There are many who ask how long to can their own personal homemade salsa recipe. However, if your favorite homemade salsa is not acidic enough or is not processed for a long enough time or at the right temperature, then there is a chance of getting seriously sick or even dying from botulism.
Caused by a neurotoxin produced by a bacterium (Clostridium botulinum), botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness. The bacteria are commonly found in soil, prefer low oxygen levels, and form spores which allow them to survive in a dormant state until favorable conditions arise. The symptoms of botulism are double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. If untreated, these symptoms can progress to paralysis of the arms, legs, trunk and respiratory muscles. Symptoms begin 18 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food.
There is no way of knowing if a jar of canned food contains the botulism toxin. It does not make any off flavors or odors. Nor is there any physical sign. Because of the nature of making salsa, each home recipe and adjustment would have to be individually tested for safety in a laboratory, and that’s impractical and expensive. Unfortunately, there are no guidelines that allow home food preservers to safely adjust their personal canning recipes to be safe.
For these reasons, it is recommended that you do not can your favorite family salsa recipe. If you want to can salsa safely, use a recipe that has been tested. You can find research-based salsa recipes at https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_salsa.html. You can also contact the University of Idaho Extension, Franklin County.
There are a few adjustments that may be safely made to research-based salsa recipes to reflect personal tastes.
n Tomatoes – As long as tomatoes are in good condition, any tomato variety can be used in the recipe.
n Peppers – Any type of pepper may be used in salsa recipes. Use any combination of hot and mild pepper to create a desirable flavor. Do not increase the total amount of peppers in the recipe.
n Onions – Red, yellow, or white onions can be substituted. Do not increase the total amount of onions in any recipe. Do not use green onions (scallions) unless called for in the recipe.
n Acids – Don’t reduce the amount of vinegar or lemon juice in a recipe. An equal amount of bottled lemon or lime juice can be substituted for vinegar in a recipe. Don’t substitute vinegar for lemon juice. Vinegar is a less acidic than lemon or lime juice.
n Spices and Herbs – The amount of dried spices in the recipe can be altered. Add fresh cilantro just before serving.
If you have a favorite homemade salsa recipe you wish to preserve, simply freeze it. Use paste-type tomatoes and thaw it in the refrigerator. The texture of the vegetables will most likely be softer. To remedy this, try pureeing your salsa in a blender before freezing. Freezing has less effect on the texture this way. Additionally, you may find that after your salsa thaws that it appears to be more watery. To take care of this problem, simply strain the excess water off after you thaw it.