WISE NOTES FOR CONSUMERS

Preserving the harvest with salsa

By Tanya Davis | Published Wednesday, June 6, 2012

If your tomato plants are loaded with as many tomatoes as mine, you may be searching for ways to serve and preserve in the coming months.

Are you one of those cooks who love to experiment with salsa recipes? Many want to preserve their winning combination by canning. Most salsa recipes are a mixture of low-acid foods (such as onions and peppers), with more acidic foods (such as tomatoes). Acid flavorings such as vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice are also common additions. The types and amounts of ingredients used in salsa, as well as the preparation method, are important considerations in how a salsa is canned. Improperly canned salsas or other tomato-pepper combinations have been implicated in more than one outbreak of botulism poisoning.

The quality of your salsa will be affected by the tomatoes you choose. Paste tomatoes, such as Roma, have more flesh or solid tissue. They will produce thicker salsas than slicing tomatoes, which yield more juice and a watery salsa. Select only disease-free, preferably vine-ripened, firm tomatoes. Canning is not a way to use overripe or spoiling tomatoes.

A recommended tested recipe follows. If this is not your personal favorite, it is best to eat your creation fresh, store it several days, up to one week in the refrigerator (40 F or below), or freeze it for longer storage. Most salsas should retain good quality for up to 1 year in a freezer maintained at 0 F or lower.

TOMATO SALSA WITH PASTE TOMATOES

Makes 16 to 18 pints

  • 7 quarts peeled, cored, chopped paste tomatoes
  • 4 cups seeded, chopped long green chiles
  • 5 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup seeded, finely chopped jalapeno peppers
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups bottled lemon or lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons oregano leaves (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (optional)

Note: This recipe works best with paste tomatoes. Slicing tomatoes require a much longer cooking time to achieve a desirable consistency. Caution: Wear plastic or rubber gloves while handling and cutting hot peppers. If you do not wear gloves, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. Wash and rinse pint size canning jars; keep hot until ready to use. Prepare lids according to manufacturer’s directions. Wash and dry peppers.

Hot Pack: combine all ingredients except cumin, oregano and cilantro in a large saucepot and heat, stirring frequently, until mixture boils. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spices and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot mixture into clean, hot, pint-size jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal canning lids.

Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes (0-1,000 ft. sea level); 20 minutes (1,001-6,000 ft. above sea level) and according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Additional guidelines for preparing safe home-canned salsas are available by calling Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Wise County office, (940) 627-3341.

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