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canning questions

Been considering canning homemade salsa for a long time and will take the plunge...

I don't want to use a Ball proven recipe. Where's the fun in that?

I see the recipes that are out there but they are always for large quantities which I can't wrap my head around since I haven't done that amount yet.

Below is my recipe. It results in about 1 1/2 pints at most. Is that enough vinegar to make it safe to can? Is there a particular pH level to look for so I could just test it until I hit that number? Any help is appreciated!

Here's my recipe:

12 tomatillos (maybe 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 lbs)
2 roma tomatoes
3 fresno peppers
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup white onion
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
3 tsp canola oil

Char the tomatillos, tomatoes, and peppers on the grill. Peel the tomatoes. Saute the onion and garlic in 1 tsp canola oil until semi soft. Combine all ingredients (except for the remaining oil) and pulse a couple of times to blend. Add the salsa to the remaining hot oil in a pan. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low for 20-30 minutes.

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  1. I've canned a lot of salsa but have no experience using tomatillos or fresno peppers. I add jalapenos to mine and have never added vinegar or oil. Hope someone else can help you.

    1. I'd pressure can it just to be safe, I don't know what the acid content of tomatillos are but you've got a decent amount of other low acid items like the onion, cilantro and garlic.

      But really for that small amount I'd just make it up as needed. I don't see the need for canning 1 jar.

      1. I agree with rasputina that it's not worth canning such a small amount. If it's too much for you it looks like it would freeze well.

        I emphatically think you should look at tested recipes to get a sense of how much acid is needed. 2 Tbs seems very low to me for a canned product. This is also a thick puree--it may require a longer processing time to get to the proper temperature. Check with your (or another's) County Extension office for some guidelines. You may to look at those in SW states,where tomatillos are more common.

        I know Blue Book recipes can be dull, but this isn't like jamming, where there's a bit of leeway. I am not a big member of the food police when it comes to canning, but botulism is absolutely no joke. Botulism spores are in the earth and can come in on both the tomatoes and garlic--and probably the tomatillos. Normally this is not a problem because botulism needs a low-acid, low oxygen environment to thrive. Canning creates a low oxygen environment, and if your mix isn't acidic enough you could be asking for trouble.

        I know someone who had botulism--it's not like a bad meal where you get sick and it's over. It affected her health the rest of her life.

        1. If you're going to can, that implies long-term storage. I suspect you can go through that recipe in about two weeks, tops, which is just fine to not bother processing your jar. In that time frame, I don't think you need to worry about acidity or anything like that.

          2 Replies
          1. re: gilintx

            I would obviously scale it up for canning. Probably 10x. that's the recipe I currently use to make enough for a few days.

            1. re: achtungpv

              The idea behind a Ball proven recipe is that is HAS been proven. The proportions and preparation (pressure canning if tomatoes are involved) has been tested to not only have the correct proportions of product to allow for long term taste preservation but also long term safety.

              You can try it your way though. I notice you did not say your canning method would be water bath or pressure, so hope you would do pressure-canning. Pop open a jar in November and let us know how well your salsa was preserved: that the can lid was still pressurized, the texture of the vegetables remained as firm as when you put them in and the taste stayed just as bright and fresh. I'm particularly interested in the cilantro preservation.

              That's the point of canning-to have the product remain just as tasty and edible through the months of "winter" when the vegetables used aren't fresh or available.

          2. Another vote for pressure-canning that stuff. You say you don't want to do Ball-proven recipes, but if you're water-bath canning, you really have to follow tested recipes unless (ominous voice) you want to end up in the hospital. Dire, but true. :)

            Now, you can get acid testing strips from canning-supply places, but I would honestly still recommend pressure-canning. In my experience, it makes a harder seal, gets more air out, and makes the stuff shelf-stable longer than water-bath canning. It's the only method I use for things other than jams and jellies.

            2 Replies
            1. re: LauraGrace

              Thanks for all the advice. I will investigate pressure canning. I actually found a friend of a friend who cans a tomatillo based salsa so I will get with him to see what ratios he uses.

              1. re: LauraGrace

                What pressure canning does is raise the boiling boint of what you are canning to higher than the boiling point of water, which is 212 F. To kill botulism spores, the temp has to be higher than 240 F or the pH has to be <=4.5. Pressure canning requires much longer cooking times than the water bath, too. Not sure how good a tomatillo salsa would taste after being cooked for 40 minutes under pressure.

              2. As a former newspaper food editor, I can tell you that vegetables and meats should ALWAYS be canned in a pressure cooker. And, to me, it just isn't worth going to all that work for such a small quantity of salsa. But, for a few hours work, you could make a number of pints to have on hand for some time into the future :=)

                4 Replies
                1. re: pilotgirl210

                  Not to raise a stink, but I did a raw pack of tomatoes last summer, processed the jars in a stock pot, and had amazing success with it. Lots of people assume that to can you need lots of special equipment, but that's really not the case. We were putting up about 20# of tomatoes, so we did opt for things like a jar lifter, but our set-up was otherwise minimal.

                  1. re: gilintx

                    I agree that it's not so much about the "special" equipment. But it is about knowing the basics of proper canning methods, acid levels and the like. A person can make her/himself or others seriously ill if the procedures aren't followed correctly.

                    1. re: LNG212

                      Agreed on this point. We did meticulously clean every surface, boil every jar and band, use bottled lemon juice for preservative (because it's easier to control the acidity of bottled), and process for a good 20-30 minutes in a water bath. However, we did not use a pressure cooker, and we did not cook the tomatoes before they were processed.

                      1. re: gilintx

                        Yes, of course. Tomatoes are safe for water bath canning with the added lemon juice. That's what I do too. And raw pack is a perfectly acceptable method.

                2. I'm with the others here. If you decide not to use a pressure canner, then consider freezing your product for safety's sake. The frozen product might be better than canned anyway.

                  1. As others have already said, I'd be leery of your recipe which has a lot of vegetables, only a little bit of acid, and mostly because it has oil in it. It doesn't seem to be a good candidate for water bath canning.

                    That said, however, the Ball book isn't the only resource for tested recipes. The new pickling/jam book that I bought this year includes a recipe for a roasted tomatillo salsa that sounds really tasty. The book is called "Tart & Sweet: 101 Canning and Pickling Recipes for the Modern Kitchen" if you are interested.

                    Also, just to note since I'm not sure anyone else did ... tomatillos are at an acid level of 3 (0=pure acid; 14=pure alkaline). That puts them in the same group as apples, blueberries, plums, strawberries, for example.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: LNG212

                      Tomatillos actually have a pH of 3.83, but the onions and peppers have pH of 5.37 - 5.85 and 5.20 - 5.93 respectively which will raise the pH of the final product. In order to be a at a safe pH for water bath canning, the pH of the entire recipe needs to be <= 4.5. I wouldn't recommend a first time canner to try pressure canning. Instead, try this proven recipe (it's a Ball one):


                      for tomatillo salsa and tweak the spices to your hearts content. Just keep the volumes of onions, tomatillos and peppers the same as the food safe recipe and it will be okay. P.S. Also it's not recommended to add oil or butter to canned goods. If you have any other canning questions, let me know.