Jul 19, 2012

Canning Adventures Part 1 - Salsa

Canned Garden Salsa

Every year my husband plants way too many tomato plants than we could ever need. In past years we have given the excess to neighbors and co-workers but this year we decided to try a few canning recipes for our tomatoes. I've never canned in my life and was surprised at how easy is was.

Easy, yes.

Quick, no.

Canning takes time and a whole lot of it. First there's the prep work. Cleaning, chopping ingredients and sanitizing EVERYTHING. Then there's the cooking time, processing time and my least favorite part, the clean up. It's pretty much a whole day affair.

That said, it's also pretty fun. I have since canned a variety of things that I'll share over the next few weeks but I'll start with my first adventure: salsa.

I went to the store and got a few canning essentials. 

canning basics 

A water canner, plenty of jars and a handy little canning cook book.

And this is how it all went down.

Main ingredient: tomatoes picked from the garden. 

a day's garden harvest

I had to blanch like 12 pounds of those bad boys before coring and taking most of the seeds out. Side note, I never blanched anything before and was amazed how fast and easy it was. The skins peeled off without much effort. 

blanched tomatoes

Anyway, time to remove the cores. I didn't have a fancy corer so I improvised and just used a melon baller. You can call me a genius, I don't mind. 

coring tomatoes with melon baller

Next up was chopping all the tomatoes, peppers and other ingredients. Ideally, you would do all this with a food processor but I didn't have one at the time so I put my fancy, super sharp knife to work. 

pre-chopped ingredients for salsaingredients in canned salsa

Once everything was chopped, it was time to cook. I started with the tomatoes first. 

tomatoes for canning salsa

Cooked those down a bit before adding all the other stuff. 

making garden fresh salsa for canningmaking garden fresh salsa for canning

Let it all come to a boil before ladeling it into the jars.

Let me pause here. Anyone know why it's called canning and not jarring? You don't use cans and I'm pretty sure the first people to "can" didn't use cans either. 

Anyway, there's a whole process in this that I won't bore you with but basically you have to have your jars heated so they don't break when you put in the hot salsa. Then all the jars go back in the water canner and "process" or continue cooking in boiling water for a certain amount of time. 

Canning homemade salsa

Then it's time to take them out and wait to hear the magical "pop" of the lid sealing. It's pretty awesome. 

 Canning homemade salsa

I must also say that I was a little more than disappointed at the amount of salsa 12 pounds of tomatoes made. I was hoping for a pantry full of garden salsa that I could eat on for years but I ended up with a few jars full. Oh well. We had some salsa that didn't fit in the jars so we had a taste test. The flavor was awesome but it just wasn't hot enough.

 Canned Garden Salsa

I'm always afraid to make things too hot and ruin it but I'm realizing that even if I double the amount of peppers a recipe calls for, it's still not hot enough. Better luck next time. As for the jars we do have, I have been adding chopped habenero peppers and letting it sit for a day before eating it and it's pretty perfect. 

So, what did I learn from my first adventure in canning? 

One, I need a food processor - which I know have thanks to a dear friend.

Two, I love blanching things!

Three, I should can on the weekend and not try to fit it in during nap time because there's just not enough time.

Four, I need to triple peppers when making salsa to meet my need for heat.

And, lastly, a personal cleaning assistant would be awesome because my kitchen looked like a crime scene with all the juice from working with 12 pounds of tomatoes scattered all over the place.

I don't have a recipe to share because I'm not 100% sold on my version but here's the one I used as a basis for mine: spicy tomato salsa, thanks, @theprairiehen. I just used more tomatoes and fresh peppers instead of dried.


  1. That is awesome! Showing me what you did with all the pictures and steps really helped. I, too have been afraid of canning (or jarring...hee hee) and I see that its really not as hard as it sounds! You have inspired me to try this myself!

    1. Awesome! So glad it helped. It really isn't difficult - just major time consuming. Good luck!

  2. love the little hand putting the magazine on the conveyor belt! I have never canned anything. But I also don't have a garden :-(

    I love spicy salsa! I am so glad you got a food processor. Poor thing having to hand-cut all of that stuff! I always use that Pampered Chef mini chopper thing to cut jalapaneos, garlic, and onions when I make salsa.

    Do you have fresh herbs? If so, how do you keep those to use after the season is over? My grandparents have a butt-load of rosemary!

    1. Other hand on the belt was her trying to steal the mag!

    2. I do use fresh herbs from the garden. We've dried them in the past and put them in jars after but I read (haven't tried yet) that you can add some olive oil to fresh herbs, put them in ice cube trays and freeze for later use. Worth trying!

  3. Canning is an "adventure"! :) If you have any fruit in your garden you'll have to try making some jam. We have only 1 unopened pint of blackberry jam left from last summer and it tastes amazing! And, the jelly jars are super cute! I have an easy recipe on my blog if you'd like to try it!

    1. I want to grow fruit so bad!!! We did make peach jam this year and have made strawberry jam in the past - nothing compares! So delicious. I would love to grow currants and blackberries one day. Thanks for letting me know about your recipe - I'll check it out!

  4. My sister and I learned a little (huge) tip that made an amazing difference in the whole clean-up thing. When we get ready to can our tomatoes or make salsa, we cover every counter space with towels. They are clean. They catch, stop, and soak up every drop, spill, and mess. When we're finished, we put the towels in the laundry, and counters are perfect.


I know it can be a little scary but go on, I'd love to hear from you!