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salsa love
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ladytairngire wrote in kitchen_gardens
I made canned tomato salsa yesterday.

I was very nervous about it, because I've only ever canned once before, and that was just straight tomatoes in a jar.

I decided to preserve the tomatoes as salsa this year because you can buy canned tomatoes on sale for under a buck, but a jar of good salsa can cost upwards of $6. Besides which, there are many times throughout the year that I suddenly crave salsa but don't have any on hand, whereas it is a very rare moment that I think, "GOD! This PMS is killing me. IF ONLY I HAD SOME CANNED TOMATOES RIGHT NOW!!!"

Anyway.

I have learned that canning a recipe involves all the careful prep-work of raw-food canning, but also you have to prepare the recipe (well, duh), and you have to follow that recipe without variation because the ratio of acids in the food has to be just so. Or else someone could, you know, get botulism and die.

It's a little intimidating for a beginner.

Because of the whole "exact recipe" thing (which is very unlike my usual approach to cooking, and the reason I don't bake often, or well) I wasn't able to make my favorite "tomato-peach salsa". (And apparently I have to specify "tomato-peach", because there are a lot of recipes out there for "peach salsa" that don't actually involve tomatoes. Which is odd to me. But anyway.) I had to borrow a recipe from a book.

I also bought peppers in the wrong proportions (I got several pounds of jalapenos and one pound of frying peppers, instead of the other way around - now I have a surplus of jalapenos!), so I couldn't even use the recipe that I had picked out.

I ended up with a very pepper-rich, spicy salsa. I'm intrigued, because it involves making a paste from re-hydrated cayenne peppers (hence the "spicy") but I have no idea if I'm going to like it. I'm going to have to crack open one of the cans and do a taste-test to determine if it's worth making another batch.

And speaking of "worth it" - since I had to buy all the extra ingredients to go with it (my own pepper crop failed miserably), and since I only got five jars for three hours worth of labor, I do have to question if it is actually all that cost-effective. Three hours of my time (insert your own rate) minus, what, five bucks for ingredients, minus the cost of jars, minus the materials and labor involved in raising the plants? Hmmm.

MAYBE with a bigger tomato crop (lost a lot to end-rot) and a batch of my own peppers...

But anyway. I made canned tomato salsa yesterday.


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My two cents on canning.

One of the reasons that I bought a pressure canner was so that I didn't have to worry about acid levels either through not following the recipe, some tomatoes being less acidic than other, or even the unknown effect of canning tomatoes with added basil or other herbs.

The other reason was the variety of vegetables my family enjoys in tomato sauce, whether it be rattatouli or just stringbeans and tomatoes.

Have you supplemented with bone meal to help your blossom end rot problem?

bear with me, newbie here...why does using a pressure canner eliminate the worry about acid levels?

I heard that adding egg shells at the base when you transplant the seedlings helps to combat end-rot. I plan to do something like that next year. Also I think I planted the vines too close together, so they are competing too heavily for nutrients.

But on top of that we've had a terribly early, terribly hot summer, so that had a lot to do with the rot on the first fruits. Later harvests have not been so bad, so I haven't done much more than up my watering schedule.

A boiling water bath will kill all the potentially bad microbes that can survive the acidity in a high acid solution like tomato juice. For a lower acid veggies the higher heat in a pressure canner is necessary to kill the botulism spores that may be present in a low acid or base solution. The attached pdf on this link will give you more details. http://learningstore.uwex.edu/%2FCanning-Vegetables-Safely-P942.aspx

Egg shells are a good source of calcium, but if you are still getting blossom end rot you probably need more. I usually as some bone meal in June or July as insurance.

thanks for the tip and the link. I'll need to make a decision as to whether a pressure canner will be worth the investment. I'm assuming there a little more pricey than boiling water canners?

...But commercial canned tomatoes taste like crap. ;) (My mother and I usually have over a dozen tomato plants, so we generally can whole tomatoes, salsa, AND homemade ketchup every year plus freezing.)

Did you know you can freeze tomatoes with minimal prep? Just wipe them off and toss in the freezer. They emerge as wilted red rags with lots of juice floating around, but the "fresh tomato" flavor is wonderful for briefly-simmered soups, sauces, etc. Skinning couldn't be easier, either--just run under warm water, slip the skin, and set aside to finish thawing.

While you're totting up the costs, don't forget to amortize the cost of the jars--you ARE planning on reusing them next year, amirite?--and remember the value-added part: it may cost you a few cents more than Pace, but it's YOURS.

Ketchup, I've never tried that, how do you thicken it? Do you just boil out some of the water, or is there a trick?

You have to boil the hell out of it--like 8-12 hours depending on the juiciness of your tomatoes.

I use a slowcooker and just stir it every once in a while as I pass by. The flavor difference from boughten is incredible, though. (This year I'm plotting to save up some yellow tomatoes and make a yellow ketchup.)

all excellent points! I think if I had a higher yield, there'd be no doubt about the value. But if five jars is all I get (and I'm eating one as I type - finished 3/4 of it in one sitting! it is THE YUM), then maybe I would have been better off just preserving the tomatoes alone. *shrug*

Question, though - when I popped the top off of this jar of salsa, it seemed way too easy. My jars from last year needed a little wrist action. Should I be worried about the other jars?

Not if they are indeed sealed.

Keep an eye on them and if they unseal themselves, take immediate action.

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