How to Can Salsa

Making and canning salsa is one of the best ways to preserve your summer tomatoes. And it's much easier than you might think when using a boiling-water canner versus a pressure canner. You pick your favorite salsa recipe (make sure it's meant for canning), and we'll teach you how to do it.

We'd happily turn all of our leftover summer tomatoes into zesty, zippy salsa (especially since it can be saved for later in the year). If you also end up craving a bowlful of homemade salsa long after summer is over, then canning is for you! We'll teach you how to can salsa so not a drop goes to waste (your chips will thank you). Canning at a high altitude? Not to worry—we've included adjustments you can make depending on how high above sea level you are.

Pick a Recipe

While all tomato-based salsas will be acidic, certain recipes have been specially formulated to ensure the acidity is at the right level for safe canning. Before you get started, make sure you're using a salsa recipe that's been created for canning. If you try to can a salsa recipe that isn't meant for canning, it may not keep well over time and may not be safe to eat—stick to salsa recipes that specifically mention canning to make the most out of your tomatoes.

Step 1: Setting Up

To get started canning salsa, you'll need some basic supplies. Included in this list: the boiling water canner (the large pot where you'll process your canning jars); a jar lifter for pulling jars from boiling water; canning jars, lids, and metal screw bands; magnetic lid wand for lifting sterilized lids from the boiling water; a nonmetallic spatula for pressing bubbles out of jars; a ruler to measure headspace; and a funnel to direct hot liquids into jars. These items can be found with canning supplies in most grocery stores and supercenters.

Step 2: Prepping the Tomatoes

Because tomato skins can add an undesirable texture to your salsa, most recipes recommend that you peel your tomatoes before chopping. This is an easy four-part process following these steps.

  • Use a sharp paring knife to cut a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato. This will give you an easy place to begin peeling once the skins split.
  • Bring a pot of water to boiling. Use a slotted spoon to immerse tomatoes in the water (tomatoes should be covered by water) and let cook for 30 to 60 seconds or until tomato skins begin to split. Using the slotted spoon, transfer tomatoes to a large bowl of ice water to chill them quickly.
  • When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, use your fingers or a paring knife to peel skin off tomatoes. Discard the skins. Use a paring knife to core the stem ends of the tomatoes.
  • Cut each tomato into quarters. Use a spoon or your fingers to scoop the seeds from each tomato quarter. Chop and cook tomatoes and other ingredients as directed in your specific recipe.

Step 3: Sterilize Your Jars

  • Thoroughly wash your canning jars, lids, funnel, and other canning equipment in hot soapy water; rinse thoroughly. Place jars in the boiling water canner (or a separate large pot); cover jars with hot water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Boil the jars for 10 minutes; keep them in the simmering water until needed. Set screw bands aside. Place lids in a separate saucepan. Cover with water; bring to a simmer over medium heat (do not boil.)
  • If using a separate pot for sterilizing the jars, fill the boiling-water canner half full of water; bring to boiling. Heat additional water in another large pot (to top off water in the canner); keep it hot but not boiling. Place the canning rack in the boiling-water canner.
  • Remove sterilized jars from the hot water; place hot jars on cloth towels to prevent them from slipping during packing.

Step 4: Pack Your Jars

  • Pack hot salsa into jars using a sterilized wide-mouth funnel, allowing for adequate headspace (check your recipe for specifications). (Headspace is the amount of space you must leave at the top of your jar to allow for food to expand when heated.)
  • Release trapped air bubbles by gently working a sterilized nonmetallic utensil or spatula (such as the one provided in a canning kit) down the jars' sides. If necessary, add additional salsa to maintain necessary headspace.

Step 5: Process the Jars

  • Wipe jar rims with a clean, damp cloth; food or liquid left on the jars' rims will prevent a perfect seal. Place prepared lids on jars; add screw bands and tighten according to manufacturer's directions.
  • Set each jar into the rack in the canner as it is filled and sealed. Jars should not touch one another. Replace canner cover each time you add a jar.
  • When all the jars have been added, ladle hot water from the extra pot into the canner to cover jars by 1 inch.
  • Cover; heat to a full rolling boil. Begin processing time, following your recipe's procedures and timings exactly. Keep water boiling gently during processing, adding additional boiling water if level drops. If water stops boiling when you add more, stop timing, turn up heat, and wait for a full boil before resuming counting.
  • Use a jar lifter to remove the jars from the boiling water. Place the hot jars on a rack or on towels in a draft-free area to cool. Leave at least 1 inch of space between jars to allow air to circulate.
  • After jars are completely cooled (12 to 24 hours), press the center of each lid to check the seal. If the dip in the lid holds, the jar is sealed. If the lid bounces up and down, the jar isn't sealed. Check unsealed jar for flaws. Contents can be refrigerated and used within 2 to 3 days, frozen, or reprocessed within 24 hours. To reprocess, use a clean, sterilized jar and a new sterilized lid; process for the full length of time specified. Mark and label so you can use any reprocessed jars first. If jars have lost liquid but are still sealed, the contents are safe. However, any food not covered by liquid will discolor, so use these jars first.
  • Wipe jars and lids. Remove, wash, and dry screw bands; store for future use. Label jars with contents and date; include batch number if you can more than a load a day (if a jar spoils, you can identify others from same batch). Store jars in a cool (50 to 70 degrees F), dry, dark place. Use within 1 year.

High-Altitude Canning

The timings in these recipes are for altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea level. Water boils at lower temperatures at higher altitudes, so you'll need to consider a few adjustments before you begin canning.

  • Sterilizing jars: Boil jars an additional 1 minute for each additional 1,000 feet.
  • Boiling-water canning: Call your county extension service or visit its website for detailed instructions on canning in your area, but you can use the following times as a guideline:
    • At 1,001 to 3,000 feet above sea level, increase processing time by 5 minutes.
    • At 3,001 to 6,000 feet above sea level, increase processing time by 10 minutes.
    • At 6,001 to 8,000 feet above sea level, increase processing time by 15 minutes.
    • At 8,001 to 10,000 feet above sea level, increase processing time by 20 minutes.

1 Comment

  1. Love the salsa, hate the add' s

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