Homemade Salsa, Step by Step

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It’s time to make some delicious salsa!

If you’re a homesteader, you pride yourself on a full pantry. Every homesteader wants to keep a wide variety of preserved foods on hand, and enjoy the bounty of their garden and the farmer’s market all year long. But if you’re not careful, your pantry shelves will be lined with nothing but pickles and jams.  So if you want a little food diversity, how about making several jars of delicious salsa instead?

Salsa is easily made out of vegetables and herbs that are readily available; you can grow most of them right in your garden. Homemade salsa takes a bit more preparation than other canning recipes, but it is still simple to make. And when it’s finally ready, homemade salsa is out of this world. You’ll never go back to that store-bought salsa ever again!

Like other canned goods, you’ll be able to store the salsa you make with this recipe at room temperature for a year. Canned salsa has a wide variety of uses, and it is a popular seller at farmers markets, too. So if you’re ready, read on, and start making some delicious salsa in your kitchen today!

Gathering The Equipment

The recipe we will discuss today will enable you to make about six 1-pint jars of zesty salsa.  As noted earlier, this is a water bath canning recipe, so you will  preserve these jars of salsa, and store it unrefrigerated for up to 12 months. Now, let’s review all of the equipment and ingredients you’ll need to start making homemade salsa.

  1. Boiling Water Canner. You’ll use a very large pot called a boiling water canner to sterilize your canning jars, then preserve the jars filed with salsa.
  2. Canner Rack. In order to get your jars in and out of the boiling water canner, you’ll rest them on a metal frame with handles called a canner rack. The handles sit above the water line in the canner, making it easier to safely remove all of the jars at once. Note: Most boiling water canners come with their own rack.
  3. Six 1-Pint Canning Jars, With Lids And Rings. Most grocery and hardware stores carry these jars; you can also buy them online.
  4. Two Large Saucepans And One Small Pot. You will need one saucepan to boil your tomatoes, which makes removing the skins easier more on this later). You will use the other large saucepan to boil all of your salsa ingredients. You will sterilize your lids by boiling them in the small pot.
  5. Potato Peeler. You may use a potato peeler to remove and discard all of your tomatoes’ skins for this recipe, although boiling them, which we’ll talk about later, will make removing the skins much easier.
  6. Knife and Cutting Board. You will need a large, heavy knife and a cutting board to help chop all of your salsa ingredients.
  7. One Colander Bowl. The colander will allow you to wash off your vegetables and herbs prior to combining them in the saucepan.
  8. You will use a ladle to actually transfer the salsa from the saucepan to your jars.
  9. You will use a small canning funnel to assist with neatly transferring your salsa from the saucepan to your canning jars. These funnels usually come with any standard canning kit.
  10. Large Spoon. The spoon will help stir your salsa while it is cooking in the saucepan.
  11. Large Towel. After you process your canning jars, you will place them in a quiet, draft-free corner, and cover them for 24 hours with this towel.
  12. Small Towel. You’ll use a small towel to wipe off your jars and lids; this will help ensure you get a good vacuum seal, and will be able to store your salsa at room temperature for up to a year. Salsa is messy, and even experienced canners will drip some on the jars, so make sure you are ready to wipe them off!
  13. You will need something to help keep track of time (boiling times, canning processing times, etc.) while you make and preserve your salsa.

Optional Canning Equipment

There are additional items you might want to have on hand as well. While they are not essential, they can help make the entire canning process easier.

  1. Food Processor. While you don’t need a food processor for this recipe, having one can help save you time you’ll otherwise use chopping up your vegetables on a cutting board with a knife. Food processors are good kitchen tools to have for homesteaders anyway, since they can help you prepare and preserve a wide variety of foods.
  2. Magnetic Lid Wand. A magnetic lid wand will help you grab hot jar lids and move them where you want them, all without contaminating them with your hands.
  3. Jar Lifters. A jar lifter is basically a set of wide pincers that enable you to grab hot canning jars and move them into and out of places that are too hot to touch. These are great to have when positioning jars in and out of the boiling water canner.
  4. Labels And Markers. If you can on a regular basis, it is a good idea to label your canning jars, and put a date on when you processed them. Canning jar labels will help ensure that you know exactly what is in each can. If you write the canning dates on them as well, you will know when a canned food is in danger of expiring. As you begin making more and more canned goods in your home, you really should consider labeling everything.
  5. Outdoor Gas Cooker. If you plan to be canning things on a regular basis (and once you start, it is really hard to stop!), it is a good idea to invest in an outdoor gas cooker. These burners run on the same propane tanks you use with your outdoor grill. An outdoor gas cooker will enable you to bring the water in your boiling water canner to a rolling boil more rapidly than most indoor stoves can; it also helps cut down on the inevitable mess in your kitchen as well. NOTE: Follow all safety direction when using your gas cooker, and ALWAYS USE IT OUTDOORS.

All of the essential and optional items are easy to find at hardware and home goods stores. You can also shop for them online as well.  You will want to make certain all of your canning equipment is as clean as possible prior to using it. Use a good sanitizer, such as Star San, to clean all of your equipment prior to beginning the canning process.

Assembling The Ingredients

This recipe makes about six 1-pint jars of zesty homemade salsa. This is a relatively simple recipe, with only a few ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need to be enjoying these terrific garnish in a few short days:

  1. 10 Cups of Chopped, Cored, Peeled, Tomatoes. The ones out of your garden are best! However, whatever the source for your tomatoes, make sure they are as fresh as possible.
  2. 5 Cups of Chopped Onions.
  3. 5 Cup of Chopped Green Bell Peppers. Remove all of the seeds and white material from the inside of the bell peppers you use for this recipe.
  4. 2 Cups of Chopped Sweet Peppers. Remove all of the seeds and pulp from these peppers as well. Getting a mix of different colored peppers will give your salsa a beautiful appearance in the jar.
  5. 3 Garlic Cloves, peeled and chopped.
  6. 1 1/4 Cups White Vinegar.
  7. 2 Tablespoons of Chopped Cilantro .

When you are a new or inexperienced canner, you should closely follow canning recipe lists; this is especially true for salsa recipes. Do not add additional ingredients, or remove ingredients from the recipe, or you could change the salsa’s acidity, and make it dangerous to preserve.  

You should also avoid the salsa mixes that are available at the grocery store when making your own salsa for canning, since these could also  affect the preservation process. You should also try to find your own reliable sources about home preserving, including books on the subject, and government websites as well.

Do you have all of your equipment and ingredients? Great! Let’s make some  delicious salsa!

Step 1. Sterilize Your Jars, Lids, and Equipment

It’s important to ensure that all of your equipment is sanitize when you start out. Remember, you’re preserving this salsa so that it can be stored in jars at room temperature for up to a year. Ensuring that you don’t inadvertently introduce bacteria in to your jars is critical.

Thoroughly wash all of your canning equipment, jars, and lids prior to use. It is a good idea to use a good sanitizing chemical, such as Star San, during this process to make all of your equipment as sanitized as possible.

Once you’re done washing everything, fill your boiling water canner with water. Then, place your empty canning jars on the canning rack, and lower them into your boiling canner. Make sure the jars are completely submerged in the canner, and then boil them for at least ten minutes. Simultaneously, place your canning lids in the small pot, cover them in water, and boil them for at least ten minutes as well, turning the burner down to low heat when complete.

Remove your jars from the canner once they’ve been sterilized, and set them aside to dry out. Use caution when removing the canning jars; you don’t want to spill scalding hot water on yourself or your canning partner. Leave the canning jar lids in the pot, and don*t remove them until the jars are packed and you’re ready to seal them.

Step 2. Chopping Your Vegetables and Herbs

chopped salsa recipe veggies

PHOTO: You can use a knife and cutting board to chop your vegetables for this recipe.

Skin and rinse off all of your onions, then rinse all of the peppers as well. Then, using your knife, chop them coarsely on your cutting board. Remove the seeds and veins from the peppers, then place them in the colander bowl.

Peel the skins off your garlic cloves, chop them, and then finely chop your cilantro. Place these items in the colander bowl, then set them all aside for a moment.

veggies in food processor

PHOTO: Or put your food processor to good use

Step 3. Peeling and Chopping the Tomatoes

Peeling the tomatoes is the most tedious part of this recipe. You can use a potato peeler, which some canners prefer to do.

boiling tomatoes

PHOTO: Boiling your tomatoes will make peeling them much easier

However, to  save some time and energy, fill a saucepan with water, then bring it to a boil. Core your tomatoes, and remove any soft or rotting spots n them as well. Then, dip your tomatoes in the boiling water for approximately one minute, and quickly remove them.

After you’ve dipped them in the boiling water, rinse them under cold tap water.  The skins should come off very easily if you peel them with your fingers at that point. Once they are peeled, go ahead and chop your tomatoes, and then add them to the colander with the other vegetables.

Step 4. Preparing the Salsa

stirring salsa in boiling pot

PHOTO: Stir your salsa frequently as it boils.

In your large saucepan, add the colander bowl of chopped vegetables, vinegar, and salt. Bring the entire mixture to a boil, stirring regularly. Once the mixture boils, reduce heat and boil it gently for ten additional minutes. Stir the mixture frequently while it is boiling. Once you’ve finished boiling your salsa, move it to an area adjacent to your canning jars.

Step 5. Packing And Closing The Jars

Using your ladle, carefully fill each of your canning jars with salsa, leaving ½ inch of headspace.  Move your funnel from jar to jar as you add the salsa; this will make the process less messy, and will eliminate the amount of salsa that goes to waste.

ladling salsa in canning jar

PHOTO: Salsa is messy, so ladle it into your jars with care!

Once all of your jars are filled, use your small towel to wipe off the rims of your canning jars; ensure you remove any water, juice or other materials, since they can affect the sealing process later on. Use your magnetic wand to grab each of the sterilized lids, and place them, one at a time, on your six 1-pint canning jars.

Grab the first ring and screw it on to the first jar carefully, until you meet slight resistance. Make sure the lid is aligned properly on the top of the jar as you are screwing the ring onto the lid. The ring is sufficiently screwed on when it is “finger tight.” Repeat this process with each jar until all of them have rings screwed on.

You may wind up with more or less than six filled 1-pint jars, depending on the size of how your batch of salsa ultimately measures out.  However, only move on to the next step with jars that are completely filled with salsa. If you have any remaining salsa that cannot fill an entire jar, refrigerate it and use them like any other perishable vegetable.  Throw it on some tortilla chips while you’re waiting for all of those packed jars to seal!

Step 8: Processing the Jars

Once you have placed all of the lids on your filled jars, it is time to process them.  Heat processing is a method of preserving otherwise perishable foods, so that you can consume them at a later date. There are two components to this when it comes to canning, both of which are accomplished by boiling your 1-pint glass jars: first, the boiling destroys any harmful microorganisms in the jars; next, boiling the jars, with their metal lids, help creates an airtight seal.  After successful processing, your delicious salsa can be stored in your cupboard or pantry fat room temperature for up to one year.

To process your jars, place all of them on your canner rack. Then, carefully place the rack back into your boiling water canner. Be careful, the water may still be very hot from when you sterilized the jars earlier. Make sure that the jars are upright; use your jar lifter to set any jars straight that inadvertently tip over. Also, ensure that there is at least one inch of water covering all of the jars’ lids inside the canner; add additional water if there is not enough.

Once your canner is filled, set the heat to high. Bring the water inside to a rolling boil, and let it boil covered for ten minutes. After ten minutes, turn off the heat, remove the lid from the canner, and let everything sit for at least five minutes to cool down a bit.

Step 9: Cooling and Inspecting the Jars

After the jars have cooled for five minutes, carefully remove the canning rack with the jars from the boiler. Using your jar lifter or small towel, move each jar to a cool dry place, away from any drafts. Place all of your jars together, and then cover with the large towel. Let the jars sit like this for at least twenty-four hours.

At this point, you will likely begin hearing loud “POPS” from some of the jars; this is a good sign, indicating that a lid has inverted downward and the jar has successfully sealed.

After twenty-four hours, remove the towel, and inspect each of the jars for a vacuum seal. A sealed lid will be concave (curving downward into the jar). To check further that each jar sealed, press lightly down on the center of the lid; it should have no “give” in it. Any jar that has not vacuum-sealed effectively will allow you to press it down significantly, like the “Home” button on a smartphone.

Here’s a great video showing how to check to thoroughly ensure your canning jars have a good seal:

If you find a jar that has not sealed successfully, you can attempt to repeat the processing techniques described in Step 5. However, it’s likely you have a defective lid; it may be better to just refrigerate this particular jar, and consume it immediately.

All of the jars that vacuum-sealed successfully can be stored at room temperature in a cupboard or pantry for up to one year. Keep in mind that once you break a seal and open a jar, it must either be consumed immediately or refrigerated. You cannot seal the jar back up and store it at room temperature once it’s been opened.

Here is a great video demonstrating how to make and can delicious salsa from beginning to end:

Enjoying Your Salsa

It doesn’t take much imagination to put a jar of homemade salsa to good use. The next time that you need a good dip for your tortilla chips, open a jar and let your family dig in! But you don’t have to limit your salsa enjoyment to just chips. Here are a few other ways you may not have considered for using your zesty homemade salsa.

Baked Potato Garnish

Most of the things we typically put on baked potatoes – sour cream, butter, or cheddar cheese – are bland and loaded with fat. If you want to spice up your potatoes and lower your caloric intake at the same time, you should consider topping them off with your homemade salsa instead.

Spice Up Those Fries

Do you want to try something a little different with that your plate of French fries? Add two tablespoons of mayonnaise to ½ cup of you salsa, mix it all up, and you’ll have a zesty, unique sauce that’s like no other.!

Energize Your Devilled Eggs and Mac N’ Cheese

People love deviled eggs and macaroni and cheese, they are popular American comfort foods. But you can take people out of their comfort zone by adding a bit of your salsa to the mix. Throw in a few spoonfuls of your salsa in to taste as a garnish with those eggs, and the guests at your next party will love them. And the next time you make macaroni and cheese, add two to three tablespoons of that salsa just as it finishes cooking. You family will thank you for it!

Black Bean Soup and Salsa Meatloaf

Your salsa can also help spice up many traditional recipes as well, and add great flavor to otherwise common dishes. Try this black bean soup recipe, for instance, which will require an entire pint jar of your delicious salsa. Or better yet, change your family’s impression of meatloaf forever with this delicious salsa meatloaf recipe.

canned salsa

PHOTO: The Finished Product

Closing Thoughts

Salsa is a delicious treat that can spice up snacks, and make traditional recipes much more exciting. It is easy to make, and is a great use for vegetables that are easy to grow or find at markets. So clear those counters, get the cutting board ready, and make some delicious zesty salsa today!

homemade salsa pinterest

About Tom Harkins 25 Articles
When Tom Harkins is not busy doing emergency repairs to his 200 year-old New England home, he tries to send all of his time gardening, home brewing, foraging, and taking care of his ever-growing flock of chickens, turkey and geese.

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