Canning Homemade Salsa
Radio Interview Source: Karen Blakeslee, Food Scientist, Kansas State University
Making homemade salsa is a great way to use up the fresh produce from your garden, but it's smart to spend some time learning about canning safety before you begin.
Canning salsa is a tricky task because you are combining highly acidic tomatoes with peppers, onions, and other low-acid foods. If you fail to properly balance the acid levels in your salsa, you create a breeding ground for food-borne bacteria that can make you seriously ill, according to Karen Blakeslee, a food scientist with Kansas State University. For this reason, it's important to follow the recipe precisely and use a hot water bath or pressure canner to allow the final heat treatment to kill any bacteria that may be present.
Still, making salsa is a delicious way to preserve the produce from your garden, and it is perfectly safe if you follow the correct procedure. Blakelee offers these tips:
- Choose fresh, top-quality ingredients that are free of cracks, bruises, mold or insect damage.
- Wash vegetables thoroughly to remove debris.
- Choose a tested recipe that is known to yield satisfactory results when directions are followed.
- Read the recipe to make sure that you have all ingredients and equipment on hand before beginning to prepare the recipe.
- Do not alter the amounts of ingredients in recipes. This will affect the safety of the final product. If you want to alter a tested recipe, wait to add extra ingredients (additional peppers, seasonings, etc.) until right before serving. It is possible to substitute different types of peppers to increase – or decrease – the heat in the salsa, and also possible to use any variety of tomatoes or substitute tomatillos for some of the tomatoes.
- To can a homemade recipe of salsa in a pressure canner, evaluate processing times for each ingredient and then use the longest processing time. For example, in a mixture of tomatoes, peppers and onions, the onions have the longest processing time.
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