Garden Salsa for Canning

I've been making fresh salsa for at least a good ten years now.  For the first eight or so years, I was completely content to to simply enjoy the good stuff during tomato season and just deal with the less-tasty version during the winter months if the fresh salsa bug hit me and tomatoes were at a decent price.  It had never really occurred to me that it would be worth going through the trouble of canning salsa for those winter months, as every jar of salsa I had ever purchased just couldn't compare with the fresh stuff.  Little did I know how wrong I was.

It wasn't until I was at my grandma's birthday party a couple of years ago and tried my aunt's canned salsa that I decided that I must give canning salsa a try.  This was no Pace picante sauce, this was some serious garden salsa with some serious garden flavor.  I got the recipe from my aunt (named after the small town in North Dakota where my mom's family is from), picked up some jars, borrowed my mom's canner, and gave myself a little refresher course in canning (it had been quite a few years since I helped my mom can anything).  16 satisfying sealing jar "pop"s later, I was hooked.

As I wrap up Salsa Week, and find myself a week closer to fall, it only seems right to end with this recipe.   Trust me when I tell you that salsa never tasted so good or fresh in the winter than when you pop open a jar of canned garden salsa!

Two batches of this salsa gets us through an entire winter, though with the number of family and friends who have come to expect a jar or two for Christmas and birthday presents, I could probably put up a third batch without a drop going to waste.

A few things I do that you might also find helpful:
If you want to can salsa, it is of the utmost importance that you use a recipe that is acidic enough for canning.   Before you start canning check out these great resources on canning salsa and canning safe salsa recipes:

University of Minnesota Extension: Canning Tomatoes and Tomato-Based Salsa 
North Dakota State University Extension: From the Garden to the Table: Salsa!
National Center for Home Food Preservation: Canning Safe Salsa Recipes
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service: Sensational Salsas
Garden Salsa for Canning (Mantador Salsa)
2 gallons fresh roma tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup canning salt
3 tablespoons mustard seeds (1.1 oz jar)
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup vinegar
3 large onions
1 bunch of celery (including leaves)
4 sweet bell peppers
2 bulbs of garlic, all cloves peeled and chopped
10-25 jalapeno and hot chili peppers (10 for a milder salsa; 25 for a hotter salsa)

Peel and quarter the tomatoes and place in a large bowl (or divide between two bowls).  Sprinkle with salt, cover, and let sit overnight.  

Transfer tomatoes into a large stock pot, reserving all of the liquid in a pitcher (you may incorporate some or all of it back into the salsa during cooking time, if desired).  Start cooking down the tomatoes over medium high heat, stirring occasionally.  Start chopping all of the vegetables (size according to preference).  Add the mustard seeds, sugar, and vinegar to the tomatoes, along with the chopped vegetables.  Continue to cook until thickened, stirring frequently.  

Transfer hot salsa into sterilized jars, leaving half an inch headspace.  Process pint jars in a hot water bath for 30 minutes (35 minutes if using quart jars).  If using a pressure cooker, use 5 lbs of pressure for 10 minutes.

Makes 15-18 pints

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