Guide to Making and Canning Salsa at Home

Homemade salsa can be satisfyingly delicious and inexpensive to make, but what about all of that extra salsa that you can’t consume all at once?

Fortunately, you can save room in the refrigerator by canning your homemade salsa using a boiling water canner. This article will highlight the ways you can make salsa that is safe to can at home.

USDA-approved recipes

For canning your own salsa, make sure that you use a recipe that is approved “safe” for canning by the USDA. You can find recipes from university extension websites, the Blue Ball Book of Canning, or from other books or websites that specifically state that their recipes are USDA approved.

Use these recipes because they have the correct vegetable-to-acid ratio, so that the pH in each jar is acidic enough to ward off bacteria. Even if you already have a favorite salsa recipe, you will most likely be able to find a similar one that is USDA approved, and for most of them, you can change the types of spices or herbs involved. However, you cannot change the amounts of acid and vegetables needed.

Hot peppers

Salsa most often calls for hot peppers. Whenever you handle hot peppers, wear gloves and ensure that no part of your body is directly exposed to the capsaicin. The oils in hot peppers, especially those on the ribs and seeds, can give your skin a burning sensation that is difficult to remove. If you want a milder salsa, use milder peppers, such as jalapenos. You can even just use sweet peppers if you can’t tolerate spiciness. 

Avoid cornstarch and flour

According to the University of Wisconsin’s “Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation Series” article on Canning Salsa Safely, you should not use cornstarch or flour to thicken the salsa. Instead, use tomato paste or thick tomato puree. This is because the pH of the particular recipe must be retained. Adding ingredients that will lower the recipe’s pH could result in a food safety hazard.

Fresh ingredients

Try to use fresh-picked tomatoes when it is possible to get them. You can try U-Pick farms or farmers’ markets during the summer. Fresh tomatoes are best for canned salsa because they should provide full tomato flavor and acidity for the recipe. Choose tomatoes that are firm and fleshy if you want your salsa to be naturally thick. Blanch the tomatoes and use a food processor to chop the peppers and all other vegetables.

Seasoning

You can either use your own mix of seasonings or purchase pre-mixed seasonings. The PickYourOwn website provides a recipe for mixing up your own seasonings. Remember to follow the recipe that you choose exactly as it is written. If it calls for vinegar, use vinegar that has 5 percent acidity. Some vinegars will be less acidic, so do not substitute an acid for an acid unless you know what you’re doing. Also keep in mind that salsa is a mixture of acidic and less acidic vegetables, so altering any part of the recipe, especially the amount of non-acidic ingredients, can be dangerous. 

Follow safe canning procedures as usual by making sure you sanitize and sterilize the jars and bands, use new lids, and process the jars for the correct amount of time. Pint jars of salsa are processed for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner at altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea level. The chart at the PickYourOwn.org’s article on canning salsa provides the amount of processing time needed at different altitudes.

For any unprocessed or opened jars of salsa, refrigerate immediately. They can be stored in the fridge, opened, for up to two weeks.