Zesty Salsa…and a Gift For One of You

Day 277

“This may quite possibly be, the craziest thing you’ve ever done before leaving on a trip.” (pause) “No…this IS the craziest thing you’ve ever done before leaving on a trip considering you need to be up by 4 am and you still haven’t packed.”
I was listening to my handsome guy as I lowered my jars of “zesty salsa” into their water bath and I knew he spoke the truth…but I couldn’t help myself. No. This is how I operate. Sometimes I need a serious “fire lit” to get anything done and a few hours before leaving on a trip for 4 days without my family seemed like the perfect time to can salsa.
Ever since I had generously been invited to watch Chef Clark of Wildwood give a canning demonstration this summer, while at the same time dining on his fine cuisine, I have been intrigued to can. Canning is not my “department”. The first (and last) time I canned anything was when I was a shiny, new bride. (A long, long time ago.) Interestingly, I canned salsa then too. The recipe called for worcestershire sauce. (Need I say more.) I never actually tasted that salsa but somehow felt confident enough to give it away to family and friends for Christmas. Curiously, no one ever said anything to me about it, especially things like, “I loved your salsa. It is to die for.”

Day 276
I’ve always left the canning up to my lovely, lovely mother. Upon arriving at our home for Christmas, she and my father will unload their boxes full of gifts. One of those boxes is always filled with gift bags. Sometimes they are homemade. Sewn from soft, Christmas-red fabric. Other times, they arrive in humble paper bags with ribbons cascading from their handles. Either way, those on the receiving end of this thoughtful gift can’t help but reach into the bag, pull away the tissue paper and admire the gift she beholds. A jar of deep plum Blueberry Jam. Possibly a jar of downy, pale green Dilly Beans. And always, a jar of luminescent orange Pepper Jelly. The colors…so enchanting. The gift…so generous.
I had inspected the Heirloom tomatoes I had bought the week before at our farmer’s market and I knew it was now or never. Not yesterday. Or two days ago. (That would be much too civilized and orderly.) No, it was right now. Now, when I should be making dinner. Now, when I should be packing. Now, when I should be printing out an excel spreadsheet with the who, what, where, when and why of “The Lives of Our Children” and a menu of dinner suggestions for the four days I would be gone in the hopes that they would eat more than pizza. Somehow I managed to pull my three jars out of their warm bath, set them on the counter, pack, get a healthy 4 hours of sleep, kiss my chickens good-bye while they slept and be whisked off in the middle of the night just in time to catch my plane to San Francisco.
Upon arriving home after my trip, hugs were given out all around. The loot I came home with was inspected. And then, I headed straight into the kitchen to check on my 11th hour project. There they were. Still sitting right where I had left them. Looking at those jars, they made me smile. I don’t know. There was something so, so…wholesome about them. So…motherly. So…”hand-crafted.” So…simple. And with their kaleidoscope of colors…so lovely. I pulled my little guy up on my lap, having desperately missed his hugs while I was gone, and admired my handiwork. There were only 3 of them. Not quite enough to go around to everyone for the holidays but even so, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction. A minute or two went by before my littlest one motioned for me to come closer. Under the assumption that he, himself, was going to comment on the pretty jars, I had to quickly choke back the immediate rush of tears when he whispered in my ear, “Please don’t move to China.” (His small way of saying he missed me.)

Zesty Salsa - Take 2

Zesty Salsa…and a Gift for One of You, My Dear Friends
Now, I don’t make it a habit to endorse anything that I haven’t stumbled upon on my own. Or that I don’t regularly use but the kind folks at Jarden Home Brands have generously offered to send one of you, my kind friends, a Ball Canning Discovery Kit…for free. And since technically, I have actually tried it out and found it to be quite the slick little kit, (especially for novice canners like me) who am I to turn down their thoughtful offer. I know that you all are a bit comment-shy which is fine, really…but in this instance, should you be interested in possibly receiving this gift, you’ll need to leave me a comment below by Friday, October 15, with your name and email address. Recognizing that the comment feature here on blogger is not exactly “user friendly” here’s a little tip: If you do not have a google account and have no desire to obtain one, choose the “anonymous” identity and then, in the body of your comment leave your name and email address. Sometimes the comment doesn’t post right away and you’ll need to hit “preview” first. I’ll then put your names in a hat and have my littlest guy pull one out to determine the benefactor of this here gift.
One last request, since I’m new to canning, should you happen to be leaving me a comment below, I’m curious what you might be canning. If you’ve been canning for a long time, what is your favorite food to can? If you’re just trying it out for the first time, what are you anxious to try?
If you’re a canning pro and simply want the recipe, I’ve typed it up below. I did actually taste this salsa and “Yum!” So delicious. I think “Zesty” is the perfect name for this salsa with it’s bright and lively mingling of flavors. The only change I made to the original recipe was to switch out green peppers for red. Other than that I stayed with the “tried and true” recipe to avoid a little thing called…botulism.
5 c chopped, cored, peeled tomatoes (approx 10 medium)
2 1/2 cups chopped seeded green bell peppers (I used red.)
2 1/2 c chopped onions (approx 1 lg or 2 med)
1 1/4 c chopped, seeded chili peppers (hot banana, Hungarian, etc.)
2/3 c cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce, optional
Prepare your gear by washing you jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well. Keep jars warm until ready to use to reduce risk of jars breaking when filled with hot food. You can heat them in a pot of simmering water or in a heated dishwasher.
Fill a stockpot that is at least 7 1/2 inches tall and 9 1/2 inches in diameter with enough water to cover jars with at least 1 inch of water and heat to a simmer.
Combine tomatoes, green (red) peppers, onions, chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, cilantro, salt and hot pepper sauce (optional), in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Ladle hot salsa into jars, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace between the food and the rim of the jar. Remove air bubbles by sliding a small, non-metallic spatula inside the jar and gently pressing food against the opposite side of the jar. Re-measure headspace. If needed, add more salsa to meet the 1/2 inch headspace recommendation. Wipe rim; center lid on jar. Screw band until fingertip-tight.
Place filled jars into canning rack, then lower into stockpot of simmering water, ensuring jars are covered by 1 inch of water. Put lid on pot. Heat to steady boil and boil for 20 minutes. Remove stockpot lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars and allow to cool for at least 12 hours. Press on center of cooled lid. If jar is sealed, the lid will NOT flex up or down. Whoo! Hoo! You’ve just canned. You can store your jars of zesty salsa in a pantry for up to 1 year.


Yield: 3 pint-sized jars of salsa

PS: Truth be told…you could also bag the whole canning aspect of this recipe and simply enjoy this “zesty salsa” fresh from the pot. (Well, maybe let it cool down a bit, but you know what I mean.)

All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010


  1. Oh, I would love to win this!

  2. I would love to win the canning set. My friend Barb Toso has been up to her arms in pickles this summer and it sounds like lots of fun!

    Love the recipe's have tried the applesauce, yum. Small batch but a winner.

    ter (Terry Cooke)

  3. What a wonderful idea! I'd love to win this kit. If I do win (or just buy it myself), I think my first canning project will be your salsa.

    P.S. I had to choke back tears myself.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Not a canner here either Carrie; however, each fall my sister and I take on pickles. They are so yummy with the fresh dill, garlic and red peppers….some spicy, some not. The spicy ones are so much better. Have always wanted to try salsa, so you've inspired me.

    Tricia Johnson

  5. I've always wanted to try canning – this might just be the inspiration I needed. Thanks Carrie, as always I LOVE reading what you write!


  6. Courtney Cook Hopp says:

    Canning? Seriously? When did you learn how to can? I want to learn how to can! Are you sure we were raised in the same family? And YES . . . family nepotism aside, I want one of those jars of salsa!!! You know how to reach me.

  7. YESSSS! I've been staring down a heaping bowl of freshly harvested tomatoes, trying to figure out what to do with them. Why is canning so intimidating to me?! Thanks for the post!

  8. Meg DesCamp says:

    Holy cow, you canned salsa? Even my mom, the most amazing canner, was always a little leery of doing tomatoes because of the botulism thingy. My canning right now has been limited to jams and I always end up with multiple hot water burns because my equipment stinks. Put my name in the hopper, please
    PS: Best canning memory ever: Canning peaches all day long on a really hot day, and the kitchen floor got so covered with peach juice that by the end of the day we kids were running and sliding in it from end of the kitchen to the other, screaming at the top of our lungs. Clean-up was horrendous.

  9. I am guilty of canning at odd hours myself- the night before exams, two days after giving birth, hours before leaving for a party. There is something satisfying about the process that just calms my nerves and slows everything down.

    With tomatoes I usually just make sauce, but your salsa recipe looks delicious.

  10. strawberry CAKE says:

    My mom canned like a maniac. i think she scared me off from it. I have not canned at all, and now I would like to, but feel like there might be too much of a learning curve, or maybe it will all come back to me, like riding a bike. Your pictures are beautiful! would love to win the kit, might get my booty in gear!

  11. Anonymous says:

    I can a lot. Used to do tomatoes and then figured out to roast them. It's a CINCH. Roast and freeze. Way less work. But I miss the beauty of canned tomatoes, so I will come to your blog. LOL. Beautiful post, my friend! xo

    Reluctant Entertainer

  12. So, am I crazy to have canned salsa? Should I have started with jam? Love hearing what all of you have canned or want to try.

    @Terry – I agree the applesauce is scrumptious but there is never enough. Will only double recipe from now on and I'm considering canning it. I'm gettin' crazy now.

    @Meg – So what are you saying? I'm a little nutty to have tackled tomatoes? Chef Clark made it look so easy. (But then again he's a 4-star chef.) And I have one word for your mother: Sainthood

    @Sandy – Now you tell me the "cinchy" way….but why would I want less work? 🙂

  13. Anonymous says:

    I just tried canning for the 1st time this summer, we went a little overboard and canned sweet salsa, bread and butter pickles, dill pickles, peaches, berry jam, peach jam, and brushetta. I think the brushetta was my favorite.
    I can't wait to try your salsa.

  14. Jenny Sunshine says:

    I canned salsa for the first time this summer- while I prefer my dear aunt nancy's top secret recipe that she refuses to give me, my hubby loved my extra spicy salsa!

  15. I've yet to can, but this looks absolutely lovely! Carrie, it was so fantastic to meet you last week (I can't believe it's been a week!!). I love how you write, too. Beautiful.