If you haven’t noticed by now, I love the hot stuff: spicy salsa, Tabasco, wing sauce, soup, stew, BBQ and vindaloo. Even chiles in my jam! I’ve never met a chile pepper I didn’t like, not even that scotch bonnet I ate at House of Blues in Harvard Square back in ’92 (the waiter, looking appalled: “But it’s just a garnish! You’re not supposed to eat it!” “Then, why,” ask I, “was it smack dab in the middle of my plate of food?”). Lover of all things chile, I wanted to make a really spicy red salsa; one that would make me sweat, and cry, and yet be oh-so-good. In my newfound appreciation of the effects of mellowing & shelf-storage on preserves, especially salsas and chutneys, I decided to make a ridiculously spicy salsa, one that even I wouldn’t dream of eating until it had calmed down considerably. And so, 9-chile salsa was born!
There are nine (9!) different varieties of chile pepper in this salsa (only half of which I can name); the fresh ones all came from Ryder Farm in Brewster, NY, while the dried chiles were in my cabinet from various Penzey’s orders. I used nine (9!) dried chiles (just for synchronicity) and 3 cups of fresh chiles, all with seeds & ribs: if I’m ever able to actually eat this stuff, it’s going to be fantastic.
Adapted from Spicy Tomato Salsa and Zesty Salsa in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry and L. Devine, eds.
- 9 dried chile peppers (I used 1 cascabel, 1 guajillo and 7 arbol peppers, all from Penzey’s)
- 10 cups cored tomatoes, chopped to 1/2-inch dice (about 4 lbs) (I did not peel the tomatoes, but you can.)
- 1 and 1/4 cups cider vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
- 4 and 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 4 cups green peppers, stems, seeds & ribs removed, chopped to 1/2-inch dice
- 2 tbsp minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
- 3 cups coarsley chopped fresh chile peppers, seeded or not as you wish (I used half jalapeno and half mixed red/orange chiles, with seeds)
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- Remove the stems from the dried chiles and tear into rough pieces into a small bowl (include seeds or remove, depending on how spicy you want your salsa). Cover with boiling water and weight down with a mug or small bowl. Allow to soften while you prep the other vegetables.
- Chop and measure tomatoes into a colander suspended over a large bowl, to catch the juice. Pour the vinegar over the tomatoes (vinegar will drain down to the large bowl). Chop and measure onions, green peppers and garlic into a large (8-quart) stockpot.
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Wearing gloves and working in a well-ventilated area (capsaicin can burn not only skin, but eyes, mucous membranes and lungs if inhaled in quantity), roughly chop chile peppers (removing seeds if desired), then transfer 3 cups of chopped peppers to a food processor to mince (alternatively, mince by hand). Add to stockpot.
- Strain the softened, dried chiles, adding the soaking liquid to the tomato juice/vinegar mixture. Mince the chilés and add to the stockpot.
- Add the tomatoes to the stockpot. Transfer the tomato juice mixture to a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat, and continue to boil until reduced by half. Add the reduced juice to the stockpot; bring the salsa to a boil, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil gently until salsa is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Add cilantro, mix, and return to a boil.
- Ladle hot salsa into hot, sterilized jars to 1/2-inch headspace, remove bubbles, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Yields about 7 pints.
- In case you were not alerted by the “9-chile” in the title, this is a very spicy salsa. You can modify the heat level by removing the seeds from either the dried or fresh chile (or both); but still, 3 cups of fresh chile peppers is going to yield a hot salsa. This is a salsa that needs to mellow on the shelf for at least a month before enjoying: I would not bother taste-testing before canning; all you will taste is heat.
- The proportions of acid to low-acid ingredients were taken from Zesty Salsa in the Ball Complete: for canning safety, do not increase the amount of low-acid ingredients (onions, peppers, garlic, chiles, cilantro) or decrease the amount of acidic ingredients (tomatoes, vinegar).
- From a preserving standpoint, this is a nice salsa because you can preserve not only tomatoes, but lots of onions, peppers and cilantro. If you do not like things hot, you can always lessen the amount of chile peppers, even down to just 1 or 2 jalapenos.
- With home-dried chiles and homemade vinegar, this salsa can be 100% local.
Canned, store at cool room temperature, in the dark, for up to 1 year. Allow to mellow on the shelf for 1 – 3 months before serving.