Secrets to Canning Salsa


Why should you tolerate mass produced salsa. Yeah, it is readily available at the local grocery store with a couple of levels of intensity. Unfortunately there isn’t much variety in flavor and intensity.

What is salsa? Salsa is a mixture of low acid and high acid foods. The base is tomatoes. Blended in are onions, peppers, chilies and spices. The final salsa mixture must contain enough acid to prevent the growth of food spoiling bacteria and the deadly Clostridium botulinum bacteria.

Salsa Ingredients


Depending on the variety of tomato that is used affects the thickness of the salsa. Large slicing tomatoes produce a watery salsa. Roma tomatoes and other paste tomatoes make for a thick and chunky salsa.

Only use fresh, ripe and firm tomatoes for canning. Over ripe or spoiling tomatoes will produce poor salsa that will most likely spoil in the jar before you open it to enjoy it.

Remove the skin by blanching the tomato in boiling water for about a minute or until the skin begins to crack. Then transfer the tomato to a cold water bath. The skin will slip off. Remove the core and seeds.

Tomatillos can be substituted for the tomatoes that the salsa recipe calls for. Make sure to use the same volume that the recipe calls for. These tomatoes do not need to be seeded or peeled; however, the dry outer husk must be removed before using them.


Chiles are the main ‘heat’ component in salsa. Often chilies are referred to as peppers. Chilies heat range from mild to fiery hot. The smaller the chili the hotter it is. The small chilies, one to three inches long, are the hottest, such as the jalapeno, habanero, Serrano, tobacco and chili piquin. The mild chilies are larger, usually four to ten inches long, such as the bell pepper, Ancho, New Mexico 6-4, Anaheim, Hungarian Yellow Wax, Chimayo, and Big Jim.

Wear gloves when cutting and chopping chilies. The capsaicin molecule which is what makes chilies hot is an oil based molecule and is very difficult to get off of your skin. The capsaicin causes dire pain when it is accidentally rubbed into the eye.

You can exchange any chili in a recipe. If the recipe calls for habanero and you want to cool down the recipe, use Hungarian yellow wax chili. Always use the same amount of chili that the recipe calls for. Don’t ever increase or decrease the amount of chili peppers because this will alter the acidity of the salsa and possibly risk machining the salsa unhealthy.


Spices are the area where you can ‘play’ with the flavor and taste of the salsa. Spices can enhance the flavor, increase the heat.


Having the correct acidity level is key to preventing spoilage especially botulism poisoning. Adding additional acid is necessary as the tomatoes may not be acidic enough.

The commonly used acids are lemon juice (bottled only), vinegar (at least 5% acid) and citric acid. Lemon juice is more acidic than vinegar and does not have the taste effect that vinegar has on the salsa. Don’t substitute vinegar for lemon juice; this substitution will result in a lower acidity level in the salsa.

After processing your salsa, wipe the jars down and clearly label them with the contents as well as the date canned. Store the salsa jars in a cool, dark and dry place. Best used within a year.


Besides canning salsa, canning peppers using my garlic pepper recipe. Learn more on how to preserve your garden’s bounty with my free canning and preserving mini course and free canning recipes.

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