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Food Safety Feature Articles


Preserving fruit salsas


Tomato-based salsas have been popular for several years for food preservers, but there is a new twist on this favorite — fruit salsas. “Most fruit salsas are preserved to be used with meats, poultry and fish,” said Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition/Health specialist with MU Extension. “The fruit, herbs and heat of onion or pepper, as well as the vibrant colors adds zest to meals.”


Most salsa recipes are a mixture of low-acid foods (like onions and peppers) with more acid foods (like tomatoes or fruit). The types and amounts of ingredients used in salsa, as well as the preparation method, are important considerations in how a salsa is canned. Improperly canned salsas have been implicated in several outbreaks of botulism poisoning.


So how do you can a safe, great tasting fruit salsa at home? First, choose high-quality fruit that is firm and free of blemishes. Also, make sure to follow the recipe and avoid making substitutions. “If a recipe calls for green or unripe mango, do not use ripe mango, as this results in acidity changes of the recipe and creates a potentially unsafe canned salsa,” said Mills-Gray.


Peppers range from mild to scorching in taste. Mild pepper varieties include Anaheim, Ancho, College, Colorado and Hungarian Yellow Wax. Hot varieties include jalapeņo, cayenne, habanero, serrano and tabasco. It’s fine to substitute one type of pepper for another or mild peppers for chilies. Do not increase the total amount (pounds or cups) of peppers in any recipe. This results in a change of final acidity of the mixture and potentially unsafe canned salsa. Be sure to wear plastic or rubber gloves when handling hot peppers and do not touch your face, particularly the area around the eyes! If you do not wear gloves, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face or eyes.


Red and yellow onions may be substituted for each other, but do not increase the total amount of onions called for in the recipe — again, this changes the final acidity level of the salsa and can create an unsafe canned product.


Acidic ingredients, like vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice help preserve canned salsa. Unfortunately, USDA research has not been able to calculate a safe canned salsa that tastes similar to the fresh salsas we are accustomed to. Salsa recipes for home canning have larger amounts of vinegar or lemon juice, which create a more acidic flavor. It’s important that the amount of acid in the recipe is never reduced. While an equal amount of bottled lemon juice may be substituted for vinegar in recipes, do not substitute vinegar for lemon juice — this could result in less acidity and potentially unsafe canned salsa.


Spices and herbs add unique flavors to fruit salsas. Amounts of spices and herbs in recipes can be altered, with no risk of creating a potentially unsafe canned salsa. For a stronger cilantro flavor in recipes with cilantro, it is suggested to add fresh cilantro just before serving instead of adding more before canning.


Also, do not thicken salsas with flour, cornstarch or other starches before canning. If a thicker salsa is desired, add these ingredients after opening the canned salsa. Store salsas in the refrigerator once opened. If your personal favorite salsa doesn’t have a tested recipe for home canning, it’s best to eat your creation fresh, storing it up to one week in the refrigerator.


For more information on canning salsas or to access safe, tasty recipes, go online to, contact your local MU Extension Center or contact Susan Mills-Gray at



Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
National Center for Home Food Preservation
University of Georgia Extension Service publication, Preserving food: Sensational Salsas



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Last update: Tuesday, July 07, 2009