Friday, September 21, 2012

Turn those Home Grown Tomatoes into Homemade Salsa

Your journey from tomato seed to edible tomato began a few months ago. Now you have so many tomatoes you aren’t sure what to do with all of them. You have given so many to the neighbors that when they see you coming they close their front doors and hide, because they don’t want anymore. Ok, maybe it’s not that bad, but you get the point.

One of the best ways to preserve your tomato harvest is to learn some canning methods. Particularly the water bath canning method. I will get to more on that in a moment. This method allows you to take your tomatoes and safely preserve them for consumption later on. If done correctly, they could last for up to one year.

But if you really want to maximize your time, efforts and tomato harvest, then combine the canning process with pre-made dishes. In other words, before you can your tomatoes, turn them into something first, i.e. tomato sauce, tomato soup, or as is the case with this article, salsa. What you choose is up to you, but it will definitely make things easier later on down the line.

Today I am focusing in on salsa. You can add it to just about anything, or nothing at all and use it as a dip for chips and tortillas. When you make a salsa from your own home grown tomatoes, it really tastes that much better. So let’s begin. 

I would like to say that I am a seasoned chef and conjured up my own salsa recipe, however I did not.  I use a pre-made mix that requires adding nothing more than my own tomatoes and distilled vinegar.

As shown in the picture, I used Mrs. Wages salsa mix.  A nice and easy recipe that anyone with 10 minutes and a working stove can make (and tomatoes of course).

I chose the mild/medium salsa as I am not one that likes things too spicy, however, even that had a bit of a kick to it.  At least to me anyway.

Follow the instructions on the back to prepare the mix.  The only thing you will need to add is vinegar and your tomatoes.  So below I gave a brief example of how to get your tomatoes started.

I used a variety of tomatoes to make up my salsa.  This season I grew beefsteak, romas and cherry.  If you look in the photo you will see a combination of all three, with a bit more romas then the others.

Most people use only romas because they are easy to cut the core out and keep the seeds out of their salsa mix.  The choice is up to you.

To get your tomatoes ready for the salsa mix, you will first need to blanch them.  This makes removing the skins (which you don't want), much much easier.  Blanching is simply the process of putting your tomatoes into boiling water for 45 seconds, then removing them and immediately submerging them into ice water.

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Once the blanching process has been completed, move the tomatoes to an area with enough space and start removing the skins by hand.  You should not have to use a knife or any other tool to remove the skins.  Save the knife for the dicing step.  If you do, place the tomato back into the boiling water for a little bit longer.

After you have "skinned" the tomatoes, use a sharp knife to dice them.  Cut the tomatoes into small cubes then place the diced tomatoes into your salsa mix. 

Follow the instructions on the back of the pack, which is bringing the tomato mixture to a boil, then reducing the heat and letting it simmer for 10 minutes.

If you plan on canning your salsa for long term storage, then please read the rest of this article.  If you plan on consuming your salsa within the next few weeks, then you can skip the canning portion and read the part of putting the salsa into canning jars.

If you plan to "can" your salsa
Before you begin the above tomato salsa mix, get your canning supplies ready.  Get your water bath going over high heat to get it to a boil and another large pot on a medium to low heat that you will submerge your jars, lids and bands into to sterilize.

I used pint sized jars and made enough to fill four and a half pints.  I felt using smaller jars made it easier to consume in reasonable sized quantities later on.

Get your other canning tools ready.  They normally consist of a jar grabber, tongs, a magnet, funnel and jar tightener.

Each serve a valuable purpose in the canning process.  If you have never canned before, I recommend that you read, Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

It is a great source of information on diving into the world of canning and food preservation.

After your mix has finished simmering, use the funnel and a ladle to pour the mixture into one of your canning jars leaving a quarter inch of head space.  That is the space from the top of the jar to the top of the salsa inside the jar.  

Once you have your jars filled and sealed with a lid and band, submerge your filled jars into your boiling water bath.  Once the water returns to a rolling boil, then the clock begins.  Boil your jars for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, use your jar grabbers to remove the jars and place them on a cooling rack or towel to let cool.  You will know that your jars properly sealed if you hear them begin to pop.  That can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending on the contents of the jar.

If you find that your jar did not seal properly you can either try again, or place that jar in the fridge and consume within a couple of weeks.

And that's it!  You now have tasty salsa.

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us. Be sure to join Mike`s vegetable seeds mailing list.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

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