar. And you can vary the heat considerably by the peppers you choose, but be sure not to increase the proportion of peppers to other ingredients. That is, if you want to make it hotter, swap in some Thai chiles for a couple of jalapenos, for example, or make it more mild by using sweet pepper instead of hot pepper. Got it?
This is a lotta work. You ready? Here we go!
- 1/2 bushel plum tomatoes
- pickling salt
- 4 large onions (I used a mix of red and white that I had on hand)
- 3 heads of garlic
- 1 pound Jalapeño peppers (I used a mix of jalapenos and med-hot red peppers out of our garden; they were all big and beautiful this year so it was probably 18 or so)
- 6 large Ancho chiles
- 2 1/2 cups minced cilantro (2 big bunches)
- 1/4 cup cumin seed, ground
- 1 can tomato paste
- 20 pint (500 ml) Mason jars
- 20 snap lids and rings
And per jar:
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
Instructions for cooking and canning:
Start the evening of the day before. I warned you about the amount of work, right?
Roast the ancho chiles:
- Preheat grill on med-high. Rinse and pat dry the chiles.
- Place the chiles directly on the grill. Roast them, turning occasionally, until they are nicely softened and blackened all over.
- Once they cool, the outer blackened skin is fairly easy to rub/peel off.
- Slice in half. Cut off the stem and scrape out the seeds.
Prep the tomatoes:
- Make sure you have plenty of ice or very cold water.
- Wash your jars in hot soapy water and rinse well.
- Rinse your tomatoes well and rub off any bits of field dirt.
- Take a sharp paring knife and cut an X into each tomato.
- Put a good-size pot of water on to boil. Put ice and/or very cold water in a large bowl or your clean sink.
- Working with about a half-dozen tomatoes at a time, put them in the boiling water for about a minute, then remove them to the ice bath.
- Once they've cooled, their skins will slip off quite easily, especially if you've given them a starting place with that X. Peel the tomatoes, core and chop the tomatoes.
- Layer the chopped tomatoes with salt in a strainer. I usually end up filling two or three strainers, sitting them each inside a pot or a bowl to catch the drained liquid. If the strainer would otherwise touch the bottom of the pot/bowl, I put a small bowl overturned on the bottom to elevate the strainer. Don't want the tomatoes sitting in their own juices overnight. (That is the opposite of draining!)
- Let them sit somewhere cool overnight, but not in the fridge. I also drape tea towels over them to protect them from any rogue houseflies that tend to be around at this time of year.
Sleep. And then wake up, and get started again. You might want to have a couple of good podcasts queued up. (Have I mentioned Rex Factor? So good. I'm on the Kings and Queens of Scots now.)
- Now chop all the other things. Always wear gloves for the pepper chopping. For real real.
- Place the strained tomatoes in a very large pot. I like to use my pressure canner pot for this because it's huge and so lovely and heavy. Turn the burner on to medium.
- Add the chopped onions, garlic, and Ancho chiles. Add most but not quite all of the jalapeno peppers. Stir, stir, stir.
- Add the mixed cilantro and ground cumin seed. More stirring.
- Mix the tomato paste with a cupful of the salsa, until it is lump-free. Mix it into the pot of salsa.
- Taste the salsa, and add some salt if you think it needs some more. It probably does, but not a lot. Now, you need to make a decision about the level of pepper heat. If it's pretty awesome how it is, add the rest of your chopped jalapeno. If it's too tame, chop and add a small amount of hotter chile (like Thai bird's eye, for example.) My garden peppers were nicely hot this year, so no need for me to swap anything out. A few shakes of Tapatio sauce could safely upgrade the heat for you as well.
- Bring the salsa to a boil.
- In the meantime, wash your jars in hot soapy water and rinse well. Heat water in a small pot and put your snap lids in there to soften.
- Add 3 tablespoons of lime juice to each jar.
- Quickly ladle hot salsa into jars, using a wide mouth funnel. Important: make sure your jars aren't cold or they might react quite dramatically to hot salsa. I find this is not a problem in a hot summer kitchen, but you may be a fan of frigid air conditioning, in which case you might want to heat your jars in the oven or water bath before filling. Leave about 1 cm headspace.
- "Bubble" each jar with a skewer or chopstick to release any trapped air. Wipe each rim with a clean damp paper towel. Place the snap lid down and screw the ring on finger tip tight.
- Put the jars into your water bath canner. Make sure there is at least an inch of water above the top of your jars. Put the pot lid on and heat to the boil. Boil for 20 minutes. Don't start your timer until the water is boiling.
- Remove jars from the canner (or let them sit in the canner until everything calms down).
- Repeat with the next batch.
Enjoy! So worth the work. And like childbirth, you'll sort of forget the labour pains until you're well into it the next time!