Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My First Canning Attempt: Canned Salsa!

August is always my most CRAZY busy month of the year.  My face painting business is booming and I'm painting every weekend and most weeks during the week too.  So what do I do this year during my busiest month ever?  Why, I also decide to pile on some hard core potty training of my 2 year old, swimming lessons for my 4 year old, start and complete a major project painting my kitchen cabinets, and teaching myself how to can. So there you have it, folks...my excuse for not blogging so much this summer!
My first canned salsa!
My new garden inspired (or forced) me to take my first crack at canning this summer.  Here's what I did.  I found this amazingly helpful blog that I LOVE, called "Thy Hand Hath Provided."  So, all credit must go to "Jane," who's blog I followed pretty much word for word in this first attempt.  I toggled between two of her posts...one explaining how to can, and another with the salsa recipe and a delicious pasta sauce recipe.  I thought I'd combine the two here, with photos of my attempt, in case you'd like to try salsa as your first canning attempt too!  If you have more questions as to the process of canning, troubleshooting, etc, I'd refer you back to her awesome blog  because I am still a total beginner.  ;-)

I decided on salsa for my first time for this reason: if any of my jars didn't seal properly in the end, we could have a salsa eating party.  Win-win.  (In hindsight, something like pickles is a lot easier to start with to just get used to the canning process itself, as there is less actual cooking involved.)

I did not alter her recipe but I did alter how it was laid out.  I found it easier to keep the process moving (as recommended so the salsa doesn't over cook), by first preparing ALL the ingredients into 3 bowls that correspond to the 3 steps of the cooking of the salsa.   That way I'm not frantically chopping stuff to get it in the pot in time and can just focus on prepping my canning area, then chopping my food, then cooking it, then canning it.  It's kindof a lot to juggle otherwise.

First, gather your supplies and your groceries.

Supply List:
- Canner (or Large pot with a towel in the bottom)
- 6-8 Pint Canning jars, with bands and NEW lids (you can't re-use lids!)
- Ladel (to transport your hot salsa into the jars)
- Jar lifter (to lift your hot jars out of boiling water)
- Canning funnel (has a wide opening to fit your jars)
- Non-metal utensil (to remove bubbles...I use my plastic Tupperware orange peeler)
- A couple wood clothespins (great tip from this blog to make them easier to pick out of the water)

I got ALL of these things at garage sales, with the exception of the lids which I purchased new.  You need fresh lids every time to ensure a good seal. Here are just a few Amazon links so you can see what's out there...

There are "regular mouth" and "wide mouth" canning jars.  Wide mouth jars are handy for larger pieces of food, like pickles, whole tomatoes or potatoes, etc.  I used regular mouth for my salsa.  I found many mason jars at garage sales too and just bought new rings and bands.  But they have to be mason jars...just any old empty mayo jar will NOT do!!

Grocery List:
- olive oil
- 8 jalapeno peppers
- 5 green bell peppers
- 16 cloves of garlic
- 4 onions
- Tomatoes (8 cups' worth when chopped)
- Cilantro (1 cup fresh chopped)
- White Vinegar
- 6 oz can of tomato paste
- Spices: Cumin, Oregano, salt, sugar

Directions (for both Salsa making and Canning):

FREEBIE NOTE! I have taken the liberty of creating a handy single-page recipe and cheat sheet for your 2nd, 3rd, 4th batches of salsa, when you don't need to read every step in this blog post.  You can download it for free, here.

1 - Prepare the "canning zone." Lay a towel next to the stove, and on it set your ladel, funnel, jar lifter, bands, and non-metal utensil.

The canning zone.

2 - Start your pot boiling.  I use a pressure canner pot which is huge and thick so it takes forever to get to boiling, which is why I start heating it right away.

3 - Heat your lids.  A great tip from my canning mentor blogger... clip a few of your lids together with a wooden clothespin and drop them in the pot of water.  Try to fan them out a little bit like a deck of cards if possible...if you stack them right against each other they tend to stick and are hard to get apart when you need to use them.

4 - Sanitize your jars.  Some people run them through the sanitize cycle of their dishwasher (with no other dishes - you don't want food particles on them!). I perfer to just put them in my canner and let the boiling water do the sanitizing.  Either way works.  If you do them in the dishwasher, just leave it shut until you are ready for step 7.

5 - Prepare all of your ingredients.  This will probably be the most time consuming part, but a food processor will help speed things up a ton!
In Bowl #1: 
- 8 Jalapeno Peppers, diced fine without seeds
- 4 Green Bell Peppers, diced
- 16 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 4 Onions, Chopped

In Bowl #2:
- 8 Cups chopped/peeled tomatoes (I don't peel mine)
- 3 Tbsp Ground Cumin
- 4 tsp Dried Oregano
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp salt

In Bowl #3:
- 1 6-oz Can Tomato Paste
- 6 Tbsp White Vinegar
- 1 C Chopped Fresh Cilantro

6 - Make the salsa. Piece of cake now that you have everything done in bowls...
Saute contents of bowl #1 in 1/2 C olive oil until almost tender.

Add bowl #2 and bring to a simmer.

Add bowl #3 and heat through.  Bring back to a simmer.
Salsa is ready to can now!  Back to the big pot-o-water...

7 - Lift your jars out of the boiling water and set them on the towel in your "canning zone."  Don't dry them with a towel, just pour excess water out of them and back into the canner.  (Or, remove them from the dishwasher now if you did that instead)
Pour out excess water

Set them on the towel in your "canning zone"
8 - Fill the jars. Set your canning funnel on a jar, then ladle the hot salsa into the jar until you come within 1/2" from the top of the jar.  Repeat until you fill them all.  (If you have some left over, just put it in the fridge and enjoy it right away!)
Ready to fill!

I got this metal funnel at a garage sale.  You'll likely find plastic ones in stores.
Oooh, pretty!
9 - Remove bubbles. Jiggle your jars a little and scrape the insides with your non-metal utensil to help remove as many air bubbles as you can.

10 - Wipe rims. Use a damp paper towel or towel to wipe the rims of all the jars. They need to be clean and clear of food particles to create a proper seal.

11 - Apply lids. Pull your clothespins of lids out of the boiling water with some tongs and let them cool enough to handle, then set them on each jar.

12 - Add bands. Screw on bands until they just meet resistance, "fingertip tight."  Put one hand in your pocket if it helps resist the urge to grab the jars and screw too tight! Pressure will need to be able to release through the lids as they boil so don't screw too tight.
Not too tight, now!
13 - Set jars.  Gently lower each jar into the canner with jar lifter.  If you don't have a rack in your pot, put a towel on the bottom to prevent bubbles from knocking the jars into each other.  The water should be up to the jars' shoulders so adjust water level here if needed.

14 - "Process." Bring the pot back to a boil and then set your timer for 10 minutes.

15 - Remove jars. After 10 minutes of processing, lift each jar out with the jar lifter and set on your towel.  Keep them straight upright as you lift.  Do not disturb them!  Don't tip them to pour off water from the lids or wipe them dry...you can clean the lids after they seal.  Sit back and let them cool and (hopefully) seal. You'll know they are sealed when the raised button on the lid sinks in.

You may hear them "pop" as they seal.  Some may seal right away, some may take a few hours, and some may not seal at all.  If I have any that don't seal, I stick them in the fridge and use them right away.  RESIST THE URGE to touch the lids!  Doing so may cause the "pop" but create a false seal.

16 - Label and store.  Once they are cooled and sealed, you can use a Sharpie and write on the lids or make some labels.  Now I know you don't see pretty photos of canned foods with the rings removed, but Ball recommends you take the rings off and wipe down the lids before storing them.  The rings are only there to keep the lids in place during processing. The jars do NOT need the rings on them for storage...if you need the rings to hold the lids on then they haven't properly sealed anyway.  You should be able to pick up each jar by the lid, no matter how heavy, without the lid coming off, if they have properly sealed. Also, moisture and food does seep out through the lids during processing, and if you leave it under there it can make your lids nasty and rust out your rings.  Rings can be re-used next time you can, and you may also want to put rings back on them if you are transporting them or giving them as gifts.  So remove those rings, and wipe down the lids.  Store in a cool, dark place and enjoy the fruits of your labor whenever you have a salsa craving!


Woah, was that a lot of work?  Yeah, kinda. It feels that way the first time.  But it can be fun and addicting, and you'll really be glad you did it, especially in the dead of winter when you want to enjoy some fresh garden goodness, or want to give some wonderful homemade food as Christmas gifts.  It really does get easier the more you do it.  I have 3 tomato plants, one of them grape tomatoes.  So far I have made TONS of salsa, pasta sauce, and even some relish and pickles with my cucumbers.  I don't find this recipe to be very hot at all, so if you want to make it spicier, you can add more jalapenos.  My husband likes it more runny, less chunky, and hotter.  So, I have been doing batches with more jalapenos and more puree'd for him.  If you missed the link back in the post to my free printable recipe and cheat sheet, download it here and print it out for next time so you don't have to scroll through a blog post every time.  Have fun and stock up on tortilla chips, because you'll need 'em!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome job! And what an excellent and helpful tutorial you made available for your readers. Keep up the great work!:-)



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