Learning to Can

Like lots of things I’ve come to like as an adult (upholstering, traveling to  places on a budget, listening to NPR), canning is one thing I watched my parents do on many occasions while growing up and only later learned to appreciate. I sort of wish I had learned to do them earlier, but then I probably wouldn’t find them so interesting now!

My mom would often can jam and my dad would usually can salsa and tomatoes, to save the fruit from summer plants to last all winter long (how Little House on the Prairie!). And on Monday I attempted to can salsa for the first time, kind of forgetting that it is my dad’s signature dish.

Here’s what I learned:

  • There are great tips on canning salsa from the University of Wisconsin, but I probably should have asked my dad for an ‘heirloom’ recipe.
  • If you’re a lucky and hard-working gardener (aka dad), you have 5-10+lbs of tomatoes from your garden left at the end of summer. If you’re me, you have to buy roma tomatoes from Safeway.
  • Canning is labor intensive– it took me about 5 hours to make and can 12 quarts of salsa (Interesting side note, Freakonomics guy Steven Dubner blogs about the food make-it-yourself costs on his blog, worth a read if you like making food).
  • Salsa is messy, so be prepared for splatters. I wore my cute apron.
  • If you want to can lots and lots- buy a kit. It comes with a special tool to pick up boiling hot jars and a metal rack to put in the bottom of a specially designed pot. Plus, I found some kits online for like $15, I just didn’t have time to have it shipped.
  • A food processor is a cook’s best friend if you have to chop 10 lbs of tomatoes, 6 lbs of peppers, and 2 lbs of onions.

I also learned that salsa requires a certain amount of acidity to preserve well, so you need to follow a real recipe or actually know what you are doing so you don’t  have spoiled salsa later. So here’s how you do it (seriously look at the University of Wisconsin‘s canning info for all the info, I used their Hot Salsa I recipe):

  1. Go to Target and search everywhere for canning jars on the busiest holiday shopping weekend of the year but finally find a nice ‘team member’ who will help you find them on a shelf you walked past 5 times already (or skip that last part).
  2. Blanch tomatoes then place in a cold water bath to remove skin. Core tomatoes and chop in a food processor.
  3. Chop onions and peppers.
  4. Meanwhile, sterilize canning jars.
  5. Place chopped ingredients into a large stock pot with vinegar and salt and pepper.
  6. Cook ingredients for 15 min after they’ve come to a boil.
  7. Pour salsa into sterilized jars, tighten lids and rings, and place in a hot water canner (or a large pot). Boil for 15 min (depending on your altitude).

Cans mid-boil:

8. Let cans cool. When you hear a little ‘pop’ of the seal securing and it doesn’t wiggle up or down, you know it’s done right!

Ta-da! Finished product!

I’ll let you in on a little secret, since you read this far: I’m thinking about giving these away as holiday gifts to a few friends- so maybe a little salsa elf will leave one under your tree!

5 thoughts on “Learning to Can

  1. Pingback: Breakfast for Dinner: Huevos Rancheros « Just About Home

  2. Thanks for the tutorial on canning! I’ve always wanted to try but haven’t ever got around to it. This post makes it more appealing. I’m sure your salsa turned out great!

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