Canning Salsa: Instructions

This salsa recipe came to us from Shawn Zappo, a surfer, skater, musician, writer and Vegan chef from Monmouth County, New Jersey. 

It seems most surfers love Mexican cuisine or some variation of it. Based on all the “surf” themed burrito/taco joints that have popped up in my home state of New Jersey in the last 10 years, I think it’s a fairly accurate assumption. Personally, I don’t know of a better post-surf-session lunch then some bangin’ veggie tacos or burritos. So for my fellow surfers (and non-surfers) who enjoy Mexican food, I present a simple, homemade salsa canning adventure. 

I have about 20-plus years of professional cooking experience, specifically vegan and vegetarian foods. But until recently, I had no canning experience. My girlfriend’s mother, Carol, walked me through my first attempt at canning. Now I’m passing the knowledge to you. Each one teach one, as they say.

I would recommend reading the Ball “Blue Book of Preserving” if you want to gain more information on the variety of items and recipes that can be canned, as well as the overall process.


5 tomatoes

2 green peppers

1 yellow pepper

1 red pepper

1 red onion

3 jalapeño peppers

3 garlic cloves

3 limes

1 lemon

1 bunch cilantro

Sea salt

Chili powder


Sharp knife

Cutting board

Wet dish rag

Dry dish rag

Large bowl

Ball jars

Lids and bands

Boiling-water canner

1 medium size pot

1 small size pot

Jar rack

Jar lifter

Jar funnel

Citrus press


Make sure your knife is sharp. A dull knife means you will have difficulty dicing, and your salsa will look horrible. On top of that, while cutting, you will most likely slip off a vegetable, cutting yourself. Your cutting board should have a wet rag beneath it, so it doesn’t slip and slide on your countertop. Always tuck in your fingers on the hand that is holding the item you are cutting, so if you slip, you will only nick your knuckle instead of cutting a finger.

Salsa Preparation:

Try to use as much organic and/or locally grown ingredients as possible. Wash all vegetables, and rinse cilantro well.

Dice tomatoes, peppers and onion. I like to dice my main ingredients small, as I feel it looks better, and makes for a better texture and an overall better taste. Dice garlic cloves finely. Chop cilantro as small as you possibly can. If you have a food processor, use it. It will help you get cilantro chopped as fine as possible. Using a citrus press, squeeze limes and lemon. If you do not have a citrus press, you can squeeze by hand. Get as much juice out of lemons and limes as you can. Add salt and chili powder to your taste. (As you chop each item, you are placing it in your large bowl, mixing from time to time as you continue working).


Your boiling-water canner must have a water level that covers the jars about one to two inches. Start boiling your water early, as it takes a bit of time. You want your canning water at a boil as you are finishing up the boiling of your salsa.

In the medium pot, bring water to a simmer, then turn the flame off. Place lids and bands in hot water, and let them sit until you are ready to use them. Wash all jars thoroughly. Put hot water in jars until you are ready to use them, as this will keep them from cracking when they are placed in boiling water.

Put salsa in medium pot and boil for 10 minutes. Normally I do not cook my salsa, but for canning, it is necessary to kill any bacteria that maybe present.

Once salsa has been boiled for ten minutes, put your jar funnel inside the jar you are about to fill. Fill jar with salsa to about 1/4″ from the top. Once the jar is full, clean the rim of the jar as well as anything that may have spilled over. Put lid on, then screw band on loosely.

With the rack in the canner in the up position, use the jar lifter to put jars of salsa in the canner (the water will be boiling at this point). Lower the rack so the cans are fully submerged in the water. The water will stop boiling when you first put the jars in the water. Wait for water to come to a boil again and leave the jars of salsa in the boiling water for ten minutes. After jars have boiled for ten minutes, put the rack back in the up position and take jars out of the canner using the jar lifter. Place the jars on a dish rag. Leave the jars to cool. As they cool, the lids will pop, which indicates they are properly sealed. When they are cool to the touch, you can screw the lids tightly. Store jars in a cool, dry place.

Now that you’ve successfully jarred your own homemade salsa, it’s time to gather your friends and family for a do-it-yourself taco night. Put on your sombrero, get out the blender and hook up some margaritas. If you don’t have a mariachi band at your disposal but are ready to really kick the festivities into high gear, pop on some Mariachi El Bronx, and you’ll be feelin’ the vibes in no time! 

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