My friend Judy gave me 2 bushels of tomatoes. I thought I would make salsa. Many years ago I made a batch, before the internet was the go-to place for foodies. I can’t remember where I found the recipe but it was terrible! I can’t really blame the recipe, it called for coriander so I used coriander seed but they meant cilantro. Duh. Well that batch went in the garbage. So I called my (then) brother-in-law Rick who had recently started a Mexican food company. He said roast your red peppers and use lots of fresh cilantro. The next batch was excellent!
Making salsa takes some time so make sure you have half a day or so. It’s all that chopping. Start with the red peppers. To roast them, simply place the whole peppers on the BBQ on high heat, turn frequently until they are charred on all sides and starting to soften.
Or you can do them on your stove top if you cook with flame, however it can be messy. Cool them on a plate and cover with a paper bag to allow the steam to soften the peppers. While they are cooling, peel the tomatoes by bringing a big pot of water to a boil and have a large bowl of ice water ready. Drop the tomatoes in the boiling water for about 1 minute, then remove to a cold water bath. The skins will split and peel off easily. Then remove all the seeds and chop into small pieces. You can make your salsa extra chunky with larger pieces, there are no salsa police.
You need a huge cutting board.
Once all your tomatoes are diced, put them in a big pot and chop up the onion. Its easiest in the food processor. And if you wear a swim mask you won’t cry as much.
Then cut the tops off the peppers, scrape out the seeds and scrape the charred skin off. Use gloves if you are working with hot peppers.
The skin and seeds scrape right off with the edge of a sharp knife.
Finely dice the peppers. You can use any combination of hot and sweet peppers depending on how hot you want the salsa. You never know how hot a pepper will be.
For this batch I used 3 sweet red, 2 hot red and 1 jalapeno.
To the pot add the salt, sugar and cumin. Squeeze the juice from 2 limes. They give the most juice if they are at room temperature. Then top up the juice with vinegar to make 1/2 cup. Stir it all together and bring to a gentle simmer on medium-low heat. Cook for about 10 minutes. Chop up your cilantro and add to the salsa.
At this point I decided to make 4 jars without the tomato paste, then I added the paste to the remaining mixture and cooked for a few more minutes. I used field tomatoes which have a higher water content than a Roma so the salsa needed tomato paste if you like it thicker. To properly seal the jars you need to boil them for 10 minutes. I used my double strainer pot which worked great. You want the water to come up to the top half of the jar without going over the lids. I put an empty jar in the strainer pot and filled the bottom pot with water until it was the right level before I boiled the water. I think that was pretty clever!
You also need to boil the lids and seals for a few minutes before putting them on the jars. Also wipe off any salsa from the rim to ensure a tight seal! Once you remove them (carefully!) from the boiling water – this is where the double boiler comes in handy – you will hear the lids pop so you know they are sealed.
The four on the right have no tomato paste. Mr. H said it tasted like the salsa you get in the Mexican restaurants we go to in the U.S. It had a little more of a fresh taste where the rest with tomato paste were more like the jars you buy.
Here’s the recipe:
Ingredients 12-15 large field tomatoes (about 10 cups when chopped) 1 yellow onion 1 1/2 red onion (total onion about 4 cups) 3 sweet red peppers 2 hot red banana peppers 1 jalapeno (or any combination of 6 peppers, any colour, any heat) 2 tsp salt 3 tsp sugar 1 tsp ground cumin 2 limes, juiced vinegar, if required to make 1/2 cup juice big handful fresh cilantro (about 1 cup loosely packed) 1 369 ml can tomato paste (13 oz) Method Char peppers and cool. Peel and chop tomatoes. Finely chop onion. Seed and scrape peppers and chop. Add to large pot. Add salt, sugar and cumin. Squeeze limes and add enough vinegar, if required to make 1/2 cup of juice. Bring to gentle simmer on medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Add cilantro and tomato paste. Cook another few minutes. Pour into clean dry jars. Boil lids and seals for a few minutes. Wipe jar rims and put hot lids in place. Immerse jars in boiling water, cover for 10 minutes. Remove carefully and cool.