Your Favorite Salsa Recipe…Is it Safe to Can?

Raw ingredients for salsa

Maybe you inherited a delicious salsa recipe from your father and you’d like to ship it out the entire family, or maybe you got creative in the kitchen with your kids and would love to store jars of their salsa for a surefire snack throughout the school year. But then you wonder: is that unique blend of ingredients safe to can at home? Here are a few reasons why that’s an important question to ask, and a few resources to help answer it.

Cutting tomatoesChopping jalapenos

  • Salsas are a mix of acid and low acid ingredients. Overall pH is what determines if a product is safe to be processed in a boiling water canner. If a salsa is not adequately acidified to a pH of 4.6 or below, then processing in a boiling water canner will not provide enough heat to prevent toxin-production by botulism-causing bacteria. Sufficient, carefully calculated amounts of vinegar or another acid are necessary ingredients for acidification.
  • Without detailed knowledge of the ingredients, proportions, and procedure used for a salsa recipe, there is no way to tell is the product is safe for boiling water canning. Unfortunately, we at the National Center are not able to fund and staff product testing for individual recipes. Here is a link to learn more about the science behind determining the Heat-Processing of Home-Canned Foods.
  • If you are determined to can your own salsa, please call your local Cooperative Extension office and ask if they have contact information for private testing companies. This link will help you Find Your County Office.
  • Fortunately, USDA and Cooperative Extension have a variety of tested recipes and processes for canning salsa at home. Ten different and diverse salsa recipes as well as background information and step-by-step boiling water canning directions can be found in the University of Georgia publication Sensational Salsas. If you want to view the recipes by themselves, follow this link to the NCHFP webpage “How Do I?…Can Salsa”. From there you’ll see that each salsa recipe is also available in Spanish.
  • Some equipment and home preserving ingredient manufacturers also offer more recipes to try, but first do some research to find out if they are indeed reliable companies with tested recipes.

Mango Salsa Raw Mix

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2 thoughts on “Your Favorite Salsa Recipe…Is it Safe to Can?

  1. Kris

    What about bottling homemade hot fudge for ice cream. I was looking to be able to prepare it to send by mail and needing it to last 4 -5 days shipping. The topping is cooked to 220 at which time I poured into hot bottles placed hot lid on and sealed. They sealed but is this safe, I see no recipes of this type? the ingredients used are chocolate chips, karo syrup, butter, sugar evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk.

    1. nchfp Post author

      I’m sorry, but we do not have any recommendations for canning chocolate sauces or hot fudge sauces. And we do not conduct individual product testing, as your delicious-sounding recipe would require. It is risky to make up a process time up for a chocolate sauce recipe because acidity levels and consistencies (thickness) can vary greatly among recipes. You describe low-acid ingredients being used, and low-acid foods require careful testing in order to determine a pressure canning process time or other controls that ensure the destruction of the bacteria which cause botulism. We just don’t take the risk of guessing at canning process times, especially for a potentially low-acid food, and we advise that you do not take such a risk either.

      We do however have a recipe for Freezer Chocolate Fudge Sauce: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/factsheets/choc_sauce.html

      Also, the “canning” process you describe is not actually a recommended canning method — it is sometimes called “open-kettle canning”. In open kettle canning, food is cooked in an ordinary stockpot or kettle, then packed into hot jars and sealed without processing. The temperatures obtained in open kettle canning are not high enough to destroy all spoilage and food poisoning organisms that may be in the food. Also, microorganisms can enter the food when it is transferred from the kettle to jar and cause spoilage.

      A seal does not indicate that a canned product is safe. A seal indicates that new contaminants cannot get in, but it tells you nothing about the presence of microorganisms (mold, yeast, bacteria) that were already in the jar. Heat from a proper canning process is needed to make sure any microorganisms in the jar of food are killed.

      If you want to learn more about how process times are determined for home-canned foods, then please read our “Backgrounder”, here: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/factsheets/heatprocessingbackgrounder.html

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