BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. – Fruit salsas offer new flavors for home food preservers.  “The vibrantly colored fruit, the herbs and the heat of onions and peppers add zest to meals,” said Susan Mills-Gray, University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist.

To ensure safety, however, it’s important to follow tested recipes when canning homemade salsas.

Most salsas are mixtures of low-acid foods, such as onions and peppers, combined with more acidic foods, such as tomatoes and fruit. Maintaining proper acidity is essential to keeping toxic microorganisms from flourishing, Mills-Gray said.

“Never reduce the amount of acid in a salsa recipe,” she said. While an equal amount of bottled lemon juice may substitute for vinegar in recipes, do not substitute vinegar for a like amount of lemon juice, as this would reduce the acidity of the salsa.

Choose firm, disease-free fruit and follow recipes carefully.  If a recipe calls for a green or unripe mango, do not use a ripe mango, as the acidity variance might create an unsafe canned salsa.

You can substitute one type of pepper for another, or mild peppers for chilies. “Just don’t increase the total amount of peppers in any recipe, which will alter the final acidity—and safety—of the mixture,” Mills-Gray said. “Although red and yellow onions may be substituted for each other, the same precaution applies: Do not increase the total amount of onions called for in the salsa recipe.”

You can safely alter the amount of herbs and spices in fruit salsa recipes. For a stronger cilantro flavor, Mills-Gray suggests adding fresh cilantro to the salsa just before serving rather than adding more during the canning process.

Another tip: Don’t thicken salsas with cornstarch, flour or other starches before canning. Add those ingredients after opening the salsa. Always store open jars of home-canned salsas in the refrigerator.

“If there is not a tested home-canning recipe for your favorite salsa, it’s best to eat your creation fresh, storing it up to one week in the refrigerator,” Mills-Gray said.

To learn more, see the MU Extension guide "How to Can Fresh Fruit" (GH1455) or visit the Food Preservation website.


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