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Natural Awakenings Dallas -Fort Worth Metroplex Edition


Preserving the Harvest - There's More than One Way to Preserve a Tomato

It seems that we cannot enjoy Tex-Mex, tacos, or any type of Mexican food without a big bowl of salsa and tortilla chips. The best is homemade, because it is rewarding to grow all the ingredients in the garden; the tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, onions and cilantro. Add a few more ingredients and it's delicious. If there is more than enough for just one bowl of salsa, that’s where food preservation comes in.

Most salsa recipes are a mixture of low-acid foods such as onions and peppers, with more acidic foods such as tomatoes. Acid flavorings like vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice are also common additions. The types and amounts of ingredients used in salsa, as well as the preparation method, are important considerations in how a salsa is preserved.

 Boiling Water Bath and Pressure Canning

Some recipes give the option of canning either in a boiling water bath or in a pressure canner. Others will give only boiling water bath times or only pressure canning times. It all depends on the ingredients. Recipes that specify only pressure canning have so many low-acid ingredients that they are only safe when canned in a pressure canner at the specified pressure recommended. Make sure to read a recipe from start to finish to find the recommended method. Do not guess or use one method when a different one is recommended. Improperly canned salsas or other tomato-pepper combinations have been implicated in more than one outbreak of botulism poisoning.

 Boiling water bath canners are made of aluminum or porcelain-covered steel. They have fitted lids and removable racks that are either perforated or shaped wire racks. The canner must be deep enough so that at least one inch of briskly boiling water will be over the tops of jars during processing. When processing, the water is brought to a boil and remains boiling as long as recommended, known as processing time, for each recipe. The process time begins at the point of a constant rolling boil. This method is mostly used for food with a higher acidity.

 Modern pressure canners are lightweight, thin-walled kettles; most have turn-on lids fitted with gaskets. They have removable racks, an automatic vent/cover lock, a vent pipe (steam vent) and a safety fuse. They may have a dial gauge or a weighted gauge for indicating and regulating the pressure. Pressure canners come deep enough for one layer of quart or smaller-size jars or deep enough for two layers of smaller-size jars. Hot water is added to the marked lines inside the canner to build the steam in the sealed canner. Processing time begins when the pressure has built and reaches the recommended pressure in the recipe. Our grandmother or great-grandmother used a pressure canner, but they have been modernized since 1970 with additional safety features. Used properly, the modern pressure canners are very safe.


 Submitted by Katie Sotzing, Texas A & M Agrilife Center. For recipes, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation at