Homemade Salsa

Last year was the first year my girls and I made salsa.  My friend Angie has an awesome recipe that she shared with me and we tweaked it for our own tastes.  We made several different batches and added a different level of “hotness” to each one.  I’ve noted at the bottom what you can add/subtract to get the spiciness you want.

Today we finally had enough good tomatoes to make one batch of salsa. (My tomatoes and a few peppers got hit by End Bottom Rot and I hope I have it under control now.)  I will say this – if you want to make salsa – have enough ingredients and pans to make up 2 – 4 batches or more to cut down on your time in the kitchen.  By the end of next week we should have enough tomatoes to make the 2 – 4 batches at once but we were anxious to make our first batch today and patience is not our middle name.

This is going to be lengthy so sit back, relax and enjoy watching my daughters at work!  Hey – they eat it, they help make it.

We first start by taking the skins off the tomatoes.  You probably don’t have to but I like it without them on.  So you first blanche the tomatoes by placing them in boiling water for about 20 seconds.  Immediately take them out and immerse them in ice cold water.  This process allows the skins of the tomatoes to easily peel off just by slitting the skin.


Once you have the tomatoes skinned you have 2 options.  If you have a food processor – cut them into quarters and finely chop them in the food processor.  If you don’t have one, cut them into little pieces yourself.  Last year I didn’t have a food process to use and it took us much longer to complete the prep process.  This year I have my mom’s old one and it saved us at least 10 minutes of cutting time.

Now that the tomatoes are ready, cut your onion and peppers into small pieces or let the food processor do the work for you.

Put all of this into a stock pot.  I used a dutch oven for this batch and it was just the right size.  Next you need to add your minced garlic, vinegar, salt and cilantro.  Stir it up well and place on the stovetop on high until it starts to boil.

Once it boils, you will want to turn the heat down to medium and cook it until the mixture reduces to about half.  Make sure you don’t just walk away from the stove though – you need to stir the mixture every 5 – 8 minutes so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.

About an hour or so later, the mixture will be reduced to about half and it is ready to put into sterile jars.  I put mine in half pints and added sugar to the bottom of each one.  This gives it a little bit of sweet flavor and I love it!

Fill your jars up making sure to leave about ½” space at the top.  Put the lids on your jar and then screw on the tops.  After about 10 minutes, check the tops to make sure they are as tight as they can get.  Now just wait for the lids to seal themselves.  If the lid does not seal, you will need to refrigerate your jar and use it within a week.

Now I know I had questions about this process last year too but this is what I found out.  If you do not alter the amount of vinegar and tomatoes, the acid from them will be enough to kill the bacteria and if the lid seals properly, your salsa is safe.  HOWEVER, if you want to put them in a hot water bath or pressure cooker, you certainly can.

One word to the wise here – the pot you cook your salsa in will keep a salsa “hotness” flavor in it until you boil some water and put a little bit of vinegar in there too.  This helps draw out the flavors.  We found this out the hard way last year.  We made a batch of salsa in our dutch oven and the next night I ended up making a very spicy batch of popcorn – not on purpose.  The pepper taste was all over our popcorn.  Not exactly the way we like it.

If you’ve always wanted to make salsa but didn’t know where to start – start here.  It’s not hard but it does take some time.

We like our salsa with chips, on tacos and scrambled eggs.  What do you like to put salsa on?

***  After my recipe was posted, I had a reader tell me that the method I used to prepare the salsa was unsafe and could cause food poisoning or botulism.  The method I used is an old school method.  If I felt it was unsafe, I would not have shared it with you.  Use your best judgment on how you want to prepare your jars.  If you feel they need a hot water bath to complete the sealing process, here is a sight that explains how to do it.

Homemade Salsa

This recipe is very versatile. If you don’t like onions, you don’t have to put them in. If you don’t like garlic, you don’t have to use them.
Make it how you like it.
The seeds in the peppers are what add more spice to your salsa. So if you like a spicier salsa, add more seeds from the jalapeno and bell peppers. If you really want it hot, use a red hot jalapeno pepper. If you want a milder salsa, use red bell peppers in place of the green peppers and take out all of the seeds in the jalapeno peppers.

The recipe below is a little bit spicy but not so hot that you need to call the fire department.

Yield: 8 - 9 half pints

Prep Time: 20 - 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 1/2 - 2 hours


• 5 pounds tomatoes (blanched, skinned, cored and chopped into 1 inch cubes)
• 4 green peppers (chopped into small pieces)
• 1 large onion (chopped into small pieces)
• 4 jalapeno or hot peppers cut into small pieces – use ½ or ¾ of the seeds depending on the level of “hotness” you want
• 4 tablespoons minced garlic
• 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
• ½ cup vinegar (5% acidity)
• 4 teaspoons salt
• 2 teaspoons of sugar for every half pint filled


1. Blanche tomatoes and cut into 1” pieces or smaller.
2. Cut onions and peppers into small pieces.
3. Add all ingredients, except sugar, into a large pan and bring to a boil. Boil and reduce until half the original amount (about 1 hour).
4. Before filling jars, make sure the lids and jars are sterilized. Run them through your dishwasher or sterilize them in hot water.
5. Put 2 teaspoons of sugar into each half pint used.
6. Pour hot salsa immediately into the jars leaving ½” space on top.
7. Put lids on jars and seal tightly, using a cloth to hold the hot jars.
8. When done filling jars, go back and retighten previous jars. Wait for the lids to seal. Listening for the “pop”.
9. You don’t need to pressure cook or hot bath because the hot salsa seals the jars on their own. The vinegar in the recipe along with the acid of the tomatoes kills the bacteria while cooking. However, if you feel you would like to pressure cook or use a hot bath for your jars, you can and it will not affect the salsa.