How to Preserve Fresh Tomato Salsa

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To have that fresh-from-the-garden taste any time of year, preserve your homemade tomato salsa by canning it, which allows it to keep in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months. Because tomatoes are not highly acidic, canned salsa may spoil easily if not made with the proper balance of ingredients. The safest bet is to use a recipe meant specifically for canning that has been tested and backed by the research of an extension service or other authoritative source. If you have an old family recipe that you just can’t give up, freeze the salsa instead.

Things You'll Need

  • Canning jars
  • Lids and rings
  • Canning pot with lid
  • Saucepan
  • Jar rack
  • Hot pad
  • Ladle or large spoon
  • Jar funnel (optional)
  • Damp washcloth
  • Magnetic lid wand
  • Plastic spatula or knife
  • Jar lifter
  • Towels
  • Freezer containers

Canning in a Boiling-Water Bath

  • Wash the canning jars, lids and rings in hot water with soap and rinse thoroughly. Dry the rings.

  • Keep your homemade salsa warm in a pot on the stove in preparation for canning.

  • Place the jars on the rack in the canning or stock pot and lower them to the bottom. Fill the canning pot, including the jars, above their tops by an inch or two. You can use a pot specifically made for canning or a stockpot that is at least 7 1/2 inches tall and 9 1/2 inches across.

  • Bring the water to a simmer (180 degrees Fahrenheit). Keep your jars warm until you are ready to ladle in the salsa. Hot pack goes into hot jars.

  • Fill a saucepan with water and simmer the canning lids to 180 degrees Fahrenheit until you're ready to use them.

  • Remove a jar using a jar-lifting utensil. Dump the water out back into the stock pot, and place the jar on a hot pad or other insulated surface.

  • Fill a jar with salsa, leaving the amount of headspace at the top that is specified in the recipe, often 1/4 to 1/2 inch. A jar funnel, which is similar to a regular kitchen funnel but has a wider opening at the bottom, makes the job easier and less messy.

  • Release air bubbles in the filled jar by inserting a plastic spatula or plastic knife into the jar and running it around the edge, moving the contents gently. Do not use a metal utensil.

  • Wipe off the rim and neck of the jar to ensure that it is clean and dry so that the lid will form a good seal.

  • Use a magnetic lid wand to grab a lid from the simmering water. Seat a canning lid atop the rim of the jar. Place a ring over the lid and screw it on "fingertip tight." Do not overtighten.

  • Use the jar lifter to place the jar into the canning pot. Take out the next jar, and repeat the filling for the rest of the jars until the canner is full. If necessary, add hot water to the pot to bring the water level 1 to 2 inches above the jars. Allow the water to come to a steady boil. Put the lid on the pot, and then start your processing timer.

  • Boil the jars for the time specified in your recipe. Be aware that altitude affects how long you should process the jars. In general, increase the boiling time by five minutes for every 3,000 feet in altitude above 1,000 feet. Following the processing there will be a cooling period with the jars still in the water but not boiling. This time helps stabilize the seal on the jars.

  • Spread towels out on the counter. Use the jar lifter to remove the jars from the water and place them on the towels at least an inch apart. If any metal rings loosened during processing, do not retighten them. Let the jars sit for 12 hours. Cover with a towel to prevent drafts from affecting the formation of any remaining seals.

  • Press the center of each jar lid to ensure a tight seal. If the lid does not “pop” or move, the jar is sealed correctly. Refrigerate any jars that did not seal properly and plan to use that salsa first.

  • Remove the rings from the jars to prevent rusting from trapped moisture; they aren’t needed to retain the seal. If you prefer to keep the rings on, remove them, dry them and replace them before storing the jars in the pantry or a similar cool, dark place.

Freezing

  • Place the freshly made salsa in freezer containers, leaving 1 inch of headspace at the top for expansion. Seal the lids tightly.

  • Label the containers with the contents and date. Foods placed in the freezer are sometimes surprisingly hard to identify later.

  • Put the containers in the refrigerator to cool before placing them in the freezer. They will freeze faster, which boosts the quality of the salsa and discourages ice crystals from forming.

Tips & Warnings

  • The ingredients in your salsa will lose their crispness when frozen. The intensity of spices and ingredients such as garlic and onions is also affected by freezing. Consider freezing fresh tomatoes instead and using them to make salsa when you want it.
  • You can also heat your jars and lids on a cookie sheet in the oven, set at 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Rings should be kept at room temperature for ease of putting on the jar.
  • A jar rack keeps the jars from coming too much in contact with the heat source and allows water to circulate completely around the jars. If you do not have a canning rack, a metal cake rack or bunch of extra canning lids lining the bottom of the stock pot can also do the trick.
  • If you don’t have freezer containers on hand, you can use zippered freezer bags instead. Remove as much air as possible from the bag before sealing it. If you plan to freeze a lot of foods, consider investing in a vacuum sealer, which provides better protection from freezer burn and loss of quality.
  • The balance of acid is critical to keeping canned salsa safe to eat. You may substitute hotter or milder peppers in recipes as long as you use the same amount. Lemon juice can be substituted for vinegar, but the reverse is not true. The best course is to use the recipes as they are.
  • Always use new canning lids. The rings can be used more than once, but the lids may not be safely reused.

References

  • Photo Credit Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
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