Food Safety: Home-Canned Salsas

Cooks love to experiment with salsa recipes and many want to preserve their winning combination by canning. Most salsa recipes are a mixture of low-acid foods (such as onions and peppers), with high-acid foods (such as tomatoes).

The type and amount of ingredients as well as the preparation method are important considerations to safely preserve homemade salsa. Improperly home-canned salsas or other tomato-pepper combinations have been implicated in botulism poisonings. A USDA-tested recipe using the type and amount listed for each ingredient can ensure a safe, home-canned salsa. salsa

Changing the type or amount of ingredients alters the acidity of the product, making it unsafe. If you have a personal favorite that is not a tested recipe, it is best to eat your creation fresh, store it up to one week in the refrigerator (40°F or below), or freeze it. Most salsas should retain good quality for up to one year in a freezer maintained at 0°F.

Acidity – Acid ingredients help preserve canned salsas and make them safe to store on the shelf. The acids are usually commercially bottled vinegar (at least 5% acidity) or lemon juice. The amount of vinegar or lemon juice in a recipe for canning cannot be reduced.

Tomatoes – Paste tomatoes, such as Roma, have more flesh or solid tissue, producing thicker salsas. Select only disease-free, preferably vine-ripened, firm tomatoes. Do not can tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines.

Peppers – Use only high quality peppers, choosing your favorite such as sweet bell, jalapeno, habanero, etc. Do not exceed the total amount (pounds or cups) of peppers in any recipe.

Spices and Herbs – Amounts of spices and herbs in these recipes (black pepper, salt, oregano, pickling spice, dried red pepper flakes, and ground cumin) may be altered.

Other – Red and yellow onions may be substituted for each other. Do not exceed the total amount of onions in any recipe.

Food Preservation Publications and Recipes:

July Brings New Food Preservation Program

Preserve the Taste of Summer is now being offered by Iowa State University Extension Nutrition and Health program specialists. This comprehensive program includes both online lessons and hands on workshops. The program is a great opportunity for anyone age 18 years or older interested in learning safe food preservation techniques. Youth age 17 years and younger are welcome to participate but will need a parent or guardian also in attendance.

First, complete both online general overview sessions and any online method-specific sessions, if you are interested in further information.

General overview sessions include:

  • food safety
  • canning basics

Method-specific lessons include:

  • canning acid foods
  • pressure canning low-acid foods
  • preparation and canning of pickled and fermented foods
  • making and preserving fruit spreads
  • freezing food, storage of frozen and refrigerated foods
  • drying foods

Each regionally-based workshop will begin with a brief review of information presented in the overview lesson.

The anticipated workshops are:

  1. hot water bath canning (salsa making) and freezing
  2. jams and dehydrating
  3. pickle making
  4. pressure canning

Contact your local Extension office and ask for the nutrition and health program specialist for more information.

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