Make your own salsa

August 17, 1999|By Lynn F. Little

Salsa translates as "sauce" from both Italian and Spanish and can apply to everything from creamy white sauce to brown gravy.

When we hear the word "salsa," it is the tomato- and chili pepper-based mixture that comes to mind.

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Salsas can go over just about everything on the plate, just like ketchup. In fact, salsa has become so popular, it has surpassed ketchup in pounds consumed per person in the United States.

Now that tomatoes and peppers are in season, it's a good time to try your hand at making your own salsa.

Most salsa recipes are a mixture of tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices. Although some ingredients can be cooked, the sauce itself should be raw, cool and garden-fresh.


The type of tomato you use in making salsa will affect its quality.

Paste tomatoes, such as Roma, have firmer flesh and produce a thicker salsa than large, slicing tomatoes. Slicing tomatoes will yield a thinner, more watery salsa than paste tomatoes. You can thicken a salsa by adding tomato paste.

Peppers range from mild to very hot in taste. Very hot peppers are usually small and will add a distinct taste to salsa. Jalapeno is one of the most popular hot peppers. Be sure to wear rubber gloves when cutting or dicing hot peppers. They can cause irritation to the skin. Be careful not to touch your face, especially the area around your eyes, when you are working with hot peppers.

Mild peppers also can be used in salsa.

Bell peppers can be used for some or all of the long green chilies called for in a recipe.

When peppers are finely chopped, they do not need to be skinned.

You can make and enjoy salsa now while ingredients are fresh.

If your salsa recipe is made with a sufficient amount of acidic ingredients (tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar), you could pack the salsa in canning jars (pint or half pint) and process in a boiling water bath canner.

Without sufficient acid, use a pressure canner.

The following recipes could be prepared and used fresh or processed and stored for use during the cold winter months.

Festive Salsa

  • 7 cups chopped, seeded, peeled, cored tomatoes
  • 2 cups chopped, seeded, peeled cucumbers
  • 2 cups chopped and seeded banana peppers
  • 1 cup sliced green onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped, peeled green pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped jalapeno peppers
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch (one-quarter inch) headspace. Adjust two piece lids and process 15 minutes in boiling water bath canner.

Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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