I enjoy growing my own tomatoes. This year, I started them all from seed and had plum and beefsteak tomatoes EVERYWHERE! Not just in my raised beds, but also in my flowerbeds and flowerpots.
Unfortunately, we had a late spring, and yes unfortunately the summer ended and frost came – as always. So while I had many, many juicy red tomatoes – I also had many not quite ripe and green tomatoes. The tomatoes also didn’t all ripen at the same time.
So while I would like to process all of my hundreds of tomatoes at once into a fresh pasta sauce, they all ripen a few at a time. This summer and fall, I have frozen some pasta sauce, and canned chili sauce and bruschetta in a jar at different times. Now finally, I have a few tomatoes left – not the prettiest things either – as they have had a little bit of frost here and there.
One of my secrets for processing a “few” tomatoes at a time is FIESTA SALSA MIX. A few years ago, a friend told me about this stuff, and I thought – that’s not real canning! I was snooty and superior. But then I tried it and I was hooked. What I like about it is that when I don’t have the time or produce to harvest exactly the right quantity of tomatoes, I can used the pre-mixed spices and process exactly the quantity of tomatoes that I have.
To make Fiesta Salsa, you just need tomatoes, vinegar, mason jars and Fiesta Salsa Mix. This time around, I had about 6 cups of tomatoes – in various stages of freshness. I had some lovely red ones, that needed to be processed right away, some green ones that I had been trying to ripen with bananas in a paper bag (this works somewhat), and some slightly less beautiful tomatoes, that were a little orange, but had some frost damage, which I cut out. When chopped up – they yielded 6 cups. I like that I can start with how many cups of tomatoes I have and then go from there – as opposed to trying to follow a recipe that calls for a certain number of pounds of tomatoes and then trying to convert from how many cups I have – and then of course I don’t have enough!
So then I opened the jar of Fiesta Salsa mix and measured out the amount that I needed. The mix has very clear and simple instructions – If you used the whole container you would make 8 500ml jars – using 18 cups of chopped tomatoes. It gives instructions for every 4 1/2 cups of tomatoes – which yield two 500ml jars. As I had about 6 cups of tomatoes – I used about 1/3 of a cup of the Salsa mix, and 4 tablespoons of 5% vinegar. Then, because I like my salsa spicy – I added a sprinkling of extra chili pepper flakes – but this isn’t necessary – just 3 ingredients makes this easy.
I had sterilized the leftover mason jars that I had on hand – I had a 500ml, and 2 650ml jars and rings, which I had boiled for 10 minutes in my large stainless steel pot.
To prepare Fiesta Salsa, bring tomatoes, vinegar and salsa mix to a boil in a large stainless steel pot. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Turn off heat.- and ladle the sauce into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch of space from the rim of the jar. Wipe down the tops of the jars. Heat sealing discs in hot water. Apply sealing discs to the jars and screw on rings to finger tight. Return the sealed jars to the hot water, making sure they are covered by at least one inch of water. Bring to a full boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat. After 5 minutes, remove jars from water and set aside to cool. As they cool, the tops should retract and curve inward, making a popping noise, indicating that a vacuum seal has occurred.
My 6 cups of tomatoes yielded 1 500ml, 1 650ml properly canned jars, and about 1/4 of another 650ml jar which I put straight into the refrigerator to enjoy soon.
Using the Fiesta Salsa Mix helps me to quickly process some tomatoes, when I don’t have a full batch to process, and use what I have one hand.
You can buy Fiesta Salsa Mix where you buy canning supplies, possibly at your grocery or hardware store, or you can find it at Amazon. It will be either labelled as from Bernardin or Ball – depending on where you live!
Now I have finally used up all of my tomatoes – and November is here.
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