Salsa, friends and another tradition…

My friend and I have been making salsa together for at least 10 years every Fall when the freshest local tomatoes and hot peppers are in season.  It has become a tradition that we look forward to not only because we then enjoy amazing salsa all year round, but because we enjoy spending time together talking about life. Over the years we’ve shared our hearts about our kids, our marriages, lost jobs, cancer, to sell or not to sell a wedding dress, our fears and the things that bring us joy. Friends need each other. I am blessed to have that kind of friend.

I encourage you to call a friend and start a tradition. Spend time together making salsa…a tradition we are passing on to our daughters.


What you will need to make 27-28 (500ml) jars.


27-28 (500ml) canning jars and lids

16L/16qt stock pot

latex gloves (a few pairs)

small chopping device (food processor)

sharp knives, large and small

48 cups roma tomatoes ( approx. 25 lbs)

6 tbsp sugar

6 tbsp salt

5 tsp dried oregano

5 tsp ground cumin

3 tbsp chili powder

1 1/2 cup vinegar

6  tbsp cornstarch

2 large orange, 1 large green, 1 large red bell peppers- about 8 cups chopped (any combination)

9 cups onions (approx 4 large- can be walla walla or winter yellow onion) chopped

2 heads garlic


* A note about hot peppers. Our salsa has some spice, though mine is a little less than my friend. It will all depend on your family and how much “zing” they want. Compared to a store bought salsa, mine would be medium. If you like it “hot” just add a few hot peppers more with the seeds in.

7 mild banana peppers (yellow or orange or any combination) chopped, remove seeds

5 hot chili peppers with seeds, chop fine in food processor

16 hot cayenne peppers with seeds, chop fine in food processor

5 hot pot belly peppers, chopped, remove seeds

30 jalepeno peppers, chopped, remove seeds

2 bunches cilantro chopped fine, stem removed

6  – 51/2 ounce tin tomatoe paste, low sodium

1 bottle your favorite white or red wine (optional)for sipping as you work:)

1 bag whole grain tortilla chips (optional) for tasting.

* A note about chopping. It will depend on how chunky you want your salsa. Over the years we have experimented with many different mechanical devices and have found that we prefer to hand chop most everythings except the onions, the garlic, the cayenne and chili peppers.

1. Hand chop tomatoes and add to the pot. Then add the spices and sugar and turn on to a very low simmer.

2. Start chopping all other ingredients and add to the pot as you go leaving the hot peppers until the end. We usually start with the sweet bell peppers, then the onions and garlic and then we put on the gloves for the rest. Stir after you add each new ingredient being careful   it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Adjust the temperature as needed. 

* A note about your stock pot. I finally bought a good quality stock pot this year because my salsa was always sticking to the bottom and some years burned at the bottom. It was worth it. I only wish I had splurged sooner. I also bought a “simmerpad” which sits on the element and keeps the heat more even and prevents burning. It worked like a charm for my friend, whose pot also has burned the bottom some years. We are using a gas stove. I am not sure if this makes a difference, but a low simmer to start is best, with the temperature increased just a little once everything is in.

3.  Add the cornstarch to the vinegar, mix well and add to the pot. Stir until everything is combined and  then make sure you simmer long enough to get it hot and almost boiling.

4. Meanwhile, prepare your jars for canning. We run one  batch through the dishwasher while the other already clean jars go into the oven for 10 minutes at 225 degrees.

5. Put on a pot of water and add your new canning lids (one batch at a time) and heat to just a boil, then remove from the heat.

6. This is where teamwork now really comes into play. One person will be filling the hot jars, 2 come out at a time, while the other makes sure the tops of the jars are clean, then adds the lid and screws on the ring. The key thing is to not fill the jar too full, or too little. or they won’t seal.  We still cheer everytime we hear that little “pop”. In all the years we have been making salsa, we have never had a jar not seal, we have never poisoned our family. Now do it all over again, starting with sterilizing the jars in the oven. (We both make this recipe and take home 27 jars of salsa!)