Sunday, September 22, 2013

Canning Salsa


A couple of weeks ago I took a day off work.  It was Todd's Sunday.  Our plans were to can our tomatoes and canning we did!  We used to make salsa all from scratch but we have found Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix is just as good and we pick up the packets the end of the season when they are on clearance.  Great deal and much cheaper than buying all the ingredients for our salsa from scratch recipe.  Now we do add to the packet when we have a crop of onions and peppers.  This year we did not add to Mrs. Wages except for our tomatoes.  We plant mainly Roma Tomatoes because they tend to make better sauce.  We have found the regular tomatoes are better for fresh salsa.  Roma's have less juice and more actual tomato.

We began the process at 8:00 am that morning by washing the tomatoes and starting a large pot of water on the stove to boil.  Once the water started to boil we add the tomatoes in scalding water for 3 minutes.  We then removed the tomatoes and placed them in the sink we had filled with cold water.  This stops the cooking process.  We then core the tomatoes, but in the case of the Roma's we just cut the top where the tomato were they were attached to the bush and then remove the skin of each tomato.  Be careful because the tomatoes are hot still.  We kept doing this until all of the tomatoes we were going to use for our canning day, by 11:15 am all of the tomatoes were skinned for the day.

While we scalding the tomatoes and removing the skin, I typically will squeeze the juice out of each tomato and then place them in our food processor.  Once I have it full I will chop the tomatoes, leaving them chunky.  We prefer chunky salsa in our house. 
To save time cooking we make double batches.  Each packet takes about six pounds of fresh tomatoes, which is approximately 36 Roma Tomatoes.  Since we are making double batches each pot will need approximately 72 Roma Tomatoes.  Once all the tomatoes have been processed we then add them to our cooking pot, then add 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar per packet (in our case 1 cup) and the packets to the cooking pot.  Stir the seasoning and vinegar.  I use a wooden spoon, it is supposed to be better for the cooking process.  I am not sure why, it is just what I have read when researching our first year of canning.  After everything has been mixed place on the stove, once the pot begins to boil reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  While the pot is cooking we turn on the burner for our large canning pot filled with water and get a small sauce pan ready to heat the lids.  *Note: You want your canning jars hot and sterilized.  The jars need to be hot once you place your salsa or sauce whatever you are canning. If your jars are room temperature you are taking a chance of the jars chattering from the extreme heat difference once you place the jars in your canning pot for the water bath.*
We wanted to can most of our tomatoes and needed to be done as close to 5 pm because of picking Taj up from daycare.  Each batch will take awhile to heat to boil and then cooking an additional 10 minutes (for salsa), so I thought it would be a great idea to use our burner on our grill as well.  This way we have 4 batches of salsa cooking. 
Thankfully it was a beautiful day.  The weather was not too hot nor did it rain.  We only had one wooden spoon, so I had to use our plastic one.  This batch is our hot salsa.  Remember to stir occasionally to prevent the salsa burning or scorching.
Once the cooking process is done, We (mostly Todd because I was working on the tomatoes) would use a ladle and fill our canning jars (remember they need to be warm or hot jars still), leaving 1/2 inch head room.  Head room is the space from the lip of the jar and the salsa in this case.  If by chance you spill any on the edge or in this head room, you have to wipe it clean to prevent bacteria growing.
Once the jars are filled, you place your lid, which has been warmed up in boiling water, on top of the jar and twist the outer ring of the lid.  You only need to twist finger tight. Place the jars in the canning pot, but be careful for the cans not to be touching.  The water needs to cover the jars and should be boiling prior to placing the jars inside.  For salsa, the water bath time is 40 minutes.  This is where the time comes in, the most we could water bath at a time was 7 pints or 6 quarts.  *Note: While the jars are in the water bath, you need to cover your pot.  I took the lid off just to take a picture.*
After 40 minutes remove the lid carefully to avoid a steam burn.  You have to pay attention seriously.  I burnt myself canning three years ago. Second degree burn, basically the entire width of my arm.  I turned my head just for a moment to see why Taj was crying.  It only takes one awful second.
Okay, now back to the canning... after the water bath is done, you carefully lift the lid and then take out each jar.  You need to place the jars on a clean towel and do not move them for 24 hours.  You will hear popping noises for the next few hours, that is good.  After 24 hours, you should check your jars.  If the center pops, then you will need to start the water bath process all over.  You will have one more chance to get it right.
We made three double batches of salsa...that is 216 Roma Tomatoes.
 31 jars of salsa, mild, medium, and hot.

We also did a double batch of pizza sauce.  Another 72 more Roma Tomatoes.   After using roughly 288 tomatoes we still had two full boxes of tomatoes.
The smaller box I used to make more salsa (and our last for this year) on Saturday and Sunday after we canned that week.  I ended up making 10 quarts more.  We ran out of pint jars.  My family loves it and so do my friends who are lucky enough to get some. 

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