Canning Salsa

August 30, 2010

For the second year in a row, I’ve cooked and canned salsa with tomatoes and peppers from our garden. I’ve been asked by several people to teach them how to can, so I’ve created a step-by-step guide below. This is the Fresh Vegetable Salsa recipe from Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving. (Remember you should only use recipes that have been created for canning and follow them as directed. Altering the ingredients changes the acid content and can affect how the recipe preserves. It can be dangerous later on!)

Ingredients (makes about ten 8-oz jars or five pint jars):
7 Cups chopped, cored, peeled tomatoes
2 Cups coarsely chopped onion
1 Cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
8 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can (5.5oz) tomato paste
3/4 Cup white vinegar
1/2 Cup coosely packed, finely chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp ground cumin

** To peel a tomato, put it in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then submerge it into ice water. The skin will peel right off.
** The seeds and ribs are where the heat lives in jalapenos. I recommend taking the seeds out, even if you like a hot salsa. It is easier to add heat to a jar once you open it than to cool it off. If you are sure you’re going to want it hot, leave the seeds in from some of the jalapenos, but not all of them.
** I chop my ingredients by hand. You can use a food processor, but I find it makes the veggies very watery and sometimes mushy. They’re going to get mushy as they cook, so I like to make sure they are crisp when I start. However, a food processor will save time.

canning jars will lids and bands (I have used both Ball and Golden Harvest brands with good success)
a stock pot or dutch oven for cooking the salsa
a water bath pot (any pot wide enough to fit your jars and tall enough to cover them with at least 1 inch of water)
a small saucepan for your lids
canning tools such as a wide mouth funnel, jar lifter and magnetic lid lifter or tongs.

1. In a large pot or dutch oven, combine all ingredients. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring very often. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently until thickened- about 30 minutes. While the salsa boils, prepare your jars and lid. Wash and sanitize the jars and lids, then drop the lids into a saucepan of simmering water. Fill your water bath pot with water and turn the burner on. You can bring the water to a simmer while you are working to speed up the water bath time.

Fresh ingredients before cooking

 Be sure to mix everything together well but gently so you don’t destroy the chunkiness:

 Keep stirring during the boiling process:

Boiling for about 20 minutes

Notice how much the salsa has cooked down and thickened while it cooked:

30 minutes... ready for the jars!

The simmering water warms the rubber on the lids and helps them seal.

2. Ladle the hot salsa into hot jars (I dunk them partially into the water bath pot to warm them up), leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary by adding additional salsa.

Use the funnel to fill the warm jars

 Headspace refers to how much space is left between the top of the jar and the salsa.

3. Wipe rim (VERY IMPORTANT! A stray tomato seed will cause the processing to fail!). Center lid on jar. (This is where a magnetic lid lifter will come in handy but regular tongs will work fine).

Careful... they are hot!

 4. Screw bands down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. (Note: I use oven mitts when doing this because the jars are really hot!)

5. Place the jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a full boil and process for 20 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars.


 6. Cool completely and store. Jars should be stored in a cool, dark place.

Cool on a wire rack or marble cutting board, not directly on the counter.


 I hope this helps anyone who is working on canning for the first time. I’ve found this recipes typically only makes about 4 jars… sometimes a tad extra. If I have a little leftover, I just cool it and put it in the fridge and use right away.



January 3, 2010

One of the goals I set for myself in January 2009 was to continue to be a better teacher. In some ways, I think I’ve accomplished that goal. As a good teacher, I think you have to be continually growing. I took my teaching experiences from last year and have been able to apply them to this year in many situations. I’ve also experienced new things that I’ve had to deal with and hope I never have to again. In the long run, I’ve not felt like a good teacher so far this year. I’ve struggled from the beginning of the year, even walking out on one of my classes in a desperate attempt to get their attention (and maybe my director’s attention, too). I feel that in the long run, these negative experiences will make me a better teacher next year.

Working with Ryan has made me a better teacher in a lot of ways, too. While I often joke with him and tell him that I’m a better teacher than him and that’s he’s “just a gym teacher,” I know it’s not true. He has a very different teaching style and classroom management than I do, and our daily conversations about how we handle certain (problem, usually) students has helped me develop different approaches that I might not have before. He sees my desperate desire to help every student, no matter how unrealistic it may be. He helps me find the strength and wisdom to let go of many of the things that I hang on to which I cannot fix, and in turn does nothing but bring me stress and pain. I doubt he even realizes he is doing it. His humor lightens my day and reminds me to leave work at work, and take home a smile. It’s been amazing to work with him. I hope he knows how much I appreciate him.

Several students remind me that I am a good teacher and do have a positive impact on the students I teach. Two students come to mind. They were formally in the expelled program. One was chosen as the first ever expelled student of the year for demonstrating the 6 Pillars of Character (which our program is based around), the other has gone from a student who just didn’t care to one who stays an extra hour after school to help regain the credits he needs to graduate on time. Both students come to me when they have issues, problems and good things and remind me that I helped turn them around. It’s the motivation I need sometimes when things are exceptionally rough.

My goals for 2010 are similiar to previous years.
1. I want to continue to remind myself on a daily basis of the Serenity Prayer that my dad has shared with me… there are things in life I cannot change, and I must accept that. I must also be willing to step up and change the things that I can.

2. I want to keep growing as a teacher and never get stuck in the rut that I see other teachers in- or the one I was stuck in during 1st trimester this year. This includes taking the necessary college classes to add to my teaching certificate and eventually renew the certificate.

3. I want to keep reminding the people in my life that I love them and that they are important to me. This includes the people who are far away (like my Denver family!)… just because I don’t see them doesn’t mean they are less important to me. It also includes people like my husband whom I see everyday but want to constantly remind what an amazing impact he has on my life.

4. I want to stay in better shape this year, learn to eat better, and eventually run in one of the races in the Crim in August. This will hopefully lead to me eventually running (maybe next year) in the 8K of the Crim, and across the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day.

5. I want to keep supporting Soldiers’ Angels, and my own personal soldier, Drew, who is currently serving in Afghanistan. If I make a soldier quilt this year, it’s going to Drew first. If I have time to make any other ones, Soldiers’ Angels can have them. My dad always says that we take care of our own first, and Drew is practically a brother to my brother, which techincally makes him my brother, too.

I’ve always felt that goals were important, and I have my students make them several times throughout the year in Character class. I usually have them set a weekly goal, a monthly goal and maybe a yearly one. I think it’s important to write your goals down, something my old boss Annie taught me. If you write them down and keep them somewhere that you can refer to them, it’s easier to keep them.


Reflecting on 2009

December 31, 2009

Looking back I can’t believe that another year has passed. It does not seem like a full year has passed since we hosted the annual New Years Eve party at our house the first time. Likewise, I cannot believe all that has happened in the past year, or that it’s been a decade since I rang in the new millenium at Aron’s house with my best high school friends. Here’s a look back at my 2009:

* I learned how to quilt and fell in love with it. I took a class with Kim and Rita and while it was hard to give up a night every week to do it instead of plan lessons, I am so glad I did it. In the past year I completed 3 quilts: 1 for me, 1 for my sister and 1 to donate to Soldiers’ Angels for their holiday drive.

* Don and I spent a few days over my Spring Break back at the bed & breakfast where we were married. We were the only guests and did nothing but relax. Just before we left, Don was hired to work for the first phase of the Census. He verified addresses in our area for a few weeks. He also got involved with the volunteer fire department in our township and started training to join the force.

* I completed my first year as a teacher, and believe me, summer couldn’t have come fast enough by the end of the year! I loved my first year, but would never want to relive it. It was the most stressful, and hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Yet, most days, I couldn’t wait to go back. By the end of the year, I’d grown especially close to one of my co-workers and I count her among my very best friends now!

* We spent the summer working outside in the garden. We planted tons of tomatoes, peppers, jalapenos and green beans. We had so many tomatoes I was giving them away as fast as I could pull them off the bushes. We also learned how to can them, and made several batches of chopped tomatoes, salsa and even bruschetta. We also canned green beans, jalapenos, apple butter, and strawberry jam. A lot of them were used in homemade gift baskets for the holidays. In the process I learned a lot about gardening, including about quite possibly the ugliest worm on the face of the planet, tomato worms.

*  In May, a young, yellow lab was dropped off near our property. She was afraid of us at first, but after about a week of gaining her trust, I was able to catch her and we fell in love with her. They decided they wanted to keep her next door (which is good because she does not get along with our cat), and was named Lily after the spring since that’s when she showed up. In the last few months, she’s gone from being an outside dog to owning the house.

* A young girl was kidnapped and eventually discovered to be murdered in our town over the summer. As a firefighter, Don took me to join a search party in some heavily wooded areas. We discovered later that at the exact time we were out searching, police were on the other side of the county with her body. We suspected that they had found her while we were in the woods because they called us back really early, but we didn’t know for sure until much later. As of now, the murder still hasn’t been solved. It was really interesting to be a part of the search party, though.

* I saw Brad Paisley (for the 3rd time), Dave Matthews (for the 7th time), and the Kenny Chesney tour over the summer. Brad Paisley was awesome and it was so much fun going to a concert with Amy. DMB always rocks, even though the show wasn’t one of my favorites. I did get their new CD afterwards and love it. It was also cool to see Tim Reynolds on stage with the band again, too. As for Kenny Chesney, I suppose I enjoyed his performance, but I’m just not a big fan. I was happy to see Montgomery Gentry again, though. And though I’m still not a big fan, Sugarland was great live, too.

* Don and I went on vacation for a week with my family to the Leelenau Peninsula near Traverse City. It was awesome to see my family on an occasion other than Christmas and we had fun. My dad and I made the trek to Mackinac Island, and Don and I spent a lot of time reading. I was reminded of exactly how much I missed the Great Lakes while we lived in Denver.

* I made a couple of cool cakes and some awesome cookies over the past year. I bake a lot for my students (it’s amazing how easily high school students can be bribed to behave for a substitute with the promise of cookies or cupcakes!), but I did a cake for the grand opening of the new location of Permanent Images Tattoos, and cookies for Laura’s rehearsal dinner. I also made some cookie bouquets for Krista & Terrell’s anniversary and as a door prize for the Knights of Columbus trip to the Tigers game.

* In September, we started school again with 2 new teachers. I will totally admit that I wasn’t sure about either of them at first, but am happy that several months later, they have completed our group of non-tenured teachers, which we call “The Six-Pack.” I share a classroom with Ryan and can honestly say that I am so happy to have met him and have him working so closely with me in the expelled program. I think that our personalities match perfectly for working with those kids. We have what looks like a total love/hate relationship on the outside, but in actuality he is one of the best friends I’ve made in years.

* We attended several weddings this year, including that of my good friend from high school and her high school sweetheart. How awesome to be there, and see them get married after I attended senior prom with them. When I delivered Laura her cookies, we met at Cabelas and found that they were having a job fair so Don applied. He was hired a few weeks later as a seasonal worker, and just applied to a permanent job there.

* My aunt passed away this fall after a long time of poor health. She lived in Canada and I don’t have a passport, so I couldn’t go to the funeral. Otherwise, I was lucky enough to avoid losing other people I love this year.

* Don and I finally purchased the house we’ve been renting since we moved back to MI. How exciting! We’re finally homeowners! This officially completes “The New Plan,” which was set back in July of ’08 after I found out we were moving back to Michigan.

As always, I know there are lots of things I am forgetting, but that’s my year in a nutshell and it will be nice to look back someday and reread this and see 2009 for what it was!


Loving my friends

November 3, 2009

It’s the best blessing in the world to have amazing friends at your side when the world seems to be against you.


Crazy times return…

September 26, 2009

I started back to school about 3 weeks ago and it’s been crazy busy- and awful. Even though last year was my first year of teaching, the stress I’ve had the past 3 weeks has been nothing compared to last year. Our program has several extra students this year, and it’s amazing what a difference a few students can make, especially in a classroom full of students with bad behavior. However, after a little breakdown about a week ago, and a mental-health day off this past week, I am feeling better and ready to (almost) take on the world… or at least a classroom full of expelled teenagers. It’s been especially nice to have the friendship of someone who’s taught in that classroom before- the only person who I think really, truely understands what I’m feeling. To top things off, I’m dealing with the recent death of an aunt. She lived in Canada, and since I don’t have a passport, I couldn’t make it to the funeral. We weren’t especially close, but I have this closure thing with death— funerals help me cope.

The garden is just about finished for the season. The tomatoes have almost completely died away and the beans went to seed a few weeks ago. We’re just waiting for the green peppers and jalapenos to finish producing- not that I’m complaining! I’ve had to give away both last week because we couldn’t use them fast enough. We pulled all of the onions last week and aren’t really happy with the crop, but it was ok. The compost from the past year is looking great, and I’m hoping for an awesome garden next year. I stopped at a farmer’s market with my friend Kristen last week and found the best looking apples for $0.69/pound. I bought a ton and am going to be making apple butter with them this weekend. She also picked me up a giant zucchini on her second trip there, which I shredded with my new food processor and made 2 loaves of chocolate zucchini bread from the new Cedar Cove cookbook. The extra shredded zucchini was frozen for use later in the winter. We may have to make another trip to the farmer’s market to get another couple for freezing.

I have been waiting for the Cedar Cove cookbook to come out and then be available at the library. (I love checking cookbooks out from the library. Most people only use a handful of recipes out of any given cookbook, so why buy it for a couple of recipes?) It arrived for me this week and I’ve already read almost all of the recipes. I can read a cookbook like a novel. I am thinking of purchasing this one because I really think these are simple, yummy recipes that I can use. If I do, I may do a “Julie and Julia” thing and cook every recipe in the book. What a fun idea, really. I was inspired when I saw the movie, and this seems like a perfect opportunity to try the new recipes out.

We went to a wedding for one of my oldest friends last weekend. I am so happy for the bride and groom- who went to our senior prom together! It was so nice to share in their special day and to see Trish, too! The weather was perfect and everyone looked beautiful and handsome. Now, we are getting ready to attend a wedding this evening for a friend of Don’s. We are a little worn out because we went to see KISS last night at Cobo Hall. Such an amazing time! Our seats were in the very top row, in the very back of the hall, but it didn’t matter. We were in the same place as KISS! I really loved it.

Now, it’s off to pull the bread out of the oven and start getting ready for the wedding!


Tomato Worms!

September 9, 2009

All summer long, the tomato worms have been eating out plants. They even ate a green pepper plant! We’ve been pulling them off everytime we’ve found them, but they are sneaky. And blend in really well with the leaves. I managed to spot this one before he’d eaten much of the plant. I wasn’t even looking for it, just walking by the garden!




The Harvest Continues

August 9, 2009

It’s been a few weeks since our first veggies started to grow, and in the last two weeks, we’ve had a bountiful harvest- especially considering the smallish size of our garden. So far, we’ve already gathered about 3 gallon-sized bags of green beans, more green bell peppers than I have counted, almost 2 gallon-sized bags of plum tomatoes, and 1.5 dozen jalapenos. Most of the tomato plants have lots of tomatoes on them, but will need a few more weeks before they are ripe enough to eat.

I learned a little about canning yesterday and we’ve already canned 4 quarts of green beans, and may have enough to do at least 2 more in the next week or so. I chopped up 10 bell peppers today and vacuum sealed them for freezing. We’ll be canning the jalapenos this evening, and possibly making homemade BBQ sauce with the tomatoes tomorrow. Once the roma tomatoes are ready, we’ll be making salsa and canning the tomatoes whole and halved for use in chili, stew and soup over the winter.

Excessive temperatures made it almost unbearable to be outside today, so I didn’t get much work done in the garden. I did manage to collect a full bowl of tomatoes, peppers, jalapenos and green beans, but no weeding. Two of the vine tomato plants have not only outgrown their cages, but they’ve actually started to bend them a tad. I wanted to see about fixing those to ensure we don’t lose anything from those monsterous plants.