Celebrate With Safe Salsa
“Celebrate with Safe Salsa,” a N.C. Cooperative Extension publication available online, covers the basic information needed to make safe salsa at home. More people are enjoying the taste of salsa made from fresh tomatoes, and we all enjoy experimenting with new recipes. However, because salsa recipes vary in ingredients, the acidity of the recipe can vary greatly which can make the canned product unsafe to eat. Low acid foods can support the growth of Clostridium botulinum, which can cause the foodborne illness botulism. High acid foods, those with a pH of 4.6 or less, can be safely processed in a boiling canner. So to make safe salsa, the vegetable ingredients combined with acetic acid in the form of vinegar or lemon juice will need to be at a 4.6 or less pH. When the ingredients in a research-tested recipe is varied during preparation, the pH is changed. So, it is very important to measure ingredients carefully. The only adjustments you can make in a research-tested salsa recipe are in the amounts of spices used.
Research tested recipes have a safe acidity level for boiling water canning and the processing times have been tested to make sure that harmful microorganisms are destroyed. When canning salsa, use bottled lemon juice or vinegar that has 5 percent acidity. The acidity level of homemade vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice is not known. Bottled lemon juice has less effect on the salsa flavor than vinegar, and can be substituted for equal amounts of vinegar in a recipe. However, vinegar is less acidic than lemon juice and cannot be safely substituted for lemon juice in a canned salsa recipe. White vinegar has a tart flavor and will not change the salsa’s color. Cider vinegar yields a milder flavor but will darken the salsa’s color a bit. Sugar can be safely added to a salsa recipe to reduce the tartness from the vinegar, but you should never alter the amount of vinegar.
Salsa made from recipes that contain no bottled and labeled vinegar or lemon juice should be eaten immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. These recipes cannot be safely canned. You can find nine tested recipes in the “Celebrate Safe Salsa” N.C. Cooperative Extension publication online, or to receive a copy by mail from your Extension Center call 688-4811. The Mitchell County Extension Center will hold a “Salsa Canning Class” on August 7 at 2:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Materials fee is $5. Phone registration required.