When I moved back to the bosom of my family in July 2006, I discovered shortly thereafter that my SIL's family has a tradition of canning some of our summer bounty: pickles, salsa, jam, tomatoes, antipasto, and pasta sauce are amongst the items. My dad makes a day trip to the Okanagan, purchasing hundreds of pounds of produce that is fresh and relatively local, and one day at the end of August, my SIL, her mom, me, her friend, and whoever else might be interested, all get together to do the canning, splitting the jars and the costs among us depending on how much we take.
I have canned before. Shortly after I got married in 2002, I decided canning would be a great idea for some reason, and I organized a day with two other friends. I went to the Byward Market to get ingredients, bought a canner and jars from Zellers, and we spent a day making pickles and salsa. The pickles turned out OK but our salsa left a lot to be desired. It was OK, but we never canned again, and I left (for all intents & purposes, anyway) in Sept. 2004 to attend culinary school.
So, I was happy to see that my SIL's family canned, only they have a much bigger production - and a large outdoor propane burner that makes everything go super fast. I missed pickle day and I don't like antipasto, so I participated in tomato and salsa day.
Here is the salsa recipe we use, and this year we quadrupled it.
1/2 lb jalapeno peppers (10 -15 small)
8 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes
3 cups peppers, chopped
2 cups chopped onions
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch cilantro
1/2 cup vinegar
1 can tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp paprika
You can chop most of this stuff in a food processor, but it is important to peel the tomatoes, which means you put them into boiling water for a minute or so, then put them immediately into cold water. The skins should come off quite easily. Mix the salsa up in a vat! Bring to boil and boil for 5 minutes. Fill canning jars, wiping the rims clean. Process in a canner for 15 minutes. This is also a great fresh salsa to serve and keep in the fridge. During our canning day, we take out some before it's cooked and much on chips dipped in it, and it's so wonderfully fresh.
We never seem to have a shortage of jars, but my SIL has picked up many extras at the local thrift store for very cheap, so if you don't want to spend a lot of money, you might want to see if you can find second hand jars this way, and then you only have to buy new lids. Rings can be second hand or new. But, there is a difference between a good lid and an el-cheapo lid, which we learned the hard way. Bernardin brand jars and lids are always reliable and we've never had a problem with them sealing properly. However, this year, we also used some cheaper lids, and many of them buckled after processing, which means they didn't seal properly. So, just to let you know: don't use Home Discovery Cinch Seal Lids. Also, last year, someone brought non-Bernardin jars, and we found that the bottoms fell out of some of them when removed from the canner! Very ungood.
As for the tomatoes we did this year, that was very easy. Again, we peeled them, but as they were romas, no chopping was necessary. Just fill the jars and press down on the tomatoes so that there are no air pockets. We did have lots of peppers and garlic left over, so we chopped up the peppers and added them to some of the jars, and we added two cloves of garlic to each jar. Also, one heaping teaspoon of coarse salt, and we were on our way. I think these were processed in the canner for 15 or so minutes, too.
I came home with 12 jars of tomatoes and five jars of salsa (I don't go through as much salsa as some people in my family do), and a great time was had by all. It's a lot of work, but it's so worth it in the winter months when you can just go down into the basement and find yourself a home-canned jar of something from the summer. I'm looking forward to making soups and pasta sauces with my tomatoes, and having various Mexican-ish dishes with my salsa, not to mention chips!