Things are about to get spicy: Learn the basics of making hot sauces and salsa

MILWAUKEE -- When your garden stops popping -- it's hard to know how to use all the rewards you're reaping. That's why master preserver Christina Ward is here. She's going to help use mix up some hot sauce and salsa that can be enjoyed for months to come.

Tips for Salsa and Hot Sauces

  • Mix lemon and lime juice. Recipes that call for either lemon or lime juice taste better using a blend of both.
  • Smooth or chunky? Decide if you want smoother or chunkier salsa. Remember that the pieces will shrink during cooking and processing. For a chunky salsa, cut tomatoes into two-inch pieces and smaller for smoother.
  • Thicker? Under heat, tomatoes release their water; how much is variable by tomato. Sometimes a batch of salsa will be too watery for your personal taste. Add a can of tomato paste to thicken.
  • You want it hot? Your salsa or hot sauce will be as hot as the peppers you choose to include. Regardless of what type of peppers used, always keep the amount the same as in the recipe.

Total Preparation Time: 2 hours
How Long Before Use: 1 day
Headspace: 1/2 inch
Process time: 20 minutes
Jars: 8-ounce, 16-ounce
Yield: 10-12 8-ounce jars

Basic Tomato Salsa

  • 8 cups tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 1/2 cups peppers, minced*
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons 100% pure salt
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons of garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)

*You can use a combination of hot, sweet, and smoky peppers to achieve the balance of taste you want. Know that the hotter pepper, the hotter the salsa. Even if you think you want your salsa to be mild, add at least two jalapeños. You can also add a few drops of hot pepper sauce to ramp up the heat.

Note: This recipe is for a tomato-based canned salsa; it is not pico de gallo, which is a fresh salsa.

Working with jalapeños and every type of hot pepper can cause injury. Wear latex protective gloves when working with hot peppers. Rinse any tools in cold water before washing in hot water to remove residual pepper oils. (Pepper oils aerosolize in hot water and become pepper gas!)

Step One: Wash and dice tomatoes; set aside. (Larger pieces make for a chunkier salsa.) Clean and dice onions; set aside. Peel and mince garlic; set aside. Rinse and pat dry cilantro, mince; set aside. Wash and mince peppers; set aside.

Step Two: In non-reactive, large stockpot, put in all the ingredients.

Step Three: Over medium heat, bring to full boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. If you would like thicker salsa, continue to simmer until it reaches desired consistency.

Step Four: Remove from heat. Take out a teaspoon, let cool and taste. You can add hot pepper sauce to make it hotter, or 1 teaspoon of sugar to make it less sour. If you`re not sure what it needs, add 1 teaspoon of salt.

Step Five: Ladle into jars. Put on lids and process.