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Canning tomato-based salsa

Jars of salsa.

Most tomato-based salsas are a mixture of tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices. To home can in a boiling water bath, you must follow research-tested recipes to assure the proportion of acidic ingredients is high enough for food safety. 

Salsa safe canning tips

  • Choose only high-quality, disease-free, firm produce for canning. Canning is NOT a way to use overripe or damaged tomatoes, or tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines because these may cause the product to spoil and be unsafe to eat.
  • Salsa needs added acid to ensure product safety. Tomato varieties and colors can mixed and matched for salsa but you still need added acid to make sure the product will be safe.
  • Don't reduce the amount of lemon juice or tomatoes in the recipe.
  • Don't add extra peppers, onion or garlic. You can substitute one type of pepper for another or reduce the amount of peppers, onion or garlic.
  • Spices and herbs may be adjusted to personal taste and won't affect safety.
  • Don't thicken salsas with cornstarch, flour or other thickeners before canning. Add thickeners after opening the salsa if desired.
  • Always store open jars of home-canned salsa in the refrigerator.

Only use a research-tested recipe when canning salsa

  • Don't attempt to can a recipe that hasn't been tested for safety, because food spoilage or a foodborne illness may result.
  • The National Center for Home Food Preservation Choice salsa recipe lets you choose if want more flavor from peppers or onions.

If you use an untested recipe or like to be creative by adding your own amount of ingredients, either freeze your salsa or store it up to one week in the refrigerator and eat it fresh.

Salsa ingredients

Tomatoes

What type of tomato works best in home canned salsa?

The type of tomato you use in your salsa will affect the salsa quality.

  • Italian plum-style or paste tomatoes, such as Roma, have firmer flesh and produce a thicker salsa.
  • Slicing tomatoes produce a thinner, more watery salsa. If you use slicing tomatoes, you can thicken your salsa by adding tomato paste or by draining off some of the liquid after you chop the tomatoes. Never add flour or cornstarch to salsa before canning because an unsafe product may result.
  • Use only high-quality tomatoes. Don't use damaged, overripe or poor quality tomatoes or those from dead or frost-killed vines. They may produce very poor or unsafe salsa.
  • Dried and canned tomatoes can be used.
  • Roasting tomatoes and including some of the roasted skins adds another flavor.

Salsa can be thickened by adding tomato paste

  • Never thicken salsa with flour or cornstarch before canning as this may produce an unsafe product.
  • Salsas can also be thickened after opening.

Green tomatoes or tomatillos (Mexican husk tomatoes)

  • These can be substituted for red tomatoes or mixed with them.
  • Tomatillos don't need to be peeled or seeded.
  • Dry outer husks must be removed.

Peppers

Peppers add color and heat to salsa recipes

Use high quality peppers:

  • Don't increase the total amount of peppers in any recipe. 
  • You can substitute one type of pepper for another. 
  • Canned chilies can replace fresh.
  • Peppers add color and range from mild to fiery in taste.

Hot peppers include: Jalapeno, Serrano, Cayenne, and Habanero and are usually small (1 to 3 inches long).

  • When cutting or dicing hot peppers:
    • Always use disposable gloves: oils in the peppers can cause extreme irritation to the skin.
    • Don't touch your face, particularly around your eyes.

Mild peppers include bell, sweet cherry, pimiento and sweet banana and usually are larger (4 to 10 inches long) than hot peppers.

  • You may choose a mild pepper when the recipe calls for long green chilies.
  • Skin of long green chilies may be tough and can be removed by heating the peppers.
  • When finely chopped, peppers don't need to be skinned.

Onions

Red and yellow onions can be substituted for each other.

Acidic ingredients

Adding acid is necessary to safely preserve salsa

Because the acidity level of tomatoes varies greatly, more acid must be added to produce a safe salsa.

  • Commercially bottled lemon juice or 5% acidity vinegar are used.
  • Lemon juice is more acidic and has less affect on the flavor.
  • Follow recipe directions for adding vinegar or bottle lemon juice to home-canned salsa.
  • Don't substitute vinegar for lemon juice, unless this substitution is given in the tested recipe, or an unsafe product may result.

If you are not using a tested recipe or like being creative with your salsa mixtures, you can pressure can the salsa, store it in the refrigerator or freeze it. 

Pressure canning and freezing will soften the salsa.

Canning storage cupboard.

Spices and herbs

  • Add flavor and may be altered in recipes.
  • For a stronger cilantro flavor, add fresh cilantro to the salsa just before serving because the hot processing temperatures may reduce the flavor.

Storing your canned salsa

Store home-canned salsa in a cool, dark place. For best quality and nutritive value, use within one year.

     

    Carol Ann Burtness and Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator

    Reviewed in 2018

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