Food and Garden Dailies started as a way to record my family's favorite recipes. It has come in handy many times when I'm asked for a recipe. I simply email a link to the blog! But I couldn't just stick to recipes. The kitchen is tied to the garden in so many ways...and so I let you into my ever changing garden as well.

If you're interested in my all-time favorite recipes, check out this post first: My Favorite Recipes

Monday, September 17, 2007

In Search of a Great Salsa...

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For years now I've wanted to find a great salsa recipe. There are so many recipes, but the ones I always seem to try have been total losers. So this year, I decided, would be the year I find a great (not just good) salsa recipe. Even that can be canned.

Here's what I knew we liked: hot peppers, onions, cilantro, garlic. We like both tomatillos (which are the base for salsa verde) and tomatoes as a base. My favorite commercial tomato based salsa is Herdez Salsa Casera, which I've had since childhood. I have fond memories of sitting out on the beach in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico with tortilla chips and a can of Herdez (back then it was about 20¢ a can from Mexico). Just recently Brian and I found a total winner for Salsa Verde: Safeway Select's store brand! We brought it camping, and knocked the socks off of other food connoisseurs with this salsa. So, if this search for the ultimate salsa recipe bombs, thankfully, these two winners are readily available at the grocery store!

To start my quest, I found 10 recipes that looked good. Some were from the web, and some were from the Blue Ball Book of Preserving. Next I went produce picking! Unfortunately Draper's Farm (so close to my home...on Baker Creek Road, just west of Hill Road) had a dismal crop of tomatoes this year, and didn't have any available to pick (last year I think their prices were only 25 or 30¢/pound!). So I headed out to Bernard's Farm (Highway 18, between McMinnville and Sheridan), which also has peppers to pick. (I went a little overboard on the pepper picking and still have a BUNCH of chopped peppers leftover!) ALL my peppers and tomatoes came to just $19! It really pays to pick your own.

At home, I got everything ready...

The recipes basically had the same ingredients, so I thought I'd move quickly, canning all nine recipes in one day (I wasn't making complete recipes of each...just 1/4-1/2 of each). I picked on Friday, prepped the peppers, cilantro, onions, and tomatoes on Saturday. After all the prep work, I was done for the day! Thankfully Sunday's calendar was clear. Sadly, three recipes seemed to take up most of the day. On Monday I made two more (salsa verdes), ending up with five to try, rather than nine. My kitchen was a total pit for 3-4 days, and my dining room table covered (still is, as I'm determined to do 1-2 more salsas and some applesauce soon!) with canning jars and supplies.

Chopping the peppers was an ordeal. Thinking that the pepper guts (AKA the seeds/membranes) would make them too spicy, I did remove the insides from all the peppers, reserving them just in case. In the end, I had WAY too many peppers. The hottest pepper most recipes called for were jalapeños or "hot peppers". I was worried that the habaneros I'd picked would be too hot, so I settled for some jalapeños mixed in with other "hot" peppers that upon tasting were hotter than jalapeños, but milder than habaneros. (Yes, I tasted each pepper to determine it's hotness.) Next time I will not gut the peppers, but simply de-stem and chop. That will save me tons of time!

The results? Sadly, 2/3 tomato based salsas were WAY too sweet for our taste. None were spicy enough. The one with that was most promising is callled "Traditional Salsa", although it needs a bit more heat. Next time I'll make sure to use hotter peppers. It has potential. The others though...well, hopefully some of my friends will like sweeter, milder salsas because I have a LOT of those on hand!!

Now, on to finding a great salsa recipe....I've invited some friends to come over at the end of the month for a salsa tasting party. Each family is to bring a home-made (doesn't have to be a canning recipe, as many don't can) salsa and the recipe. We'll have some Mexican food for dinner (I'll make enchiladas) and try all the salsas. Hopefully I'll find a winner from that lot. If not, we still have Safeway and Herdez!

Here are the recipes I tried:


8 cups tomatoes, peeled and diced – may use three 28/29 oz. cans tomatoes,
well drained, (diced if whole); I added one 15 oz. can
diced tomatoes with roasted garlic & onion
2 ½ cups diced onion
1 ½ cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup diced hot peppers*
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. canning salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar
29 oz. can of tomato puree
1 ½ cups tomato sauce

Mix everything together in large saucepan. Bring slowly to boil; boil gently for ten minutes (or less – be sure onions & peppers remain somewhat crisp).
At this point you could cool, refrigerate & use without canning if desired.
Pour into hot jars, cap with hot rings & lids.
Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yield: 7 to 8 pints.

MY NOTES: Too sweet, very mild. (The Blue Ball Book suggests 15 minutes of processing for all the other salsas, so that's what I did as well. *I used 1/2 of my "hot pepper mix" and 1/2 jalapeños. (Is sugar one of the ingredients that you can omit without disturbing the ingredient proportions in the canning recipe? I wasn't sure, so I didn't mess with that.)


We get about 40 pints of a lovely medium heat salsa with this recipe doubled... family & friends absolutley love it. For hotter than medium salsa, leave more seeds in peppers. I do not use a food processor - we do everything by hand because we love chunky salsa.

10 pounds (~20 cups) tomatoes
4 green, 2 red, 2 yellow & 2 orange peppers
6 med/large onions
~20 jalapeno peppers (about 1/3 with seeds)
2 banana peppers (remove seeds)
4 chili peppers (remove seeds)
4 tbsp. (~6 cloves) crushed garlic
4 small cans tomato paste
2 cups vinegar
8 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. paprika
8 tbsp. sugar (can use less if desired)
8 tbsp. chopped parsley
4 tsp. dried oregano

Chop all veggies and combine in large, heavy bottomed stock pot. Mix together tomato paste and vinegar and add to veggies. Add all remaining seasonings. Stir frequently and bring to a boil over med - high heat. Simmer x 30min (or longer for thicker salsa). Put in 500mL jars. Process in hot water bath x 20min.

MY NOTES: Still sweet, but not as sweet as the first two. I used half of the recommended sugar. Mild.


7 cups diced seeded peeled cored tomatoes - -- (about 5 lbs. or 15 medium)
6 green onions -- sliced
2 jalapeño peppers -- diced
4 garlic cloves -- minced
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup vinegar, 5% acidity
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 drops hot pepper sauce

Prepare Ball brand or Kerr brand jars and closures according to manufacturer's instructions.

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Carefully ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe jar rim clean. Place lid on jar with sealing compound next to glass. Screw band down evenly and firmly just until a point of resistance is met -- fingertip tight.

Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner. At elevations higher than 1,000 feet, boil 2 additional minutes for each additional 1,000 feet elevation.

This recipe yields about 4 pints.

Source: Ball's website:

MY NOTES: Better than the three above. Still mild, but a better overall flavor. Not as sweet. I liked the taste of the green onions. Needs to be spicier (use hotter peppers in place of jalapenos).


Recipe by Mary Victoria Parker
Yield 5 pints

5 cups chopped tomatillos
1 1/2 cups seeded, chopped long green chiles
1/2 cup seeded finely chopped jalapeños
4 cups chopped onions
1 cup bottled lemon juice
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 tbsp oregano leaves
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and stir frequently over high heat until mixture begins to boil. then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot salsa into pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner 15 minutes at 0-1000 feet altitude. 20 minutes at 1,001-6,000 feet; 25 minutes above 6,000 feet

MY NOTES: Knowing I like things a bit hotter, I switched the peppers around, adding more jalapeños than the milder long green chiles. This one has potential. I only had a quick taste of it, as there wasn't any left over from canning. But it's not bad....


From Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving

5 1/2 C of chopped, cored, husked tomatillos
1 C chopped onion
1 C chopped seeded green chili peppers
1/2 C white vinegar
4 TB lime juice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 TB cilantro
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Prepare canner, jars, and lids.

In a large sauce pot, combine the ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, and gently boil for 10 minutes. Stir frequently.

Ladle the salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2" headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rim, and center lid on jar. Screw band down. Process 8 oz. jars and pints for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, and remove jars.

MY NOTES: Of all the salsas I made this weekend, this one seems most promising. I'll let you know if I still feel the same after our salsa tasting at the end of the month.

Still to try making: From Blue Ball Book: Jalapeño Salsa, Peach Salsa (my mother-in-law wants some of this). And then I want to try my friend, Margy's Lime Salsa which we made last year. I think it will be better than any of the above tomato based salsas if I use hotter peppers than last year. I also have been wanting to try my friend, Heidi's canned salsa. She swears by it, so I'm eager to see if it's to our liking as well.


Angelina said...

I really enjoyed this post. I've been on a salsa quest too. My favorite salsa ever is fresh salsa, not cooked. I don't like mine as spicy as you do but I definitely don't like it sweet. I found one I really like. I wouldn't call it ideal but I liked it enough to make 17 pints of it.

I have two blogs (which I'm thinking might be unwise) and I don't know if you saw my second one, The Yamhill County Urban Homesteader (there's a link to it on my Dustpan Alley blog), I am putting some canning recipes up there. Plus information about local u-pick farms (but you already know my sources because you've been going there yourself!)

Anyway, I love that you're on a quest and are trying lots of different recipes out.

dg said...

I saw your salsa post (can't remember which blog it was on). That's when I thought we must be passing eachother at the farms...

In the end, I think that fresh salsa is what I like best...probably a simple pico de gallo with peppers, tomatoes, onion, garlic, lime, and cilantro.

Christi said...

I have two favorite salsa recipes:
New West Salsa from Cooking Light
It's different from most salsas - chock full of lots of fruits and veggies. I add mango to the recipe and save time using frozen corn and canned diced tomatoes unless they are in season.
One Minute Salsa
I was skeptical but it's delicious!
Another fast easy recipe that's super flavorful is

dg said...

Thanks, Christi! I'll have to check those out, especially the Cook's Illustrated one. Their recipes are usually pretty darn good!