9-Chile Salsa

A spicy tomato salsa to liven up your Monday…2 months from now.

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-Chile Salsa


  • 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
  4. 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.
  5. Strain the softened, dried chiles, adding the soaking liquid to the tomato juice/vinegar mixture. Mince the chilés and add to the stockpot.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.




  1. I just made the Spicy Tomato Salsa and saw your recipe as well and I had a couple of questions. Why do the recipes say to peel the tomatoes? and what happens to them if you don’t? Also I had a little salsa left over so I tried it, it was not at all spicy. Does the salsa get hotter over time or less hot? Sorry one more question what do you (and the Ball book) mean by long green peppers? is that hot peppers of something like anaheim?

  2. Hi afreckledlip,

    Most tomato preserving recipes call for peeled tomatoes (in fact, most tomato recipes in general); I believe that in the preserves at least, the peel can seperate from the tomato chunks, either during cooking or processing, and leave little bits of peel. Some people don’t like the texture; I don’t mind it in most things. As far as I know, there is no safety reason that tomatoes need to be peeled for canning; it is purely aesthetics/taste.

    Generally salsas mellow on the shelf; but if you used a lot of dried chiles, it could increase in spiciness after a few weeks. It is really more that the flavor profile combines and matures; I’ve had some things get spicier and some things get more mild. You’ll know in a couple of weeks. 🙂

    The Ball book is not always specific about their peppers; essentially, all peppers are low-acid, so in the Ball recipes, any pepper can generally be substituted for any other. When they say long green, the mean a mildly spicy pepper in the jalapeno-anaheim-poblano vein I would assume. You can pick the pepper/heat that suits you.

  3. Hi Julie,

    It is not OK to substitute fresh chiles for the dried ones (additional chiles beyond the 3 cups would make this recipe unsafe for waterbath canning) but it IS perfectly fine to simply omit them.


  4. Hi Kat,

    Have to say this turned out quite well: I didn’t open the first one for at least 6 months, and just cracked a jar last weekend. It is very spicy, but not inedibly so, and you taste more than just heat. It’s gotten rave reviews from some of my spice-head friends. Not sure how long it really needs to mellow on the shelf, but I’m guessing you should plan on at least 3 months.

  5. Hi Jess,

    No, I’m sure it’s fine. Yields are always approximate, as vegetable weights vary cooking times vary, etc. I like a thick, chuny salsa, so I tend to cook mine down more than most. Hope you enjoy it this winter! 🙂


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