Grilled Corn Salsa

I know, I know: it’s after Labor Day, kids are back in school, vacations are over. But it is still technically summer for another precious few weeks and summer produce is still at farmer’s markets: peaches, tomatoes and corn. Sweet, sweet corn.

As a kid, I loved corn. It was my favorite vegetable, something even my Mom’s cooking couldn’t screw up. In fact, my all-time favorite meal back then was Shake N Bake chicken legs, corn (typically boiled from frozen) and mashed potatoes. Oh yes, I was an adventurous eater. Then, for a long time in my adulthood, when I left home and started cooking for myself, I sneered at corn: so bland, so pale, so bourgeois. Snow peas and red bell peppers and baby-anything-exotic was the name of the game in the 90′s. Corn? Decidedly not exotic. Between high fructose corn syrup and Michael Pollan’s “Americans are corn with legs,” corn has gotten a pretty bad rap. But height-of-summer corn, fresh from the farm and grilled over an open flame, or cut off the cob and added to soup or salad? It’s a completely different animal. (Vegetable. Whatever.)

This salsa is no exception: even while cooking it smelled so tempting, so tantalizing, that it was a challenge to get it into jars. Made from corn on the cob grilled over an open wood fire, it is sweet & smoky, crisp and richly flavorful. I can only imagine how good it’s going to be to crack a jar in January. Do yourself a favor: pick up some of the last of the season’s corn at your local farmer’s market this weekend. You’ll thank yourself in January.

Adapted from Corn Salsa in Put ‘em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton

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Grilled Corn Salsa

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 ears corn on the cob
  • 2 and 1/2 lbs tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 of a large yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 of a large green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 small jalapeno peppers, minced
  • 1/2 of a tiny habanero pepper, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 and 1/4 cups white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (fresh or bottled; if fresh, toss in some zest as well)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (organic turbinado)
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup, packed, chopped fresh cilantro

METHODS

  1. Grill the corn. Allow to cool, strip off husks and slice off kernels with a sharp knife. (Save the cobs for corn cob stock!)
  2. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
  3. Combine vinegar, lime juice, sugar, salt and cumin in a large, wide-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Add corn, tomatoes, onion, peppers and garlic and return to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 5 – 10 minutes, to reduce liquid slightly and allow flavors to blend.
  4. Add cilantro and return salsa to a boil. Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars to 1/2-inch headspace; bubble the jars, adjust headspace, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Yields about 5 pints.

OPTIONS

  1. If you don’t have access to a grill, or would simply prefer not to grill the corn, you can blanch the corn in boiling water instead of grilling. You can also roast or broil to achieve a caramelized flavor.
  2. If you must, substitute parsley for the cilantro (although I think cilantro is pivotal for a true salsa flavor).
  3. Plum tomatoes will not only give the best yield, but result in a less watery salsa. If you have quite watery tomatoes, you may want to let them drain for 30 minutes prior to adding to the salsa.
  4. I halved the original Put ‘em Up! recipe, so this recipe can be doubled, but use a large pot. At least 8-quart, better if it’s larger.

STORE

Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.

SEASON

Summer.

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28 comments

  1. Jay

    I am so happy to have stumbled upon your blog. I have recently decided on diet change and love your new food ideas. They are really easy to make. :)

    • Hi Phillip,

      I’m sure it could be: I don’t have a pressure canner, but the corn should stand up well. Not so sure about the texture of the peppers, onions, etc. FWIW, I was surprised that this much corn could be safely included in a water-bathed salsa (see my Salsa Rojo recipe for discussions on that) but I trust that Sherri Brooks Vinton and Put ‘em Up! would not steer me wrong. But: I say try a small batch, maybe half this size, in the pressure canner and see how you like it.

      Kaela

  2. jan

    I made your grilled corn salsa yesterday. I had some frozen corn I had cut off the cob earlier in the season. So instead of grilling it, I toasted it in the skillet just until I could smell it. Instead of green bells, I used red and green chilies instead of jalapenos. It is so good. I may never make my own again. Thank you for sharing.

  3. This is probably a silly question, but I have never had or made any type of corn salsa. Do you use it just as a dip with chips or whatever? Or do you use it for other things as well. Trying to decide if I make it how much to make and what we will use it for (though I am sure my kids would love it!)

    • Hi Jesse,

      It’s essentially a tomato salsa with a lot of corn added: so you would use it however you use regular red salsa; with chips, in tacos, on chicken sandwiches or eggs. It has a similar flavor profile as ‘regular’ salsa, so however you like to use a standard tomato salsa, this will work equally as well.

      Kaela

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  6. Nora

    I’m so excited that I found this recipe. This is going to be a fantastic addition to a quesadilla in the dead of winter.

    One question – do you think the sugar could be omitted and the salsa could still be safely canned? Or could I use agave nectar instead? Thanks!

    • Hi Nora,

      You can safely omit the sugar: it’s there to balance the acidity of the tomatoes, and to provide a bit of body I expect, but the salsa should be fine without it. Taste it before you put it in jars, and if it seems to need a bit of sweetness, feel free to add some agave.

    • Really depends on how spicy your jalapenos are: last year’s batch came out spicier than this year’s, but I used 2 in both; this year’s version is almost sweet. My advice is to taste a tiny sliver of your jalapenos and adjust accordingly.

      • Thanks for the response and you were so right. I used two and it was still a little sweet. Since I’m not familiar enough with jalapenos I couldn’t really do the test. Maybe I’ll add something with a bit of kick or maybe some lime when before using it (depending on what I’m using it with). Again, thanks so much for the answer.

  7. EL

    I made a bunch of this after reading this post. I think that I’ve died and gone to heaven!!!! I don’t know if I can wait until January. It’s so good. And that’s just the refrigerator non-canned version.

    EL

  8. EL

    Hi Kaela:
    It’s gravatar or whatever it’s called. Once I log in, it tries to make me use the user name (which I hate) for its account. So then I have to log out and log back in to use my user name (which it won’t allow). Poop to it!!!

  9. celvet0

    Sorry to leave so many posts. It’s my messy mind. I forgot. I really thought that there was way too much vinegar for my taste, so I decreased the vinegar to 1/2 cup and increased the lime juice to about 1 cup (to keep the acidity). It is still just a bit vinegary and I am using an autoclave, so maybe I will just use 1/4 cup next year. I also used Italian white wine vinegar and would probably use a bit less sugar next year (as well as hotter peppers — they just weren’t hot this year).

  10. So I have all of my ingredients out and ready to go – corn is grilled, tomatoes chopped – but I don’t have any white vinegar….could I substitute here (red wine?!?) or do you think the flavour would be off – just looking for an opinion if anyone has one? Thanks!!! (in my other pot I have some plum and apple chutney bubbling, love your site!)

    • You can use red wine vinegar, but I think the flavor might be a bit strange. Cider vinegar would be my next choice, but as salsa is typically made with white vinegar, it might be best to just chuck all the ingredients in the fridge until you can pick up some white.

  11. Thanks! I waited to pick up the white vinegar and I”m glad I did because this salsa is seriously delish! I love a corn and black bean combo in my salsas but I fear this can’t be done as the beans would affect the pH – thoughts? Is there a way to add black beans and up the acid content elsewhere to balance? I canned 3 recipes from your site this labour day weekend and they are all great!

    • I’m glad you like it! This salsa is on my docket for today or tomorrow as well.

      Sadly, black beans can’t be safely canned in a boiling water bath: it’s not only the acidity, but the density of the beans, and penetration of heat/acid to the center of each bean. You can pressure can beans, but I fear pressure canning this salsa would turn the tomatoes and other soft veg to mush. Best bet is to have cans of black beans on hand and pop one open at the same time you open the salsa. Then just mix, spritz with a little extra lime juice maybe, and serve.

  12. EL

    On the other hand, I just cracked the last jar. OMG good after 12 mos. In fact way better than fresh or last year. This is worth waiting for. It ages and ages well. I guess I’ll just have to make two batches — on for this year and one for next.

  13. Jen

    This was my first canning attempt!! I was worried that I may have left too much headroom (more like an inch than a half inch…) They all “pinged” right away…do I need to worry that it’s safe to eat if it looks and smells okay when I open it?
    Also I found it a bit sweet and vinegary for my taste…any way to adjust that in my next batch? Can I omit the sugar and replace some of the vinegar with more lime?
    Really love your labels!!
    Jen

    • Hi Jen,

      You can easily omit the sugar if you prefer. You can add lime juice, but I would not want to recommend *replacing* vinegar with lime juice, as there are differences in acidity, and I’m not positive which one is more acidic. Just to note that all salsas will mellow on the shelf (much like a pickle or mustard), so what may taste too sweet & vinegary straight out of the pot will have a different flavor profile 1 month later.

      1 inch headspace should be fine, as long as all the jars sealed: what tends to happen if headspace is too large is that the seal will fail sooner than it might with a more appropriate headspace. This is likely not a problem with salsa, as you’ll want to use it up within 1 year anyway; what I usually do is try to use the ones with the largest headspace first.

  14. Jen

    How much corn is six ears? I’m making another batch with corn I’ve already cut from the cob and wasn’t sure how much to put in…

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