To can salsa cruda—literally, “raw sauce”—requires cooking it, but cooked tomato salsa just isn’t the same. Usually, it turns out runny. Commercial salsa makers compensate for this by adding tomato paste, which tastes, well, like tomato paste. To really ruin the texture, some add gums. Home canners often minimize runniness by using paste tomatoes, such as the oblong variety known as Roma. Low in both acid and sugar, these firm, fleshy tomatoes taste bland and boring.
To make canned tomato salsa with both a thick texture and an excellent flavor, I decided to bake some of the water out of assorted tasty tomatoes before mixing them with onions and peppers. Here’s how I did it:
Thick Tomato Salsa
5 pounds tomatoes, preferably no larger than 2 inches wide or long
2 pounds green or ripe peppers, hot or mild, stemmed
1 pound onions
1 cup lime juice
1 ½ tablespoons pickling salt
Heat the oven to 250 degrees F. Halve the tomatoes, and cut out any thick cores. Lay the tomato halves cut-side up in a single layer in two or three low-sided baking or roasting pans—glass, ceramic, or enameled pans will do. Don’t add any oil; you want the tomatoes to dry out. Bake them for about 3 hours, until they have noticeably shriveled but haven’t browned.
Drop the tomato pieces into a large nonreactive pot, halving any large ones with shears as you do so. Seed the peppers or not, depending on your heat tolerance. Then either mince the peppers and onions or chop them briefly in a food processor; be careful not to liquefy them. Add them to the pot along with the lime juice and salt. Stir.
Bring the salsa to a simmer, and simmer it for 10 minutes. Ladle the salsa into pint or half-pint mason jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Close the jars with two-piece caps, and process the jars in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes.
Store the cooled jars in a cool, dry, dark place.
Makes about 6 pints
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