Barry’s First Canning Experience -- Sandi’s Salsa

     This is an update to a post added last fall after I interviewed Sandi Dutt for my monthly cooking column that appears in the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle. During the interview she gave me a pint jar of her Salsa. We served it with quesadilla and a pork carnitas dinner, and liked the salsa so much that I posted the recipe and even noted, “If I had 22 “good” tomatoes I’d be in the kitchen trying to duplicate her recipe.”
     Well we now have LOTS of “good” tomatoes and Barry wanted to try his hand at canning – this was his first experience so I’ve added some photos detailing the process.
     I even learned something along the way. In preparation for the canning process, I grabbed a couple of quart jars and some pints, too. When it was time to set the timer for water bathing the salsa, I noticed the recipe did not list a processing time for quart jars. Checked the USDA website and they had no times listed either.
     After more checking I found out the Extension service no longer recommends water bathing quart jars of salsa. Why? Salsa is a mixture of acid and LOW-acid ingredients and recent testing indicates there is a chance that bacteria may develop in quart jars of salsa that have been water bathed. Since salsa in usually eaten straight from the jar, canning quart jars of the stuff is no longer recommend! So, our quarts of salsa are now in the  fridge while the pints are stored in the pantry.
     By the way, my original blog story follows Sandi’s recipe. And, we continue to “umm and ahh” over her recipe!

Sandi’s Salsa   Makes 8 pints (do not use quart jars – see explanation above)
22 tomatoes, cored and peeled
5 large onions
2 to 3 bell peppers
9 to 11 jalapeño peppers
1 cup white vinegar 
½ to ¾ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup salt
2 to 3 small (6 oz.) cans tomato paste
Cilantro, chopped to taste, optional

1.  Run tomatoes through a food processer just until chunky.
Barry first cored the tomatoes & then we blanched them ( added them to a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes , just until their skins started to break) and then, after plunging them into cold water, I peeled them (the peels are easily removed after blanching). Then Barry added the peeled tomatoes to the food processor and pulsed them until chunky.
2.  Chop onions and peppers.
3.  Combine all ingredients in a large pot; bring to a boil and cook for 20 to 30 minutes.
Thick and chunky, this salsa already looks and smells good. Time to get out the chips!
4.  Pour into sterilized jars, seal and process in a water bath -- 15 minutes for pint jars @ 0 to 1,000’ altitudes).
Barry ladles salsa into sterilized jars.
Next he wiped the top of each jar with a clean cloth and added a lid & band to each jar
 before immersing them in the hot water bath. 
For detailed instructions and guidelines for safe home canning, from jar sterilization to choosing the right canning method (water bath vs. pressure cooking) to testing jar seals, go to the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving.

We “ummed & ahhed” through the entire pint – Sandi’s Salsa     
Mike Jantz told me that Sandi Dutt was a really good cook and bragged, “She makes the BEST salsa.” Mike and Sandi are both educators at Abilene High School and Sandi assists Mike with his championship volleyball team.
     Based on his recommendation I interviewed Sandi and her daughter, Abby Dutt Markley, for my November 2011 cooking column that runs monthly in Abilene’s newspaper. Sandi shared her salsa recipe for that column and also gave me a pint of salsa to take home.
    It set on the shelf in our pantry until Barry made cheese and chicken quesadillas the other day. Pace® is our usual brand of salsa/picante sauce but we were out so he opened Sandi’s jar.
    We like to spoon salsa over the top or our quesadilla wedges; in no time we had gobbled down half of the jar!  Have to admit there wasn’t much talking, just a lot of “umming and ahhing” going on. Barry finally took a breath to proclaim, “This is the BEST salsa I’ve ever tasted!” I was in total agreement! When we’d had our fill, it was time to securitize. Here’s our analysis of the salsa . . .
 . . .a hint of heat (enough to satisfy by spicy heat cravings yet mild enough for Barry) with a sweet undertone;
. . . perfect consistency, not to thick but not too runny – “it was just right”;
. . . fantastic combination of flavors;
. . . Barry’s other comment say’s it all, “This tastes like MORE!”
  Sandi’s Salsa has definitely set a new standard for salsa in our household. And, if I had 22 “good” tomatoes I’d be in the kitchen trying to duplicate her recipe. We will definitely make it this summer or whenever we find a batch of summer-like tomatoes.
Sandi's Salsa w/ quesadillas.
Fall 2011

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