(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 1, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
Summer has arrived, and the tomato vines are overloaded with lush, ripe tomatoes. At our house July and August are fiesta months. Yes, it's a virtual tomato festival at our farm. No, we do not throw the tomatoes at one another. Okay, maybe sometimes, but only in good-natured, not so clean, fun. Afterward we congregate to make fiesta salsa. It is not a difficult recipe and is made with or without hot peppers. The recipe does not require a pressure cooker. It uses the boiling water canner method. There is, however, a tedious amount of chopping tomatoes. After the tomatoes are added to the cook pot with the other ingredients the hard work is forgotten as you admire the beauty of the salsa. So gather the entire family, and call it fiesta time. Perhaps have a Mexican theme day at your house. Dress Mexican, cook a Mexican meal and speak Spanish. The kids will love it.
To make Fiesta Salsa
Safety in home canning is imperative. If you are new to home canning, read about proper canning techniques before you begin. The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning is an excellent source of information.
You will need 12 to14 pint-size canning jars, lids and bands. Regular or wide mouth will work fine. Use standard home canning jars. This recipe may be cut in half to make fewer pints if desired. Adjust all ingredients as needed.
12 to 15 pounds medium-large ripe tomatoes (Hint, we canned 13 pints from 3 plastic grocery bags filled with tomatoes.)
2 cups chopped onions (Do not cut them into small bits. Chunks are good.)
1 bunch cilantro, snipped (This is equal to 1/2 to 1 cup)
1 cup apple cider flavored vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
You may add seeded, chopped peppers to taste. (Jalapeno peppers are good.)
All the above ingredients may be adjusted to taste. Sample the salsa as you work. Be careful not to add too much vinegar or salt, however.
To begin, clean tomatoes in sink rinsing with cool water until they sparkle.
To easily remove skins from the tomatoes, dip them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Watch them closely. Some of the tomatoes will require less time for the skins to loosen. Soak the tomatoes in cold water to cool them and to stop the cooking process. Simply fill the sink with cool water and drop the tomatoes in as you remove them from the boiling water. Be careful the tomatoes will be hot.
Take the tomatoes out of the cooling bath one at a time and slip off the skins. Next you will core and chop the tomatoes.
Keep in mind that chunky is good. Do not worry if a few tomatoes fall apart in your hand as you chop them. Using a pot large enough to accommodate all those tantalizing tomatoes, combine them with the remaining ingredients. Bring the salsa to a boil. Be sure to stir the salsa so it will not scorch. Once it boils, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not overcook the salsa if you prefer it thick and chunky.
Prepare the canning jars
*Check jars for cracks, breaks or chips. Replace all damaged jars.
*Wash and rinse the jars thoroughly.
Place jars and lids in gently boiling water. The jars will break if they are cold when the heated salsa is put in them.
*Complete these steps before beginning the salsa, if desired.
Can the salsa
Once the salsa reaches desired thickness, fill hot pint jars with it. Leave 1//2 inch headspace in each jar. Remove air bubbles from the salsa by gently stirring a nonmetallic utensil along the inside of the filled jars. Wipe jar tops clean, including the threads. Place hot lids and bands on jars and tighten. Process the filled jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes. Remove carefully.
Makes 9 to 13 pints of fiesta salsa
Determine if the jars are sealed
Look at all the jar's lids. They should be curved in. (concave)
Using your finger, press the middle of the lid then release it. If the lid springs up it is not properly sealed. (Sometimes the lid will make a distinct popping noise when it springs up.)
You can also tap on the lid with a teaspoon. Listen closely. If the lid makes a dull thud it is not properly sealed. A properly sealed jar lid will ping or ring slightly when tapped.
Guide to home canning
Food safety in home canning
Safe home canning
Canning recipes and food safety
Canning methods that should not be used
Dave's garden canning, drying and freezing forum
For additional information about home canning, contact your county Extension agent.
All photographs are from my garden and farm kitchen.