Can It!

Spicy tomato salsa recipe from the Ball Blue Book, Guide to Preserving.

When I was younger, my parents, back-to-the-land hippies in the 70s, built a community around an agrarian lifestyle and had friends that raised meat chickens.  Every year, we would go for a full day with other families to butcher and preserve these chickens for the winter. There was a definite division of labor by the sexes and the generations: the men would catch and kill the chickens. dip them in boiling water to release the feathers, and talk about the weather; the women would pull the feathers, gut and butcher the chickens, pack them for the freezer, and talk about the men; the kids would watch the chickens run around with their heads cut off and laugh, look at the repurposed one-gallon ice cream buckets full of chicken guts with horror and curiosity, and occasionally run between the kitchen and the barn as requested by the adults to take this or that to the other place.

Our former flock of chickens in Golden.

I know this story is a bit of a bird walk (ha, ha) from the topic of canning, but this is one of my most vivid memories from my childhood and it was built around a community preparing for the winter, completing a big chore, and doing so with laughter. Canning can be fun and I do enjoy salsa in the winter, but it is a commitment of time and energy and it is better with company. Consider inviting friends over to share in the burden of chopping, stewing, sterilizing, boiling, and testing the seals of your culinary creations. Projects like this are always better when you can chit-chat.  

The chicken story is a legacy I look forward to passing down to my girls as we build community in our new town. For now, I am still toiling alone with minimal help from the girls. Next year I hope to bring more friends into the fold for a canning party.

The big goal this year was to make apple sauce from the fallen ground apples for snacks and baking and to make a batch of tomatillo salsa. I also ended up with a surprise batch of produce from my mom's and stepdad's prolific garden as well, so tomato salsa also ended up on the canning docket.


Peeled, cored, and pared fallen apples to make apple sauce. Just a topping of cinnamon and water is all you need.  The sugar in the apples adds enough sweetness.

Spicy Tomato Salsa Recipe Clockwise: 3/4 c. apple cider vinegar, 9 cloves of garlic, rehydrated and pureed peppers, 1 c. cilantro, 1 onion, 9 chopped and seeded jalapeño's, 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, 6 lbs. peeled and soon-to-be-seeded and chopped tomatoes.

Essential Canning Supplies

  • A Canning Guide: I am a fan of the Ball Blue Book, Guide to Preserving and I find most of the recipes to be pretty outstanding. It offers the proper times for boiling your food in a water-bath canner and so far, I have never opened a bad batch of canned goods.


  • Water-Bath Canner: This year I invested in a stainless-steel, flat-bottomed water bath canner as we are hoping to one day get an induction stove and the traditional granite-ware water bath canner would not work. It came with a lid and a jar rack which is essential when moving jars in and out of boiling water.


  • Canning Jars with Fresh Lids: I am a big fan of the wide-mouthed mason jar and I use them for both canning and freezing. The narrow-mouth jars are less versatile in this way and often crack with the pressure of frozen sauces. I reuse the jars from year to year but always buy new jar lids for canning to ensure they keep the food safe.


  • Vinyl-Coated Jar Lifter: This tool lifts hot jars out of boiling water and is essential.Extra Wide-Mouth Canning Funnel: This funnel supports getting hot sauces and salsas into jars without burning yourself.


  • Bubble Popper/Measurer: I use this sometimes to measure the "head space" between the liquid and the rim of the jar. While not an essential tool, I use it half the time.

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