Tag Archives: canning

Daring Cooks: Food Preservation and Fresh Tomato Salsa

 The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

The recipes John suggested to make and preserve were apple butter and a tomato bruschetta. I contemplated making apple butter, but as both of these recipes were for things that usually top bread or toast – something that is a rarity in our household – I opted for something that would be more popular and useful for our family in the coming months. When I visited the farmers market and scored a huge cardboard box full of “sauce-ready” (meaning less-than-perfect) tomatoes for $10, the deal was sealed. I was going to can salsa.

I have prepared salsa many times on the fly for meals during the summer months. With fresh tomatoes, jalapenos, and herbs, how could I not? But when winter comes, I’m forced to buy jars of salsa from the grocery. While I’ve found some decent brands, nothing compares to salsa made with ingredients at the peak of freshness. I have not spent a great deal of time canning in the past (I’ve made pickles and jam, but that’s about it), but I had the general process down, so I got started.

First step was roasting some of the vegetables. While it’s not mandatory to do so, roasting the veggies gives the salsa more depth and an oh-so-subtle sweetness. This took a while, as I had a lot of tomatoes. But the blitz in the food processor was easy (gotta love food processors!), and then my attention was turned to canning the salsa. And of course, the best part – listening to the cooling jars for that satisfying “pop” of the lids, ensuring that my jars were sealed and I was successful!

This recipe is for a large quantity of salsa (it makes about a gallon!), but of course you can cut it back to suit your needs, and of course, you don’t have to can it. It’s excellent eaten as soon as it’s made. Of course, if you do choose to can, you’ll have that satisfaction of knowing that in the gray, chilly days of February, you can open a jar and taste the freshness of summer all over again.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

25-30 large tomatoes

22-25 garlic cloves, unpeeled

7 large yellow onions, cut in half and unpeeled

10 hot chiles, such as jalapenos or serranos

Juice of 2 large limes

1/3 c cilantro, chopped

1 t ground cumin

1/2 t ground chipotle chile powder

2-3 t salt (to taste)

Preheat the broiler in the oven and place the top rack about 6-8 inches below the burner. Line rimmed baking sheets with foil. Place tomatoes, garlic cloves, halved onions, and peppers on the baking sheets and broil, turning as necessary, until skins are blackened and tomatoes and peppers are soft. Remove and allow to cool. (You will likely have to do this in batches) Remove skins from garlic cloves and onions, and remove skins and seeds from jalapenos. Place vegetables in food processor and process until no large chunks remain. (If you like a chunkier salsa, you might like to pre-chop the vegetables so that you don’t have to process in the food processor so long. We like a thinner salsa, so I just let it nearly puree the vegetables.) You will likely have to process salsa in batches as well. Place in a large bowl and add in cilantro, lime juice, and spices. Stir and taste. Add salt as needed and stir.

To can: Heat clean jars and new lids in simmering water for at least 10 minutes (this will prevent the jars from breaking and will help to sterilize the jars). Prepare the canning pot by bringing water to a near-boil. Remove the jars from the water and fill the jars with salsa, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Clean rims of jars well and add lids. Screw the threaded lids on the jar until fingertip tight. Lower the jars into the canning pot and make sure they are covered by the water by at least an inch or two. Bring the water to a boil and process for 12 minutes. Remove and place jars on a towel on the counter. Allow to sit and come to room temperature for 12 hours. You might hear the lids pop – this is a good thing. Check the jars to ensure they sealed properly – the lid should be concave in the center. Remove the threaded part of the lid and attempt to lift by just the lid – you should be able to lift without the lid coming off. If the lid comes off, then reprocess or refrigerate and use within a week or two.

Makes about 8 pint-sized jars of salsa.

This post is linked to Real Food Weekly.


Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Side Dishes, Vegetarian

Crunchy Dill Pickles and Labor Day Recipe Roundup

picklesTo say the least, I’m starting to enjoy this canning thing. Even if I’m not saving money at this point (I would be if I were growing my own vegetables to “put up”. Maybe next year!), the satisfaction of preserving the summer’s bounty is certainly a motivator. But even more, the pleasure of opening that jar to find a delicious, perfectly crunchy pickle – one I made myself? It’s a great experience, one I’d choose over buying a jar of store-bought pickles any day.

Of course, after a bit of fumbling around with this pickle recipe, and the other canning attempt for this summer, I was elated to receive a free copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, courtesy of Canning Across America. When it came in the mail this week, I was giddy with excitement. (I’m now convinced that my husband thinks I’m nuts – who gets giddy because they have a canning guide? Apparently, I do!) So likely, you’ll be seeing more of these recipes as I dig through that book. I’m hoping to feel like a pro by the end of the season. (Also, hopefully my family and friends won’t start hiding from me when I offer to share the fruits of my canning endeavors!)

Anyway, on to the pickle recipe. I chose not to process these jars in boiling water, as I wanted to keep as much crunch in the pickle as possible. (I am not a fan of those floppy, soft pickles you sometimes find in the stores!) So, as a result, these will have to be kept under refrigeration. However, if you choose to process them, place them in enough boiling water to cover by 2-3 inches once the jars are sealed, and allow to process for about 10-12 minutes. Once removed and cooled, as long as the lids have “popped” and are sealed, they should be shelf-stable for a long time.

For the pickling spice:

1 T coriander seed

1 t allspice berries

1 T black peppercorns

1 ½ t dill seed

1 t celery seed

4 crushed bay leaves

Mix all spices together. Unused pickling spice can be kept for6 months.

To prepare the pickles: 

2 c white vinegar

2 c apple cider vinegar

4 c water

1 T sugar

2 T salt

4 t pickling spice

4 lbs pickling cucumbers, sliced or cut into spears

2 banana peppers, sliced

3-4 serrano peppers, sliced

8-9 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 T chopped fresh dill

 Bring vinegars, water, sugar, salt, and pickling spice to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until salt and sugar is dissolved. Reduce to a simmer.

Meanwhile, wash and rinse 7 or 8 pint-size canning jars and lids, and add to a large pot of simmering water to keep warm and sterilized. Once your pickling liquid is ready, remove jars from water, and divide cucumbers, peppers, garlic, and dill among the jars. (you may have to use a butter knife to coax some of the cucumbers into the jars) Pour pickling liquid into each jar, leaving about ¼ inch headspace at top of jar. Place lids on jars and screw on tightly. Let cool on counter until room temperature, and store in refrigerator. Let the cucumbers remain in the refrigerator for at least a week before eating.

P.S. – Just in case you’re looking for Labor Day recipes, I’ve gathered some of my favorite gluten-free recipes (some are my own, some are favorites from blog friends) to share!


Mac-Nut Hummus

Grilled Proscuitto-Wrapped Asparagus


Smoked Pork Ribs

Texas BBQ

Farmer’s Market Burger with Grilled Red Onion Relish and Peppered Tomato Mayonnaise

Summer Hobo Dinner


 Mediterranean Pepper Salad

Southwestern Coleslaw

Summer Succotash

Sauteed Kale with Garlic and Cranberries

Hatch Chile Potato Casserole


Gluten-Free Peach Pear Crisp

Butterscotch Ice Cream

Gluten Free Sugar Free Cherry Clafoutis

Happy Labor Day, everyone!


Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Side Dishes, Vegetarian

Spiced Pear Jam

pear jamWhen life gives you 12 lbs of pears, what do you do?

I made jam.

Well, actually, I only used 3-4 lbs of the pears to make the jam. The rest were eaten out of hand, baked in a pear-peach crisp (which I’ll share with you soon – I’ve finally nailed down a good gluten-free version!), or peeled and sliced, and placed in the freezer for the future. I’m happy to know that I have delicious fruit available when winter comes. Definitely will be missing the bounty of summer produce come December.

Why so many pears? Well, in my frequent visits to the farmer’s market in McKinney, I have become acquainted with the farmer that owns Good Earth Organic Farm in nearby Celeste, Texas. (We’ve most recently been in discussions about starting a CSA, which I am ecstatic about!) He has regularly brought bushels of pears to the market, as well as braids of garlic, fresh sweet yellow onions, okra, various peppers, and his winter squashes are just starting to arrive. I was eyeing his pears, and we discussed that he could make a deal on a larger volume. I agreed to buy a peck of pears, and happily toted my goodies home. I allowed the pears to sit out for a few days to ripen.

Once they were ripe, I knew I had to process them. Being a bit of a newbie to canning (I’ve canned hot peppers before, but it was 7-8 years ago, and am a complete newbie to jams), I carefully had to read the instructions…twice…to be sure I knew what steps to take. Once I got the hang of it, though, it was relatively simple – prepare jam, simmer (sterilize) canning jars and lids, fill jars, and process in hot water bath. Simple!

How was the jam? I’ll admit, it was a teensy bit thinner than store-bought jams, but after spreading it on a bit of (gluten-free) toast, I didn’t find this to be an issue. After all, most jams I’ve purchased were difficult to spread. This jam was much easier. And the cinnamon and allspice didn’t overwhelm the pear flavors, they complimented them quite well. I just might have to indulge in a regular ritual of jam-on-toast!

Spiced Pear Jam, yields 8 8-ounce jars

4 cups prepared pears (about 3-4 lbs pears, peeled, sliced, and processed in food processor until chunky)

Juice and zest from 2 large lemons

5 cups sugar

1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 t allspice

1 t butter

1 3-ounce pouch pectin, such as Sure Jell

pears should be of a chunky consistency once out of food processor

pears should be of a chunky consistency once out of food processor

Bring water in your canner to a boil and keep at a simmer. Bring another pot of water large enough to hold your canning jars and lids to a boil, and reduce to a simmer, and place your jars and lids in the water and hold them there until ready to fill.

Place the prepared pears, lemon juice and zest, sugar, spices, and butter into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Add pectin and stir constantly while at a boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, and skim off the foam that has risen to the top.

Fill jars with jam, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Place the sealer lids on, and tighten the threaded lid. Place each jar in the canner, and make sure there is enough boiling-hot water to cover the jars by 2 inches or so. Boil for 10 minutes, and then remove from canner and transfer to a towel and allow to cool for 6-8 hours. Your sealer lids should have all popped. (You can test by pressing your finger in the center of the lid, if it doesn’t wobble up and down, you’re good. If it does, you will need to refrigerate the jar, or you can try to reprocess with a new sealer lid if you prefer.) Congratulations, you have made jam!


Filed under Budget-Friendly, Gluten-Free