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Tomatoes and Salsa

Canning Tomato-Based Salsa Safely

Carol Ann Burtness, Extension Educator — Food Safety

Reviewed 2014 by Suzanne Driessen, Extension Educator — Food Safety.

Tomato-based salsa recipes are usually a mixture of tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices.

  • When canning salsa, use only high-quality tomatoes.
  • 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.

Only Use a Researched Tested Recipe if Canning Salsa

  • Do not attempt to can a recipe that has not been tested for safety, because food spoilage or a foodborne illness may result.
  • If you use an untested recipe or like to be creative by adding your own amount of ingredients, freeze the salsa and thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

What Type of Tomato Works Best in Home Canned Salsa?

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

  • Italian plum-style or paste tomatoes will produce thicker salsas than slicing tomatoes.
  • 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.

Peppers Add Color and Heat to Salsa Recipes

  • Use high quality peppers, and DO NOT increase the total amount of peppers in any recipe.
  • You can substitute one type of pepper for another, or use canned chilies in place of fresh.
  • Hot peppers are usually small and give a hot taste to salsa.
  • The oils in hot peppers can cause burns so it's a good idea to wear gloves when you cut or dice these peppers and never touch your face, particularly near your eyes.
  • Mild peppers are usually larger than hot peppers. You can substitute a mild or bell pepper when the recipe calls for long green chilies.
  • The skin of the long green chilies is removed by heating the peppers. If you finely chop the peppers, you do not need to remove the skin.

Adding Acid is Necessary to Safely Preserve Salsa

  • Follow recipe directions for adding vinegar or bottle lemon juice to home-canned salsa.
  • Do NOT substitute vinegar for lemon juice unless this substitution is given in the recipe, or an unsafe product may result.

To Can Salsa Safely, Follow These Tips:

  • Choose only disease-free, firm produce for canning.
  • Tomato varieties and colors can mixed and matched for salsa but still need added acid to make sure the product will be safe.
  • Do not reduce the amount of lemon juice or tomatoes in the recipe.
  • Always store open home-canned jars
    of salsa in the refrigerator.
  • Do not add extra peppers, onion or garlic. You can reduce the amount of peppers, onion, or garlic.
  • Canned chilies may be used in place of fresh.
  • You can substitute one type of pepper for another but do not increase the total amount.
  • Red and yellow onions can be substituted for each other.
  • Spices and herbs may be adjusted to personal taste and will not affect safety. For a stronger cilantro flavor, add fresh cilantro to the salsa just before serving because the hot processing temperatures may reduce the flavor.
  • Do not 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.
  • If you are using a non-tested recipe or adding additional ingredients, it's a good idea to either freeze your salsa or store it up to one week in the refrigerator and eat it fresh.

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