Are you ready for some salsa? It’s a salsa time of year, after all. Now is the time for all good tomatoes to come to the aid of the salsa. Salsasalsasalsasalsasalsasalsasalsasalsa!
Clapclap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clapclap. Clap. Clap. Clap*
*Ahem. That’s a salsa beat. Trust me.
It’s not that I get carried away over salsa in general, but I do over this particular salsa. Aside from fresh salsa (pico de gallo, or whathaveyou) this is what every single little salsa wants to be when it grows up. It’s smoky, thick, brick-red, and vibrant with guajillo and chipotle chiles, roasted tomatoes and tomatillos, and garlic that you forget you’re eating a jarred salsa. This is the salsa that makes people stop and say, “WOW!” and “Where’d you get this?” That, my friends, is no time for humility. Show them the rows of this on your shelves and puff your chest out a bit and say, “I made it.” I’d advise you fix a dollar amount in your head before serving to company, though, because you will inevitably be asked by reasonable people how much you would charge for a jar*.
*Unreasonable people, or younger siblings, however, will ask, beg and plead for you to give them a jar for free and remind you of the fact that they never told mom that you made them wear your fluffy pink nightgown in exchange for playing Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars with them even though they still don’t know you would’ve played it anyway because you liked them better than Barbies anyway.
It is best to be prepared is my point.
Back to the salsa. There are a few key points that differentiate this salsa from your average chunky jarred stuff.
- It uses dried, reconstituted chiles instead of fresh ones. For some reason this just feels so much easier. Am I crazy? Maybe. But this is what my brain says and I’m listening.
- It is made from roasted tomatoes rather than blanched, peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes. (Read: two-step tomatoes rather than four-step tomatoes.) This makes peeling easier because you roast the tomatoes, put them in a paper bag, crimp the top and wait a few minutes, then the skin just sloughs right off. I’m sorry about using slough while talking about food. I know it’s not appetizing, but I couldn’t think of another word that fit just right.
- It is a “ground” salsa. Instead of uniformly (and angrily, depending on how much salsa you’re making and how many times you’re interrupted by the people who will eventually eat this salsa) hand chopping all the prepared ingredients, you toss them into the food processor and pulse until all the contents have been chopped to the point where they’re pretty derned little. Almost (but not quite) smooth. Why? Well, because I can. And because it tastes great. And because my kids like it better that way. And because it makes this end product more versatile. You can dump a jar on a pork or beef roast or a whole chicken, marinate it overnight, then drop it in the crockpot the next day on low. After several hours, shred everything together for the ultimate in simple main dishes. Eat the meat on sandwiches, on barbecue pizzas, in quesadillas, in this glorious dish, or on tacos. I guarantee you’ll come up with many more ways to use meat cooked in this salsa.
- It just plain tastes better. I realize that’s not scientific or terribly persuasive, but there you have it. This is the best salsa in the world.
I have one final piece of advice about this salsa. Double the recipe. You really should just trust me on this or one of two things will happen to you. You will find yourself crying over your last jar of salsa between bites ~OR~ you will be reduced to guarding your stash jealously, suspiciously staring down anyone walking past your pantry or basement stairs and menacingly slapping a wooden spoon against your palm to show them you mean business. It will be easier on your mind in the long run if you just go ahead and double it. You’ve been warned.
- 12 dried chipotle chile peppers, stemmed
- 12 dried guajillo (cascabel) chile peppers, stemmed
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed
- 2 pounds plum tomatoes, cored
- 1 large onion
- 1 head garlic, broken into cloves with excess paper brushed away
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar (raw or granulated)
- 1 teaspoon salt (non-iodized)
- Place a large, dry, heavy skillet over medium heat.
- Toast the chipotle and guajillo peppers on both sides (this may take more than one go-round as the size of the skillet determines how many peppers you can fit in at a time without overcrowding), about 30 seconds to a side, until they are pliable and fragrant. Transfer the toasted chiles to a stainless steel or glass bowl and pour the 2 cups of boiling water over the peppers. Weight the peppers down with a bowl or plate to keep them submerged and cover the whole bowl with plastic wrap or a tight cover for 15-30 minutes or until the peppers are softened.
- Transfer the contents (water and peppers both) to a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth. Set aside.
- Put cored plum tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, and garlic in a single layer into a rimmed baking pan. Put them under a broiler set on high until tomatillos and tomatoes are blistered, blackened and softened and onions and garlic have black spots on them. Put tomatillos and tomatoes into a paper bag and cinch the top closed. Set aside until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes.
- Pull the tomatoes out one at a time, rub them to remove the skins, depositing the peeled tomatoes directly into the food processor bowl that is fitted with a metal blade. When the processor is full, pulse until smooth. Pour the smooth processed tomatoes into a large, stainless steel stockpot. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes and tomatillos.
- Peel the onions and garlic and pulse in the food processor until finely chopped. Add those to the tomatoes and tomatillos in the stockpot.
- Add the reserved pureed chiles and remaining ingredients to the stockpot and stir until evenly distributed.
- Prepare canner, jars and lids. (For more information on how to do this, see this link. )
- Bring the tomato mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring frequently, and continue simmering until it thickens slightly. This should take about 15 minutes or so.
- Ladle the hot salsa into the prepared jars, leaving ½-inch (1 cm) of headspace.
- Use a stainless steel chopstick or butterknife to remove any air bubbles. If you need to add more salsa to maintain the headspace, do so.
- Use a clean towel dampened with vinegar to wipe the rims of the jars.
- Center the lid on the jar then screw on the band until fingertip-tight. Don't overtighten but don't leave loose!
- Place jars into a canner, cover with water by an inch, and bring to a boil with the lid on the canner. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, begin a 15 minute timer. When the timer expires, turn off the heat, remove the lid to your canner and let the jars rest in the water for 5 minutes.
- After five minutes, carefully transfer the jars to a towel or cooling rack on your counter and let stand, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Any jars that did not seal should be stored in the refrigerator.
- After 24 hours, remove the rings for the sealed jars, wipe the jars clean and label them for storage. Store with the rings off (and in a single layer.) This is a little insurance policy. If there is bacterial growth in the jars, the bacteria will produce gas which will loosen and push up on the lid. This is an indicator that the jar has gone bad. If you have the rings in place, the lids cannot loosen and pop up to tell you something is wrong.
- Store in a cool dry place for up to a year.