Is it safe to can your homemade salsa? Under some circumstances, yes. Under other circumstances, no.
“I have a great homemade salsa recipe. Everyone in the family loves it. Since I grow my own onions, tomatoes, and peppers I like to put up jars of salsa every year. Do I need to process the jars in a water bath? For how long?”
We Master Food Preservers hear variations of the above several times each year. Sometimes the questions are from people who aren’t aware that home canned salsa should be processed.
Sometimes the questions are from people who are pretty sure the jars should be processed, but don’t know how long the processing period should be.
But mostly the questions are from people who want to can their own creative salsa recipes.
We tell them:
Yes, home canned salsa needs to be processed.
The processing period depends on which APPROVED recipes is used.
And NO, you cannot safely can your own salsa creations.
Why? Because your homemade salsa, as a combination of high acid and low acid ingredients, may not be acid enough to destroy illness causing bacteria, yeasts, and molds. Even if the jars are processed.
But don’t despair. There are ways to be creative with your salsa recipe at home and still keep it safe for canning. Just follow these guidelines:
What You Can’t Do
- Don’t use spoiling tomatoes or spoiling fruit in your salsa.
- Don’t increase the total amount of peppers in an approved recipes (more on this below).
- Don’t use fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice. Use bottled juice instead for its standardized acid level.
- Don’t use vinegar if the recipe calls for lemon or lime juice.
- Don’t thicken the salsa with flour or cornstarch.
- Don’t increase the total amount of ingredients.
- Don’t change the proportion of non-acid to acid ingredients.
- Don’t use tomatoes from dead vines (they are not acid enough).
- Pressure can your homemade salsa recipe. Currently there are no approved salsa recipes for pressure canning.
What You Can Do
- Use an approved recipe. You can find approved (tested) recipes in several places:
- National Center for Home Food Preservation
- Fresh Preserving site
- Oregon State Extension
- National Canning Publications like Better Homes and Gardens
- Your Local Extension Office
- Use tomatillos instead of green tomatoes or green tomatoes instead of tomatillos.
- Use any kind of tomato you want!
- Substitute one kind of pepper for another. For example, if the recipe calls for hot peppers you can use sweet peppers instead.
- Use lemon juice instead of lime juice. Or use lime juice instead of lemon juice.
- Use lemon juice instead of vinegar.
- Leave out spices like cilantro.
- Use fewer low acid ingredients, e.g. onions or peppers.
Still Want to Make Your Own Creations?
I bet you will find an approved recipe that fits your needs. For example, the salsa pictured above is the Tomatillo Green Salsa found at the Oregon State Extension site. But:
- I used a combination of green and yellow sweet bell peppers with only one hot banana pepper instead of the prescribed green chiles and jalapeno peppers. (Substitute one pepper for another.)
- I used lime juice instead of lemon juice.
- I reduced the amount of garlic. (Use fewer low acid ingredients.)
- I left out the cumin and oregano. (Leave out spices.)
- Previously I used green tomatoes instead of tomatillos in this recipe.
If similar approved changes still don’t give you the desired results you can:
- Make your own unique salsa creation and freeze it in containers.
- Make an approved recipe and add your own ingredients AFTER you open the jar. For example, may want to add corn or black beans or olives to a jar of approved salsa. This turns a safe, approved recipe into your personal “secret” recipe.
So, is is it safe to can your homemade salsa?
Yes – if you use an approved recipe from a reliable source.
For more information visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Want to know more about safe home canning? See these posts:
Botulism – Not An Old Wives’ Tale