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I’m so confused. I was all prepared to can this year so I could enjoy my tomato sauce and my salsa over the winter without having to take up freezer space. I figured I’d make it like normal, maybe add some lemon juice for acidity, then can them up as per normal. Now I’m reading that basically I should under no circumstances do that because the acidity won’t be known for sure unless I call in a scientist, and I might kill everyone who eats my salsa in January.

But to me, there is little point in canning if I am not canning my own recipe! If I do say so myself, I make an awesome salsa and tomato sauce, and I want to enjoy *that* over the winter. Not some other person’s recipe.

So…what do I do? Any ideas? Can I can my own stuff or what?

Just for kicks, since I just made a big batch of salsa and took pics with my FANCY new camera my hubby bought me for my bday last week, here’s a more step-by-step of the salsa recipe linked above. I make this every few weeks over the summer. This ingredient list might help you decide if I can can or not, too? The below made the equivalent of about 2 jars of salsa.

INGREDIENTS:
-15 medium ripe slicer and/or roma tomatoes
-large handful of cherry tomatoes (I am using sungold)
-7-10 peppers, depending on how hot you want things (I am using jalapeno, cayenne red and green, and habanero orange and green). If you don’t have enough peppers, substitute Sriracha hot sauce to make up the difference.
-about 3/4 cup of sugar
-about a tablespoon of salt
-black pepper to taste
-sprinkle of onion powder
-about a tablespoon of adobo, taco, or mexican seasoning
-this time, I also added a large handful of lemon balm because it needed to be cut back. Add cilantro if you like it (I dislike it a lot)
-possible extras: corn, black beans, chickpeas, pineapple, peach

tomatoes in the sink

peppers sungold

cayenne, habanero, jalapeno, sungold tomatoes

I highly recommend a cutting board with a nice reservoir for slicing tomatoes (this one was actually a wedding gift to my parents). Mine will be full of juice by the time I slice all these. I slice mine to the size pictured below before putting them in a large pot. The peppers I chop much more finely. (Hint: slice tomatoes with a serrated knife. It’s way easier.)
slicing tomatoes

After your tomatoes are all sliced, add the dry ingredients, then stir it all up and turn your burner on medium. Let sit covered until it starts to simmer a lot or just comes to a boil.
salsa ingredients

salsa-stirred

mixed


salsa-simmering

simmering

Once it’s been simmering for a while, turn the burner off, leave the cover on, and let it sit until it cools down a bit. It’s all ready to jar up now (taste first to make sure you don’t want to add either more hot sauce or sugar before letting it completely cool) – you just have to strain it out. I really need a large mesh colander for this and will eventually get one, but for now I just use a small mesh strainer and/or a slotted spoon, combined with holding the lid on with a tiiiiny gap and draining the whole pot. I really need to remember the colander next time I go to WalMart. If you want, save the juices! They still have all that spicy, tomato-y goodness. Use it as a marinade, or put it on low heat for a while, let it thicken, and use it as a sauce.

salsa

all ready to drain and eat

For now, since I don’t know if I can can it or not, I am just storing it in the fridge like normal. I did put some in a jar for a friend’s birthday, but it’s not “canned” so it will have to stay in the fridge. I also went ahead and froze another batch that had been in the fridge for a while. So much salsa!!

salsa-jar

jarred but not canned salsa


salsa-freeze

salsa to freeze

So….can I can my salsa and tomato sauce or can I not can them? Help.

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[I’m on vacation this week, but I’d love to come back to some suggestions on this one.] I usually dry a handful or two of basil just by letting it sit on the windowsill, but I have SO MANY herbs this year, I wanted to do something a bit more official so I can use the over the winter. Seems a waste just to let them die out. I do have 2 types of basil and a sage planted in a small pot on my kitchen sill, so we’ll see if they make it all winter (the windows are drafty, so I’m not sure if it will be too chilly. Elsewhere, they won’t get enough sun).

herbjarsI had been putting off the project because I didn’t know how I was going to store things, though. And lo and behold, when I went to the local Dollar Tree to see if they still had the sea salt and pepper grinders (they didn’t), I found spice jars for sale! How perfect is that?! I bought a bunch of them – I figure I can share the love a bit, plus when else am I going to find them for $1 each?? So I bought 7, then went and picked a bunch of herbs to dry.

First I cut them, washed them well, and left them to dry out a bit.

herbs for drying

herbs for drying

Then I patted them dry some more, and tied them up into little bundles with some gift-wrap twine (not too tight, especially since they were still a little wet).

herb bundles

herb bundles

Then I tied them up to another piece of twine that I hung from a cup hook in front of the kitchen window.

hanging herbs to dry

hanging herbs to dry


hanging basil to dry

hanging basil to dry

I figure they’ll take a couple weeks to dry, then I can mix them, crush them, and put them in the jars. In the meantime, they smell awesome – especially the lemon verbena and lemon thyme. Hopefully it’ll work and I’ll be able to use them all winter. I plan on doing (for myself) one basil, one basil and oregano, one lemon verbena, one rosemary and thyme, and one sage and thyme. Any other suggestions for combos for the herbs I have? I already did one sage and lemon thyme jar from some stuff I had dried already. Only…other than putting on chicken or potatoes, I kind of have no idea what to use it for! I also don’t know what to use the lemon verbena for. Sage and lemon verbena I’m lost on. Rosemary and lemon thyme are great on roasted potatoes, though. Maybe I should do a combo of that. hmm….suggestions?
sage-lemonthyme

FYI, I am in Zone 7, so the rosemary will generally stay evergreen all winter and come back next year. The verbena and thyme should as well (I know the thyme will). My oregano is currently in the tomato pots – not sure if I should try to save it or just start it from seed again next year (it was pretty easy). The sage will also reportedly some back, but I’m not a big sage fan, so it’s kind of OK if it doesn’t. The basil is annual, except what I’ll try to overwinter – the ones in the small planters, and some I’ve just rooted in a vase of water.

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