Who Said Salsa Must Be Red?


As local gardeners know, frost can happen anytime in September. If we’re lucky, Missoula’s first frost won’t happen until the end of the month or even the first week of October, but that’s unlikely. I enter most autumns with many tomatoes, but few of them fully ripened. So, what to do with pounds and pounds of green tomatoes?Well, first, pick the crop before it frosts and lay it in a single layer on newspaper in a cool room with just a little light. (Do not can with green tomatoes that have frosted on the vine – they will no longer be acidic enough for the recipe below.) That old adage of “ripen on the windowsill” will result in rotten tomatoes. Also, when ripening, the tomatoes cannot touch each other – just like toddlers, they spread disease and mayhem to each other.   Most of the slightly red tomatoes will quickly ripen up and I cook them into sauce or ketchup. But many will stay a vibrant, glossy green. In the interest of actually using my garden’s produce and freeing up floor space, I have learned to make several canned green tomato products: Piccalilli Relish, Green Tomato Chutney, and Salsa Verde, my favorite. 

Here’s the Salsa Verde recipe I use:

Makes six 8 ounce jars or three pint jars; recipe doubles easily.

Ingredient List:

  • 7 cups chopped, cored, peeled green tomatoes
  • 5 to 10 Jalapeño, habanero, or Scotch bonnet peppers; seeded and finely chopped (for a milder salsa, use milder peppers: Anaheim, yellow wax, etc.)
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (bottled works best as it has a set acidity point)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed, finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1.  Prepare canner, jars, and lids. If you don’t know what this means, please check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation at http://www.uga.edu/ncfp/how/general/recomm_jars_lids.html
  2.  Peel and core green tomatoes: make a small x in the bottom of each tomato, drop into rapidly boiling water for 60-90 seconds. Then transfer the flash boiled tomatoes to a bowl of ice water (or sink filled with ice water). Once they’re cool enough to touch, the skins should peel off easily with a small knife. To core the tomatoes, use a paring knife to cut out the top end (where the tomato was attached to the plant) taking out about 1/2 inch of the core.
  3.  In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and lime juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in cilantro, cumin, oregano, salt and black pepper. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4.  Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace (headspace is the distance from the top of the salsa to the top of the jar, the rim). Remove air bubbles (run a small rubber spatula around the inside of the jar to break-up any air bubbles – this is important as air bubbles can harbor bacteria) and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot salsa. Wipe rims; make sure each rim is absolutely clean before putting the lid on. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
  5.  Place jars in canner that you’re already gently boiling water in, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a full boil and process both 8 ounce and pint jars for 20 minutes. (I have adjusted processing time for Missoula’s elevation.) Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.
  6. Be sure to label and date your jars of canned goods. In general, home canned products are good for a year.

Salsa Verde makes a great dip for chips, topping for tacos and burritos, and flavor base for chicken vegetable soup. Enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine, 2006, Robert Rose Inc.)

This article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of The Regular Joe.