Smoky Salsa – First Attempt

I’m drowning in tomatoes over here. The spring garden has been bountiful this year, yielding piles and piles of tomatoes. Some years, I make a big pot of marinara sauce, and this year I decided to try my hand at salsa. It turned out OK, but this recipe definitely needs improvement. First, I’ll share what I did, then I’ll move to what changes I’ll make with the next batch. The fact that these were garden fresh tomatoes put me ahead of the game from the start, but I did not exploit my advantage to the extent that I would have liked.


  • 4 pounds fresh tomatoes (about 18 medium to small dudes)
  • 4 small cloves garlic
  • 6 medium sized peppers (a mix of jalapeño and serrano – also fresh from the garden)
  • 4 limes
  • 1 medium sized yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro (alas, i had to buy this at the store – it’s more of an early spring crop)

Pictured are my tomatoes, with a couple of tomatillos thrown in – I’ve got those going on in the garden this year, too.

You’ll want to do some things in parallel – first start up your smoker and smoke the garlic, peppers, and onion. I like to slice an onion in half and smoke for about 30 minutes. Smoke everything until the peppers’ skins are charred so you can peel those off. The garlic should be easily peelable at this time, as well.

Once you start the smoker, get the water going for your tomatoes – you want to boil those bad boys for about 10 minutes. Remove, and plunge into iced water, or put them in a colander and cover with ice, and pour some cold water over them. Let the tomatoes cool down a bit so you don’t burn your fingers, then peel off the skins and core out the stem part. If you’ve boiled them for awhile, they’ll be pretty pulpy and not need much help falling apart. Toss these into a saucepan.

Add the peeled garlic (if it’s still firm, dice it), and dice the peppers and onion and add those, too.  Heat on medium so the tomatoes are bubbling. Stir a lot to break up the tomatoes – if they’re too firm, you may want to run them through a food processor, but they should be falling apart easily by now. Squeeze in the juice from the limes, and dice the cilantro. Let this simmer, while you stir for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Pour into whatever jars you have to store this in – I have some quart sized Ball mason jars, but note that this is not a proper canning recipe. you will need to refrigerate. This batch made about 1 and 2/3 quarts of salsa.

The Results

I found the sweetness of the tomatoes to be fantastic, but the heat factor on the salsa was just not there. The smokiness was really good. The recipe needed salt, too. Adjustments I’d make.

  • Double the onion
  • Double the peppers
  • Add salt to the recipe (1 tablespoon)
  • Double cilantro
  • Increase lime juice (i had four small limes, not really juicy – 4 large ones or 6 small ones would do the trick)

So recommended ratios are, for each pound of tomatoes:

  • 1 large juicy lime, or 2 smaller ones
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 large or 2 medium jalapeño or serrano peppers
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion

I’ll try this out next week after harvesting another few pounds of tomatoes, and let you all know the results.

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