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Adventures in Spicery - A Salsa Recipe and Photojournal

It was the last week of the year to buy bulk at the growers market from Zenger Farms, my fabulous CSA. Because my tastes fall fairly heavily on the savory side of the spectrum and because you don't typically eat canned peaches with chips, I decided to try my hand at salsa.

Typically when I cook, I either start with a specific ingredient or an idea about what I want my end product to be. Then I look up anywhere from 3 to 10 recipes and pick and choose what I like and don’t like in terms of ingredients and instructions (Thanks, Mr. Google). The recipe below is solely mine (and my lovely taste-testing assistant’s), but I did read a clutch of cooking blogs in order to come up with the direction I wanted to head.

I ‘ve fallen in love with Astiana tomatoes this season. They’re not good slicers, but they release their amazing flavor and texture when cooked. Because they’re high in acidity and low in moisture, they’re pretty darn perfect for sauces (although if you want to can whole, uncooked tomatoes, make sure to stick with romas). Plus they’re very pretty:

astiana canning tomatoes


15 lbs Astiana sauce tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded and diced into ¼” to ½” cubes

1 large red onion - chopped

2 large yellow onions - chopped

12 cloves diced garlic (we used fresh Spanish roja garlic for the extra flavor depth)

4-6 sweet green peppers – chopped

2 seeded jalapeno peppers – chopped

3 large seeded poblano peppers – chopped

1 seeded serrano pepper – chopped

1 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons salt

3 teaspoons cumin

3 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 6oz cans organic tomato paste (I use Muir Glen)

½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley (or cilantro, or both)

Disclaimer: I totally cheat and use my Cuisinart for most of the chopping here, but I make sure to do at least a bit of roughly chopped pepper and onion by hand, ‘cause I tend to like a more rustic chunk to my salsa.

best homemade salsa recipe

To easily peel the tomatoes you'll want to boil them for 30-45 seconds until the skin barely starts to split and then pop them into a nice ice bath to cool them off. Even with wrinkly buggars like astianas, the skins just slide right off. Your kitchen will also look comfortably like a murder scene for a few minutes.

how to skin tomatoes

You know what? 25 lbs of tomatoes is actually NOT THAT MANY TOMATOES after you've peeled and seeded them all.

how to skin tomatoes

Combine all ingredients in a large (and I mean LARGE) bowl or pot and give it a good stir. Now is the fun testing part where you get to slurp large amounts and then add a bunch more stuff (most often garlic for this gal) to taste. Remember that the sugars in the tomatoes will come out more while they’re on the stove, so be wary with adding any more granulated quite yet, even if you lean towards a more sweet, mild salsa.

thai chili peppers
Chris and I also wanted a hotter version, so we removed about a third of the pot and then started throwing more peppers in the new batch to taste. I was adamant that I wanted all of my spice to come from fresh peppers (rather than cayenne or chile sauce), so we carefully added more diced serrano and jalapeno peppers along with Thai chiles, Padron, Fireball and Czech Black Hot Peppers. Yup. The trick here is to go veeery slowly. You can always keep adding, but you can’t so much take them out. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT touch your eyes, your mouth, your nose or your partner during this point in the process unless you very thoroughly wash your hands with soap first (or they really deserve it for some reason). Latex gloves probably would not go amiss. That capsaicin is risky business.
hot peppers

Put both mixtures (or just the one, if you’re sticking with a single mild batch) on the stovetop on medium-high heat and stir like the dickens (you don’t want the sugars burning the bottom of your pan) until you get a low boil going.

homemade salsa

Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally (the longer you cook, the thicker your salsa). Pop ‘em in pint jars, give them your standard 15 minute boiling water bath (see below) to avoid giving yourself an unintentional botox treatment and listen to those lids seal!

canned tomatoes

If you’re new to canning and need information on how to prep, fill and seal your jars, please ignore the fact that this site is written almost entirely in comic sans and focus on the wealth of information there instead.

Of course, being me, I could not rest with these pretty little jars looking so BARE. Enter Space Laser Salsa labels. Yes, the name does have a back-story, but it’s one of those things that I could write four paragraphs about and you could actually read 90% of them before we both realized that you kind of had to be there.

homemade canning lables

If you’re printing out labels at home, rather than using a precut label template (address labels, shipping labels, et cetera), try using full-sheet sticker paper. It’s just as cheap, you can make whatever size you like because you’re cutting it by hand (use an X-Acto knife and a ruler instead of scissors) and you won’t waste eight sheets of it, trying to make sure the design edges match up exactly with the precut label edges (Yes, I speak from past experience. And this is MY JOB.).

homemade canning lables

Oh and while you're at it - can some sauce too.

homemade canning lables



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