Getting Ready for Salsa

Chiles were abundant in my garden last year- pasilla, long green, japona, piquillo and Hatch.  I’m particularly enamored with the Hatch, a slender, medium green pepper that can be mild or hot.  So much so it’s in the ground again this year.  Planning ahead now for salsa and fire roasted preserved chilies.

Hatch, New Mexico, smack in the middle of the Rio Grande agricultural area, declared itself the Chile Capital of the World.  “Hatch chilies” refer to a handful of cultivated varieties of New Mexico chilies.  Most common is the NuMex 6-4 Heritage, developed by New Mexico State University.  Barker, Big Jim, and R-Naky are also Hatch varieties.  They have a short growing period- planted in April, harvested in August and September.

Not sure which variety my Hatch was but it packed some heat.  I planted a bunch this spring and hope for another bountiful harvest.  I’ve got plans for these chilies: making and canning more salsa along with an occasional plate of smoky grilled Hatch!

Making salsa is mostly easy.  Especially if you have a helper.

My salsa helper

It’s time consuming to chop ingredients but that’s why they invented food processors- they do the work for you.  I opted for the manual labor method last year and had an unexpected surprise.

You’ve maybe heard people say be careful when cutting peppers because of their potential heat?  Well you really should adhere to that warning.  While cleaning up last year, my fingers started talking back. My peppers weren’t supposed to be that hot but turns out the garden salsa chili I threw in were an extra hot variety.  Learn by doing, trial by fire.

The salsa faired much better than my fingers: a smokiness from fire roasting the tomatoes, a hint of deep earth from cumin and oregano, and a garlicky heat lingering on your tongue.  It’s like eating spicy Tom Yum soup with a Latin profile.

Here’s my go to salsa recipe.  If you’re in the mood for peaches, try this one.


Ingredients for Tomato Green Chili Salsa

While this is called a green chili salsa, you can change it up by adding red chilies too.

Yield: 6 pints

6 cups tomatoes, any variety, peeled, cored and chopped (roast whole on the grill for a great flavor)

6 cups chilies, seeded and chopped (long green, Hatch, or a mixture)

1 ½ cups chopped onions

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped

12 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 cups lemon juice**

4 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

3 teaspoons kosher salt

**Some people prefer bottled for food safety as it has a consistent level of acid.  I like using fresh but make sure they aren’t too old because their acid levels drop when they’ve sat around a long time.  Read this great article about acidity in lemons from canning extraordinaire Linda Zeidrich, A Gardener’s Table for information on this topic.)


Core, peel and seed items per ingredient list.  You can chop by had or throw all the vegetables into a food processor and pulse until you get small chopped pieces.

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan.  Turn heat to high and stir frequently until the mixture boils.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

A pot of salsa cooking

Ladle hot mixture into sterilized pint jars, leaving a ½-inch headspace.  Wipe rim, put lid on and adjust fingertip tight.  Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes*.  Remove to a towel and let sit 24 hours before moving.  Best to consume within one year.  For an overview on water bath canning, go here.

*Processing times per Master Food Preserver guidelines (also my recipe source):

  • 15 minutes for 0 – 1,000 feet
  • 20 minutes for 1,001 – 6,000 feet
  • 25 minutes above 6,000 feet



Tip of the day: Test the heat of your chilies before you cut them up, even if you think they’re not hot!

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