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Schools & Youth

Preserve salsa safely

By Deb Botzek-Linn,

U of M Extension

It is tomato season in Minnesota and a great way to preserve tomatoes is in the making and preserving of homemade salsa.

Salsa recipes are a mixture of low-acid foods such as onions and peppers with an acid food, tomatoes. It is important for safe canning of salsa to maintain the correct balance of low-acid foods to acid foods. Many salsa recipes will include the addition of lemon juice or vinegar for a safe product. Always follow a tested salsa recipe to ensure it contains enough acid to process safely in a boiling water bath canner.

What if someone in your home likes really hot salsa? The heat of salsa can be increased by selecting a hotter variety of pepper. Can you simply increase the amount of peppers in a recipe? No, because this could change the acid balance and affect the safety of the salsa. Salsa freezes well; this is a safe alternative for the creative salsa maker.

Paste tomatoes, such as Roma, or Viva Italian, have firmer flesh and produce thicker salsa than large slicing tomatoes. Both types make good salsas - a thinner salsa can be thickened by adding tomato paste. Do not use overripe tomatoes or tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines when canning tomatoes.

Spices add flavorings to salsas. The amount of spices and herbs may be safely altered to taste. Cilantro and cumin are often added for a southwest flavor. For a stronger cilantro flavor, add fresh cilantro just before serving the salsa.

Salsa is fun and easy to make. Salsa also brings a bit of summertime tomato flavor to cold winter months.