Basic Red Salsa

I realized the other day, when in possession of a bushel of organically grown tomatoes from Fishkill Farms I started thinking about my must-haves for tomato preserving this year, that I had never published my basic red salsa recipe. There are lots of salsa recipes represented here at Local Kitchen, both fresh & canned: witness the ludicrously spicy 9-chile salsa, the smoky-sweet grilled corn salsa, a roasted tomato & chipotle salsa, and the my-Spanish-gender-agreement-sucks salsa rojo. There is the classic tomatillo salsa verde and fruit salsas galore: peach, plum, cranberry and cantaloupe, to name a few. But somehow, I had not managed to write about the most basic tomato salsa, one that every preserver should have in his or her arsenal.

This one is as classic as it gets: tomatoes, peppers, onion & garlic; some vinegar and a touch of lime, some cumin and salt; and cilantro, plenty of fresh cilantro, which I think can make or break a good salsa (oh, cilantro-adverse, how I weep for you). Because the recipe contains plenty of sweet bell peppers as well as hot chile peppers, it is easily adaptable to spicy, medium or mild palates: you can simply swap one kind of pepper for another. And, as tomato preserving goes, this is a pretty quick one: lots of chopping, but minimal cooking and processing time (good for those sticky August nights). And the fresh flavor really lasts: I cracked a jar over the weekend, and friends were commenting on how wonderfully fresh it tasted, thinking I had just made it, yet the jar was from last summer.

This is a great basic that anyone can enjoy, so carve a few pounds out of your tomato haul and get your salsa on!

Adapted from Zesty Salsa in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry and L. Devine, eds.

Basic Red Salsa


  • 4 lbs tomatoes, cored & chopped
  • 2 cups bell pepper, diced
  • 1 ½ cups onions, diced
  • ½ cup mixed chile peppers, minced (I use jalapeño, serrano, habanero, or mystery chiles, mostly all with seeds & ribs)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lime juice (fresh or bottled)
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped


  1. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
  2. As you dice the tomatoes, measure into a large colander to drain out any excess juice (depending on your preference, you can either reserve for another use, or reduce to a syrupy consistency and add back to the salsa).
  3. Transfer vegetables to a large (6-quart) stockpot or Dutch oven. Add vegetables, vinegar, salt and cumin. Simmer over medium heat until vegetables have softened and some of the liquid released has evaporated, thickening the salsa slightly, about 10 minutes. Add cilantro; bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars to ½-inch headspace, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Yields about 4 pints.


  1. I generally make this as a medium-spicy salsa: you can tone down the spice by substituting sweet bell pepper for some of the ½-cup of chile peppers, and/or remove all of the seeds and ribs and choose less spicy chiles. You can increase the heat by choosing spicier chiles and/or replacing some of the bell pepper with chile pepper; just keep the total amount of sweet + hot peppers to 2 ½ cups.
  2. I don’t peel the tomatoes: feel free if you prefer, but I don’t find it necessary.
  3. As with any water-bath canned salsa, pay close attention to the amounts of acidic and low-acid vegetables and do not increase the amount of low-acid (peppers, onions, garlic, herbs) or decrease the amount of acid (tomatoes, vinegar).
  4. This salsa can be 100% local with homemade cider vinegar (make sure you test for 5% acidity), replace the lime juice with an additional 2 tbsp of cider vinegar (or use homegrown limes!), and homegrown cumin.


Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Flavors will blend & mellow as the salsa sits.




  1. I make a salsa very similar to this one and its one of my favorite things to be able to open a jar of in the winter. I made a small batch last week, but I don’t think it’s nearly enough so another batch is on my to-do list for this weekend.

  2. Ecoteri

    I make a number of different salsa, some are killer hot for my sweetie, some are use up the garden, but I just have made one that is a riff on another one – and it is SOOO good that I had to make more while the garden is fresh. I think that the Cumin does it. and we didn’t even put in any cilantro (which I love). but it is so good that when you spoon it into a bowl, the spoon is thoroughly licked clean after. I don’t think I do that with the chipotle tomatillo salsa … just one with similar ingredients to what is listed above. mmmmm

  3. Alicia

    I looked everywhere for a basic salsa recipe that didn’t call for tomato paste! Tomato season is over now here though. I’ll keep this for next year.

  4. Pingback: September Foodie Faves: Harmful Food Additives and How to Avoid Them, 6 Additive-free Dip Ideas, Gluten Free Muesli and More! | Wholesome Cook

  5. Pingback: Preserving Salsa Fresh From Our Vegetable Garden - Home Gardening Tips Moncton

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