pressure canning salsa

The Damsel made her first batch of salsa for the year today. There’ll be more.

The Damsel would like to inform you that canning salsa isn’t tricky. The skill level is similar to boiling water. But it ain’t for sissies, either. It takes a while. There’s a good bit of working on your feet, and there’s the heat.

On the good side . . . (pause while the Damsel tries to think of a good side) . . . she only saw one bug during the entire process, and it was a dead spider in the bottom of an empty canning jar. It could have been much worse. There could have been earwigs. It was a completely earwigless day.

And of course there was another good side . . . yummy salsa was made and put away for a winter’s day.

In order to can salsa safely, you have to follow strict recipes and directions. That’s because salsa contains both acid vegetables (tomatoes) and non-acid vegetables (onions and peppers). The balance of acid has to be high enough for it to be safe to do waterbath canning. But the Damsel can’t be bothered with all that. She wants to make salsa her own way, so it tastes the way she likes. And when you pressure can, you don’t have to worry or measure or any of that tedious stuff. When you pressure can your own custom mixtures, you can be safe by figuring out which vegetable in your mixture requires the longest processing time, and then use that time.

But the Damsel is getting way ahead of herself.

First, get the goods. The Damsel stretched forth her hand to her sprog, who went forth to the cottage garden and brought back Roma tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and a handful of hot peppers.

Here’s how to skin the tomatoes: Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Drop in the washed tomatoes. You can use regular or Roma. “Blanch” them for a minute or two and when their skins split, remove them from the water to cool a bit.  Don’t worry if some tomatoes don’t show a split. If most of the tomatoes in the pot have, the rest are ready as well.

See the split? Now the skins will slip right off. Just nip off the stem with a little knife and poof.

Now the Damsel would like to introduce you to her pet, otherwise known as her grandmother’s grinder. It’s very old school. You put stuff in the top, turn the crank, and perfectly diced things come out. Not like some food processors, that end up pureeing the bottom layer and haphazardly chopping the top layer. Perfect. Perfect. Every time. It can never break, it doesn’t need electricity, and it doesn’t have a million weird little parts to wash. Plus it’s fun to turn the crank. The Damsel has known sprog to fight over the chance.

The Damsel loves her pet, and encourages you to adopt one of your own at your first convenience. As far as she knows, you can only buy them at yard sales.

Dice up your tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers in whatever way seemeth you best if you don’t have a pet. Put it all into a large pot. Add chopped cilantro and garlic, if you know what’s best, plus a lot of salt and pepper. Add some chopped hot peppers, like jalapenos, if you like the heat.

Notice the Damsel hasn’t said how much of anything? She just puts stuff in until it has the balance of red, green, and white that she likes. Taste, taste, taste, and adjust. Taste some more. She guesses the end result if probably 75% tomato, 12% onion, 12% pepper, or something like that.

Oh heaven on a chip.

When it’s just right, ladle into canning jars and assemble the two piece lid/ring, screwing the ring on finger-tight.

The Damsel uses pint jars for salsa. Put 3 or 4 inches of water in the bottom of the pressure canner, along with the rack, and heat to boiling. Put in the jars…as many as will fit. Nine pints fit in the Damsel’s ridiculously big pressure canner. Put on the canner lid tight, and let it start to steam. When a plume of steam is escaping from the vent, set the timer for 10 minutes. Then put on the petcock and pressure will start to build inside the canner. When it reaches 10 lbs. pressure (or whatever pressure you’ve been recommended to use in your area) begin counting processing time. Let the canner cool on its own, then remove the jars and CAREFULLY retighten any jar rings that are very loose.

Here they are, the little beauties. Wait 24 hours and check the seal. If the middle of the lid bops up and down, it didn’t seal, and needs to be refrigerated or reprocessed.

Oh, the delights that now await you! Who can wait for winter?

41 thoughts on “pressure canning salsa

  1. I HAVE a grinder! And to think I was dreading salsa canning, but had to because I am all out of salsa! thanks for the great idea. I have always chopped all those veggies.

    • You have one of these babies? Lucky you! Try it and let me know what you think. I love, love, love the perfect little dices…see how it works for you. I know there are different little cutting thingies that fit on, so I guess it depends on which you have.

  2. We can still buy the grinders at most of the hardware stores in this neck of the woods because all of the oldtimers (and many of the youngtimers) still make their own sausage. Still,,,, I wish I had my mother’s grinder from the 40’s…….. She used it to grind her own hamburger, and ham for ham salad. And, in a pinch, she would even grind up bologna for “ham salad”.

  3. So, I was wondering how it was done in a pressure canner, and came across your blog, and am excited to make my salsa, as I too, have a grinder which used to be my mothers! I am off to make my salsa! Thanks for the tip!

  4. The Old School-Teacher (that would be Yours Truly) has determined that one can buy hand-cranked grinders on eBay. Expect to pay $10 to $20 plus shipping. Search on “meat grinder manual” or things similar.

    This is only for city slickers such as myself who no longer have access to a real hardware store. {sigh}

    • Oh, I was hoping someone would know where these could be bought. Are they still being made, or are these old ones being sold?

    • What I’ve found on eBay are old machines… 60 to 100 years old! But hey… they’re made of cast iron, literally.

      If you buy one that’s rusty, try cleaning with Barkeeper’s Friend, which is mostly oxalic acid, and will reduce the rust stains. If that fails, try Naval Jelly… phosphoric acid. After that, spray with Pam.

      • great info on the grinders…thanks again, Bob. Glad to see they are still being made. Love my old school one though!

    • I don’t believe I’ve had exactly that, but if you’ve followed the canning instructions, the white stuff shouldn’t be dangerous or anything. If it looks gross, I’d just wipe it out of the top of the jar with a paper towel and proceed to the chip-eating stage, if the remaining salsa looks and tastes normal.

      Keep in mind that with canned tomatoes, the big concern is botulism. Proper canning methods kill that, and besides, it’s odorless and tasteless, so your white stuff doesn’t sound like botulism. It’s probably just a food residue.

      Did the white stuff appear immediately after canning? Or did you do these jars a while back? You can send me a picture if you’d like.

  5. I don’t know when it appeared, I canned this several years ago and we have been eating it. I always wipe it out with a paper towel. I use my salsa mostly in cooking in tacos, chili. I used it the other day making swiss steak, it was very good.
    I have one of the meat grinders and I will try that this year canning my salsa, I don’t like using the food processor for salsa. Thanks for the idea for the meat grinder and the help with my white stuff!!!

    • Mary…I just received this reply I thought you might like to read:

      Hi! I stumbled on your website looking for pressure canning salsa information and saw Marchia’s question about the white stuff. The Ohio State University Extension office has wonderful information on canning and here is their answer to the question:
      “What causes the deposit around the top surface of some tomato products?
      A white crystalline deposit of calcium acetate may form in highly acidic tomato products, such as chili sauce, ketchup, or salsa. Reactions between the acid (acetic acid) in the food and a component (calcium carbonate in some brands of lids) form calcium acetate. The crystalline deposit is not harmful. When opening the jar, remove and discard crystals.”

      Click to access 5337.pdf

  6. Hello,
    I just found your website. You sound a lot like me, I like to make salsa my way. I just got a pressure canner for Christmas. I want to make salsa in it. How long do you process the salsa? When I made vege/pasta sauce, I processed qts. for 15 min. according to recipe in canner book. Is it the same with salsa? I want to can pints, & 1/2 pints. I’m curious what you do. Thanks for the great info.


    • Hi! Thanks for stopping by my site. I found it a little confusing coming up with a processing time since I made up my own recipe. 15 min. at 10 pounds pressure is probably ok for pints and half-pints, but it depends on your elevation. I just did quarts last night and processed for 30 min. to be on the safe side.

      It also depends on your salsa…if it is like 80-90% tomatoes, these times should be okay but if you have a lot of peppers and onions…more than 10-20% of the total…I’d go longer.

  7. Hello,
    I live in New Jersey. Our tomatoes & peppers really produced this year. Since I have so many peppers, my recipe is kind of 40% peppers(or more, I just keep adding till it looks & tastes right), 10% onions & garlic, & 50% tomatoes. I also used lime juice instead of vinegar. I might use some vinegar, not sure. All the info I’ve read is so conflicting. The “Ball Blue Book” says water bath for 15 min., but that’s if you use vinegar, & I want to pressure can them. I really like the tang of the limes, but I haven’t seen a recipe like mine to know for sure. I also have citric acid. My pressure canner book suggested putting 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp sugar to balance, per qt. of tomatoes. Maybe I’ll add 1/4 tsp per pint, & process in pressure canner for 15-20 min. It’s hard coming up with the info. when tomatoes & peppers are sitting in the kitchen waiting…& eggplants…& okra &…but salsa is on the stove, so it’s first…gotta go stir & wash some jars, etc…Let me know what you think. Thanks.

  8. I looked up processing time for straight peppers, which is 35 minutes at 10 pounds, for pints or half pints. You could just do that, to be absolutely on the safe side, but less is probably fine.

    In my opinion you can skip the sugar if you are pressure canning. It’s meant to counterbalance the added vinegar, which is added to up the acidity to make it safe for water-bathing. But since you are pressure canning, you don’t have to add vinegar…unless you want to, for taste. Hope that makes sense!

  9. Hi! I stumbled on your website looking for pressure canning salsa information and saw Marchia’s question about the white stuff. The Ohio State University Extension office has wonderful information on canning and here is their answer to the question:
    “What causes the deposit around the top surface of some tomato products?
    A white crystalline deposit of calcium acetate may form in highly acidic tomato products, such as chili sauce, ketchup, or salsa. Reactions between the acid (acetic acid) in the food and a component (calcium carbonate in some brands of lids) form calcium acetate. The crystalline deposit is not harmful. When opening the jar, remove and discard crystals.”

    Click to access 5337.pdf

    Hope this helps.

  10. Wow, I’ve alway pressure canned my salsa. Always wanted to use my own recipe. I’ve read this and am confused about one thing. You state to put ingredents in a pot but do not mention to heat or cook before putting into jars. Is that correct? I’ve always raw packed mine, is that ok?

    • I’ve heated mine because I’m under the impression that cooked salsa takes up less room than raw. But it is perfectly safe to pressure raw salsa, since it is going to get completely hot, hot, hot while it pressures. I think it’s possible that raw packing will result in a less-filled jar, but ya know, I’ve never tested that notion.

      So to get right down to your question, yes, it’s ok to raw pack when pressure canning.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. fun, fun, I was looking on line for the time table to pressure cook my salsa and found you… how wonderful! I am a little nervous because my friend brought her very antique pressure cooker over for a salsa canning party. I’ve read where a pressure cooker is not the same as a pressure canner but of course we don’t have original packing material so I believe it is a canner but not certain. It’s made by Burpee Can Sealer Co. It doesn’t have the normal petcock, it only flips open or closed. Same thing as a petcock basically?

    • A pressure cooker is the same as a pressure canner…the ones called “canners” are usually taller but if the jars fit inside, then you’re good.

      As for the petcock…is there a dial gauge or some other way of determining how many pounds pressure you have? This is the critical part.

  12. Hi. Here’s my recipe and I’ve been told that unless you follow specific recipes due to the acid in the tomatoes and the non-acid of onions and garlic, you’ll get poisoned! Anyway, it’s pretty simple but very tasty – if I put it in pint jars, how long to be safe to pressure process? Thanks! Love your site! Recipe: About 30 Roma tomatoes, 2 large red onions diced, 6 cloves garlic finely diced, about a handful or so of parsley (flat leaf) and the same amount of cilantro, the juice of 4 limes, 1/2 small can of chopped chiles – sea salt, pepper and coriander to taste. After I blend it all together, I usually put in fridge to marry tastes for a couple hours. I’ve been freezing this recipe but would like to can – more for convenience than anything else. Thanks!

    • You’re right about the poison…for waterbath canning. If you pressure can, you don’t have to worry. But, let me know about that petcock thing, because if you can’t tell what pressure you are at, I wouldn’t do it.

  13. Hi Damsel, you happened to get two Kathy’s in a row… lol the latter was not involved with my question about the older pressure canner/cooker.. Yes, it has the dial so I cooked the quart size jars at 10 lbs of pressure (after 10 minutes of steam flowing through the flip) for 30 minutes. THANK YOU!! I think I probably would have done it wrong without your help. Thank you so much, my salsa tasted great beforehand but I sure have a lot of water in the finished product. I’ve done this before so I know once the heat wears off, I can shake it up but is there a way to get rid of most of the water a tomatoe has? I’ve heard of people boiling it down? thank you soooo much, LOVE this site..

    • Yay! I’m glad it worked.

      As for getting rid of water, yes, you can boil it down, but it takes a long, long time. One way to get at least some water out is to let the tomatoes sit in a bowl for a while, after you’ve blanched them. Water seeps out, which you can then pour off. Also, read the post here about freezing tomatoes. A lot of water comes off them that way, too. Let me know if that makes sense.

  14. Hi, Just found your site, it looks great. My question – If I pressure can my salsa do I have to add lemon juice or will the pressure canning make it safe without lemon juice?

    • Nope, you don’t need to add lemon juice for safety. Yes for waterbath, but pressure canning eliminates the need to increase the acidity.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  15. I made a batch of salsa and it just does not seem to have the kick i want in it. So can i open the jars, add the kick i want, then reseal? Then reprocess? I just dont want it all to go to waste. Thanks for your help!!!

  16. Hi Damsel, I’m so happy to have found this site because its as close to the information I was looking for!! Keep in mind, I’m a newbie and never tried to can before, although I do have all of the equipment (pressure canner, tongs, etc.). Instead of salsa, I would like to can my sofrito recipe. (sofrito is salsa more or less but you use it as a cooking base, if you make beef stew, take a half pint of salsa and saute first, then proceed your normal recipe. the recipe will have a Hispanic kick to it) If possible, I’d like your advise…If its something you cannot answer, maybe you can direct me?

    My sofrito does not have any tomatoes in it. The recipe is made up of yellow onions, green peppers, red peppers, hot peppers, green onions, cilantro, celery, parsley, a ton of garlic, salt, olives, some cooking wine, and olives. this is all processed in a food processor (pulsed). If you need measurements, i would be happy to give you them. Can this concoction be water bath canned, or pressure canned? all the information out on the web, and in books, is about just only the peppers, I cannot find anything on how long the onion or the rest of the ingredients should be processed for. I would definitely choose to do the “hot pack” method just because it doesn’t matter if its cooked before hand.

    I think in my research, I have come across 2 people who have canned similar recipes via the water bath method. One contained tomatoes and one did not. I don’t know how safe the later one is over a period of a couple of months. The ball book only has a recipe for the peppers and doesn’t include the garlic or the rest of the ingredients. Based on all information and all of the risks with bacteria, I would like to do this right from the start.

    Once again, I thank you for taking the time to read my message. Regards,

    • First, thanks for visiting the Old School. Glad you like it! Also, I want to let you know that the site has moved…you can now find it at Lots of good stuff over on the new site.

      I would be way too scared to water-bath the sofrito. It doesn’t sound like it has enough acidity in it to be safe. Plus, when things are pureed, they are also problematic, as the denseness can cause the food inside the bottles to not get hot for long enough, if that makes sense. If you have access to a pressure canner, I’d go that way if I was doing this. I know it’s more of a pain, and if you don’t have a pressure canner, they are EXPENSIVE…

      I think I recall seeing that onions are supposed to process for 45 minutes at 15 pounds pressure, but I’m not positive. I believe they would be the same as green pepper, since they are both not acidy at all.

      Your sofrito sounds delicious and I’d love to hear what you end up doing with it.

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