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Making salsa became part of my life for two reasons. The commercial brands get expensive on a tight budget. Second, it was a much better dietary option for “snacking” than chip dip. So I thought I’d give it a try, beginning with a basic salsa then making a fruited one.

Before making your first batch, however, it’s important to realize that salsa needs vinegar and/or lemon juice because of the low-acid ingredients therein. Having vinegar and lemon juice avoids certain very nasty bacterial growths. Thankfully, even the fruited salsa recipes I’ve seen include one or both of those ingredients and they don’t detract from the finished products flavor in the least.

With that caveat in mind, the next consideration is your key ingredients. The main component to a traditional salsa is tomatoes. I like fresh Roma tomatoes for this since they have lower water content, and I adore thick salsa. If you prefer a juicier salsa, you can use regular salad tomatoes. Some people remove the tomato skin before preparing their salsa, but I find leaving it on helps keep the tomato crispier in processing. Another fun alternative is using green tomatoes as a foundation, for a southern flair.

The second ingredients are your peppers. Ranging from sweet to hot, the blend chosen determines the level of heat in your salsa. In sweet peppers, I like to use several colors for visual appeal. For hot peppers, the smaller the chili the hotter it tends to be. For 12 pints of salsa, for example, I will only use ONE scotch bonnet and two or three jalapenos, but as many as five banana peppers, for example. No matter what blend you choose, please wear gloves and keep your hands away from your face. I can tell you first hand how uncomfortable a little left over chili juice felt on my eyebrow – it’s a mistake I do not intend to make twice.

What you add to this foundation depends on your personal tastes. For savory blends I like to add a variety of onions, chives, and garlic. For sweeter salsa I add fruits, ginger, and other cooperative spices. The size of each item added to the salsa should, in my opinion, be relatively uniform so you get a bite of every flavor each time you dip in! Beyond this I have some hints I’d like to share for success:

# While there are recipes for hot water canned salsas, its safer to pressure-cook them. In this case, I suggest starting with the chopped raw components placed into the canning jars. The salsa will cook in the pressure cooker but not turn to mush this way.
# Try adding a little honey to your salsa. It’s a great preservative and provides a sweet balance point.
# Always use the freshest ingredients possible – the flavor of the salsa really benefits.
# Keep your salsa stored in a dark, dry space (ideal temperature between 50 and 70 degrees F.)

Finally try to use your salsa within 12-15 months for best results.


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