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DIY Kitchen: salsa two ways

2013 August 23
by Rachel Turiel

I am consoling myself about the end of August with the fact that tomato season is just beginning. Which, I know. Shouldn’t people console themselves with exotic vacations? New shoes? A little home decorating? Dark chocolate medical patches? I don’t know. I once accidentally wore one shoe from two different pairs to a wedding and didn’t realize it until I came home. Dan filed that tidbit away for the comic strip we’re creating about our lives, called “Out Of It.” 

I have nothing helpful to say about home decorating or shoes, but I know two really excellent salsa recipes which are cheering me up immensely. One is for regular tomato salsa, but it’s extra special because you know how every time you can salsa, the tomatoes become their own chemistry experiment of osmosis, all of the juice contained in the tomatoes moving outside of the fruit into the jar in a watery exodus, and you have to drain the water from your salsa after you pop the lid? Well. I got it all figured out, which makes up for how I wear sneakers with skirts. Best salsa ever. Water bath canner safe and thick.

Also, lacto-fermented salsa. And, sure, you need some fresh whey to make it, which sounds all crazy and back-to-the-land farmwife, but stay with me here. Do you eat yogurt? If you strain plain yogurt through a cheesecloth, the liquid that falls out is whey. Lickety split. And if you live anywhere near the 81301 zip code, for heavens sake, I’ll just give you some. Reasons to lacto-ferment: (1) billions of beneficial microorganisms colonizing your gut. (2) no need to turn on your stove. (3) lasts in fridge for four months.

Best Salsa Ever

Makes about five pints


16 cups chopped tomatoes (I like romas because they’re pretty meaty to begin with – you’ll lose about 3-4 cups to juice)

1 cup chopped onion

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup minced spicy peppers

1/2 – 1 cup packed chopped cilantro

juice of 2-3 limes

1 tbsp sugar (optional)

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp salt

3/4 cup vinegar


I know. Worst background for photo ever, but you know, real life.

Chop tomatoes and place in colander perched over bowl or pot. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp salt and let sit for one hour, stirring occasionally while the juice drips out (you can press liquid out with a wooden spoon). You may get as much as 1 cup of juice for every 4 cups tomatoes, which you can set aside for soups, beans, stock. This step is what makes the salsa thick and not watery.

Simmer tomatoes and all the rest of the ingredients in a pot without lid so more water evaporates, stirring often, for 1-2 hours. When salsa is fairly thick blend half of it up, which incorporates more liquid into the matrix, and then pack into canning jars. Leave 1/2 inch headspace. Water bath can pint jars for 30 minutes, (add 15 mins if processing between 6,000 – 8,000 feet). Freezes well too (if you’re freezing reduce vinegar by half).

Lacto-fermented Salsa

makes 1/2 gallon


(As I’ve said before, when fermenting, you don’t have to be all finicky about things like recipes. It’s more about understanding a concept, and riffing off it like some inspired musician. And when you get the concept, it blows a door wide open, so that you can stroll through your garden like a talent scout, plucking and uprooting produce to star in the next fizzy ensemble.)


2 1/2 pounds tomatoes or approx 25 roma tomatoes (or 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, 1 pound peaches)

1 small onion

4 large garlic cloves

1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves

2-4 jalapenos

juice of 1-2 limes

2-3 TBSP salt

1/2 – 3/4 cups whey

Chop everything and pulse in food processor until coarsely chopped. Pack into 1/2 gallon glass jar. Pour whey in and stir, making sure salsa is submerged or at least coated with whey. Leave 2-3 inches head space. Close lid tightly and leave at room temperature for 3-5 days or until bubbly. “Burp” jar once/daily by opening lid, letting gasses out, re-tightening. Separation is OK, just stir. Transfer to fridge where it will keep for four months.

In the food processor:


I used peaches this time.


Wheyed and waiting:


Nightshadedly yours,


Shared with Simple Lives Thursday and Tasty Traditions

29 Responses leave one →
  1. EmmaA permalink
    August 23, 2013

    Wow! I have to try these recipes. Looks delish! I wouldn’t have thought of lacto-fermenting peaches, but my husband had me try peaches with a lemon vinaigrette, and it was fabulous.

  2. Sarah permalink
    August 23, 2013

    You are the bestest!! Can’t wait to try the whey recipe as we have the stuff coming out of our ears. Carry on, Sneakered One!

  3. Sara permalink
    August 23, 2013

    I have blight this year (insert very sad face), but when I buy some boxes of canning tomatoes, I’m going to give the thick canned salsa a try. Last year, I used a bunch of my strained out tomato juice to cook rice and an older chicken. Added some sausage and shrimp to the leftovers and had easy jambalaya.

  4. Melissa permalink
    August 23, 2013

    Yum!! Too bad you aren’t in Berkeley anymore! I would so trade you a yoga sesh for that salsa! Or good god, you could sell it at the farmers mkt!!

  5. August 23, 2013

    i want to try the lacto-fermented salsa – yum!

  6. August 23, 2013

    How I wish I knew you back in my farm days… I canned so much salsa that was so watery, it ended up ageing like wine in the basement… until I finally threw it away… because unlike wine, it did NOT get better ;)

  7. Crazy tomato lady permalink
    August 23, 2013

    Hi! I have been wanting to write to you for months to tell you that your blog is my favorite blog out there. I intentionally do not subscribe so that every time I check your website, I can be totally surprised and psyched to find a new post…. Or, totally thrilled to read through the archives. Your blog is such a treat. Thank you for all the time, effort, positivity, and tips.

    So my question is… Do you leave the skin on the tomatoes for the best ever salsa and can you substitute lemon juice for lime if you do not have enough on hand? I have 35 tomato plants this season, so I need to get busy pronto since many are cracking due to rain, rain, rain.

    Also, my husband, baby, and I moved from Aztec, NM to Virginia about a year ago. Thanks for all the amazing photos of Durango & the San Juans, even though they make me homesick! We loved Durango and visited often. And would you believe I didn’t find out about your blog until after I left?!

    • Crazy tomato lady permalink
      August 24, 2013

      And do you usually use apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, or what? I am assuming 5% acidity? Thanks!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 24, 2013


      Thank you for your kind words.

      I do not peel or seed tomatoes ever, for anything I do with them. To me, it is too much work for not enough benefit. Absolutely yes on substituting lemon, and I generally use apple cider vinger, but if I only had white vin around, I’d happily use that.

      Enjoy that Virginia greenness!

      • Sara permalink
        September 14, 2013

        So glad CTL asked this question. I kind of assumed you didn’t peel, but I was wondering as I’m about to make the first salsa. Off to start chopping.

  8. Rachel permalink
    August 23, 2013

    I once wore two left flip flops to a night out on the town and didn’t realize for about two hours. Not quite as awesome as wearing two different shoes to a wedding, but I got a pretty good laugh out of it when I finally realized!

  9. August 26, 2013

    Oooohhh, that lacto-fermented salsa looks fantastic! We’ve done lacto-fermented pickles and kraut and dilly beans and such, but hadn’t even considered the possibility of salsa. Can’t wait to try it and thank you for sharing!

  10. August 27, 2013

    I’ve made 4 batches of your salsa this summer. Totally our favorite. We ditch the sugar and use apple cider vinegar. Definitely adding cumin to the next batch, yum! I had some oddly mild jalapenos and ended up adding red pepper flakes and a bit of chipotle powder in at the end of our last batch. Worked like a charm and added some good heat.
    Trying the lacto fermented salsa today! I read somewhere you can use extra salt in place of the whey ( )
    Also…. it was like forever ago, but you had a link to some eggplant dip… lemony garlicky goodness. Totally my go to dip this summer with the eggplant in our csa share.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 27, 2013


      Love that we now share so many recipes!


  11. Milla permalink
    August 28, 2013

    Excited! I’ve been thinking of salsa in addition to my usual pasta sauce, so this is a welcome inspiration.!

  12. lynn permalink
    August 29, 2013

    any idea (roughly) how many pounds of toms in 16 cups?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      August 29, 2013

      I am going to go out on a limb and estimate sevenish.

  13. Meagan permalink
    September 6, 2013

    I could just kiss you! My salsa is a wonderful, bubbly, little bacteria biome and tastes super. Thank you!

  14. Rachel permalink
    September 14, 2013

    I made the “best salsa ever” yesterday. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I always take these best ever claims online with a grain of salt. Wow! This is my new go-to salsa recipe. Even my husband, a salsa hater, said he liked it. Now I better make a lot more since it won’t just be me eating it. About to embark on the fermented version now. We’re addicted to kimchi so I have high hopes for that one as well.

  15. September 18, 2013

    Always looking for new salsas to make with our garden tomatoes, thanks for these! Have a great day!

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