a rainbow of tomatoes

The Great Canned Salsa-athon of 2015

Before heading to the coast last week, my hook-up for canning/pickling veggies called and informed me that she had set aside 60 pounds of tomatoes for me to pick up. Whoa, OK.  I can do this I can do this. Conveniently, my tomato and pickling cucumber hook-up is on the way to Florence, located in darling little Walton on HWY 126, Morning Glory Farm Stand.  Good timing!

Now, I make homemade canned salsa every year. Many years it’s one of numerous foodstuffs I water bath can. Except this year. This year I’ve been incredibly NOT into water bath canning. Why? Because I found fermentation, yo. There are less risks of burns with fermentation AND the food I put up is alive and much healthier than, say, a jar of pickled cucumbers with all the sugar and canning salt it contains. Or, you could just say I’ve been HELLA lazy this year and when it was time to pickle cucumbers it was WAY too hot – and I’ll totally own that. But, I HAVE to can salsa.  They way you eventually HAVE to change out of your pajamas on a Monday. Sure, it doesn’t sound fun, but eventually, you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself once you do.

So, on the way home from the coast we picked up 60 pounds of tomatoes, a big white garbage bag packed full of peppers (Anaheim, jalapeño, and and assortment of hulking bell peppers), onions, and headed home. I WISH I would have snapped a pic of the contents of my trunk on the drive back home from the farm stand – hilariously full of vegetables! The car was literally so full the dog had to sit on the kiddo’s lap!

While you could ferment salsa, it’s recommended you don’t ferment tomatoes (too much sugar and things get funky) – but you can ferment the peppers and add the tomatoes at a later date. Man, that almost sounds like as much work as water bath canning. So yeah, I made my usual “Zesty Salsa” from the trusty Ball Book.

tomatoes close-up
Some tomatoes that didn’t make it into the pot.  They’re bound for tomato toast.
pepper in a sink
Pepper bath time – jalapeños and some of the bell peppers.

Now, with 60 pounds of tomatoes looming around me I had to act rather quickly.  Saturday I blanched and peeled the tomatoes and added the vinegar so they wouldn’t oxidize too much while I refrigerated them overnight. It took almost 4 hours to do just the tomato processing – so obviously I decided Sunday would be the day to process the rest of the ingredients and do the water bathing. <—can I say that? Eh.

Again, I’m hella lazy, so I process my peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro in a food processor. I clean and cut the veg into one inch square items, then pulse away. This does result in a more “mushy” consistency, but, it also makes the salsa less water-y – I do make sure I don’t pulse too much or that would result in nastiness. The Anaheim peppers my husband roasts on the grill outside (it happened to be pouring down rain while he was outside roasting!), and he also roasted 1/2 of the red bell peppers I used.  If I roasted the tomatoes (if I used roma or san marzano) AND the onions I’m sure it would result in a more complex and yummy salsa, but hey, remember how I’m lazy and making salsa with 60 pounds of tomatoes is already enough work, y’all!? I definitely do recommend roasting as much of your ingredients as you can – it’s makes for a truly bomb salsa. Just not the cilantro – that would be gross.

Blanched and ready to be peeled, cored, and juices squished out. I know, wildly technical! Sorry for the poor focus – actively canning and photography don’t mix that well. #shrug
tomatoes in a stainless bowl
I procured these GIANT stainless steel bowls from a local restaurant supply store – and GUYS! I know they are a pain to store in a normal sized kitchen, but man oh man have they have come in handy more times than I can count! Also, they make AMAZING chicken buckets (like, the place you put all your table and kitchen scraps to eventually take out to your massive brood of 4 chickens at the end of your salsa-athon).
processing tomatoes to make salsa
I try to keep my process pretty stream-lined: I pull the tomatoes from the boiling-ish water (electric stoves, man), put the tomatoes in a bowl or on a large cookie sheet, do the skinning and stuff, put the skins and stuff in another large bowl, and lastly put the keeper tomato bits in a big bowl.  Then, when all the tomatoes are processed I transfer them to my largest kettle and then add the vinegar to store overnight. This year I didn’t pulverize or cut my finished tomato bits – I just went all caveman and squished them with my hands in the pot. It worked.
tomato boiling water
The blanching water – I poke the end of each tomato with a knife before I place it in the hot water so I can tell when the skin has loosened and the tomato is ready to come out of the blanching water (you also can do this with peaches). Now, if my water was actually friggin’ boiling, that might only take about 30 seconds – but, since my stove is slowly dying on me, it took about 2 minutes.
My big bowl of processed tomatoes that went in the big stock pot with vinegar. I added the vinegar from the recipe as to keep the tomatoes from oxidizing and such overnight in the fridge.
tomato water
This year, when I peeled and cored my tomatoes I saved the “tomato water” or juice. I strained out the seeds, transferred the juice to containers and froze them to use as a veggie stock. See, not that lazy!
big pot of salsa
After adding all the peppers, onions, garlic, and salt. Ha! I barely made it! By the way, that’s a giant BBQ implement in the pot – the only tool long and large enough to mix the salsa.  I was using my rolling pin, but that just felt TOO janky!

I figured that I made a quadruple batch of the Zesty Salsa. It cumulatively took 8 hours to make, but resulted in a 1/2 gallon of salsa for the refrigerator and 26, 1/2 pint jars for the larder. They are GOLD I tell you! And such a treat to crack open a jar in cold and bleak January, to be treated by a tasty jar of summer goodness.

Do you have a home canned item you make every year? If so, please share!

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