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State Fair Champion Zesty Tomato Salsa Recipe to Make and Can

I’m excited to share with you my state fair champion zesty tomato salsa recipe. 

State fair champion zesty tomato salsa is as fun to make and can as it is delicious to eat later on. I exhibited this salsa at my state fair and received first place! So, you know it’s a great recipe that is fun to make and enjoy.

Actually, I’ve been using this salsa recipe the past few years. It’s from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, which I use for most of my safe canning recipes

Since winning this state champion award for this salsa at my state fair, everyone started asking for the recipe. So, I will share exactly what ingredients I use and how I make state fair champion zesty tomato salsa.

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State Fair Champion Zesty Tomato Salsa

How to Make State Fair Champion Zesty Tomato Salsa

So, every ingredient in this state fair champion zesty tomato salsa recipe is farm fresh. Except for the salt and cider vinegar, everything else was grown in my vegetable and herb gardens. See the picture below of the results of one of my harvest days. 

Also, one tip for you is to use canning salt instead of table salt to prevent sedimentation. You don’t want to have any sedimentation inside your jars. That canning salt is designed to dissolve as the salsa is preserved.

Finally, I do not use the optional ingredient – Hot Pepper Sauce. But, it was in the original recipe so feel free to add it in if you need a little kick to enjoy in your salsa. Hence, here’s what you need to make this delicious salsa.

What You Need:

  • 6 Cups of chopped, seeded, peeled, and cored tomatoes (about 6 pounds)
  • 5 Cups of chopped and seeded long green bell peppers
  • Then, 5 cups of chopped onions
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped and seeded hot peppers (I used home grown jalapenos)
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons of cilantro, minced
  • 3 Teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 cups Cider Vinegar
  • OPTIONAL: 1 Teaspoon Hot Pepper Sauce

How to Make it:

First of all, you’ll need to work up all your fresh veggies and herbs. As I mentioned before, this is the most tedious part of salsa making. I use my handy dandy food processor to assist me in this process.

Because I like finer pieces of veggies in my salsa. The food processor assists in making pieces smaller. The main objective to making the salsa pretty is to make the veggie pieces all the same size. 

After your veggies are worked up to your liking, it will be time to combine all of the above ingredients into a large sauce pot. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Now, the salsa is ready to be ladled into hot jars for canning!

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State Fair Champion Zesty Tomato Salsa

How to Can State Fair Champion Zesty Tomato Salsa

So, you need to use appropriate quality branded canning jars to can a champion product. Of course, I use Ball because it’s a brand my grandma and mom has used for many years to can their home grown produce. So, Ball is a brand I trust and recommend completely. 

Also, you’ll need a water bath canning kit. You can use your own or borrow from someone. And keep aware of the head space when you fill the jars with salsa. 

Finally, please don’t go without lemon juice. Lemon juice or citric acid is essential for tomato products. Therefore, you need to make sure you have it on hand so you can add it to each jar. 

What You Need:

How to Can It:

First of all, the Ball jars need to be washed in hot soapy water and sanitized. I simply run them through my dishwasher once and then they are good to go.

Then, the jars can be heated inside the hot waterbath canner. You can heat them slowly while you’re preparing the salsa itself. The main thing is that the jars must become hot to endure the hot salsa. And this is when you want to go ahead and apply a tablespoon of lemon juice per jar.

When the jars are hot, go ahead and ladle hot salsa into hot jars. Leave 1/2-inch headspace. This means that you should fill the jar all the way up to 1/2 inches from the top of the jar. Then, wipe the jars clean and use the spatula to pop air bubbles all the way around the salsa inside the jar.

Finally, place the lids on the jar and tighten the bands to finger-tip tight. Process 20 minutes in a boiling hot water canner. Remember to adjust the time of processing based on altitude. I had to adjust my processing time by 5 minutes. Therefore, my processing time was 25 minutes.

After processing is complete, remove the jars from the water using the jar grippers. Set the hot jars on hot pad holders or towels and wait for the joyous sound of popping. These pops ensure that you have a sealed jar and your salsa will be safe to consume for up to one year.

And if you have a really awesome looking jar of salsa, you might consider exhibiting it for others to see.

State Fair Champion Zesty Tomato Salsa

How to Enter Your Jar Into Your State Fair

Plan to enter your jar into your local county fair and the state fair. But what’s holding you back? Take that first step to show others what awesome skill you just mastered by making and canning your award winning salsa.

First of all, here are simple guidelines for entering into the county fair.

So, the state fair is a little step up from there. The judging will be similar but there will be competition from all over the state. In fact, there’s a lot of competition at the state fair. Especially for salsa. 

First of all, you need to plan ahead to enter your salsa. Most state fairs require pre-entry up to one month prior to entry. Simply find the state fair web site and read the rules for entry. Be sure to follow rules word for word. 

Next, you’re ready for entry. You can either enter online these days or complete a paper entry paper. There may or may not be an entry fee required to enter your salsa. Fill out the class number and all the other entry requirements and send it in to the appropriate location. 

Finally, be prepared for a road trip to deliver your salsa on entry day. If there’s no way you can take your salsa, make arrangements with someone else who may be going already. Perhaps they can enter your salsa for you. It never hurts to ask. 

Also, be prepared to pick up your winning jar of salsa at the end of the fair or arrange for pick up. If your salsa placed, you’ll get some moo-lah for your troubles!

Get My County Fair Vegetable Exhibitor Guide Here!

How a Jar Of Salsa Wins First Place

So, how can you place or even win the salsa competition at the state fair. Or any competition for that matter?

The guidelines are set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These are rules designed to ensure a safe processed product for up to a year. Judges use these guidelines to judge exhibition canning products. 

So, what are these guidelines? Here are a few things you can learn more about to perfect the art of canning award winning salsa:

  1. Color – Vegetables inside are the desired color. 
  2. Properly Labeled Container – Follow the rules of your fair to present the correct labeling. 
  3. Uniform Size & Shape – All the different veggies and tomato should be uniform in the jar. No big pieces that stick out. 
  4. Lid & Band Free of Rust – Your jar should be clean and look it’s best when it’s judged. Use brand new lids and bands if you’re considering exhibiting your salsa. 
  5. Correct Headspace – IMPORTANT!! Should be 1/2 inch for this salsa. Headspace is the space between the top of the jar to 1/2 inch down. 
  6. No Air Bubbles – Easy. Use your spatula to gently stir out the air bubbles before you seal it up and process. 

There you have it! All my “secrets” to making and canning state fair champion zesty tomato salsa. One more thing, though. If you don’t want to exhibit it into a fair, you can still make it and enjoy. 

Or Go Ahead and Enjoy Your Champion Salsa

That’s right. Maybe you aren’t competitive. Maybe you just want to eat your salsa in peace. 

Totally cool! You certainly do not have to exhibit your salsa. You can simply enjoy it. I have enjoyed this salsa from the same batch of farm fresh vegetables over and over again. Our pantry is stocked up for the winter with jars of this yummy salsa. 

It’s perfect to use in recipes, a topping for tacos or as a side with Tostito chips. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, too. So, I’d love it if you could tell me how much you enjoyed it!

After you make it and try it, please let me know how you liked it! Was it “Champion” flavor? I’d love it if you would comment on this post OR visit any of my social media pages and drop me a line. 

Hope to hear from you soon! Enjoy your state fair champion zesty tomato salsa!


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Saturday 24th of September 2016

This might be a little hot for me, but it does sound delicious! :)

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