How To Can Salsa, A Tutorial

How to Can Salsa, a Tutorial is just for you if you’ve ever wanted to make your own canned salsa, here’s how. Step by step photos of the process.

Ah, September! My favorite month of the year. Summer is sailing away on autumn’s cool breezes, and my garden is over-flowing with its harvest. At this very moment, if you’ve got tomatoes, you’ve probably got a lot of them. I planted a lot this year, expecting enough for sauce, paste, and salsa, our favorite. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like salsa in some form. You, or someone you know, loves salsa. So, if you’ve got a big bowl of fresh tomatoes sitting on your counter that needs a destination, join me, won’t you? Let’s can some salsa.
The recipe I use comes from Annie of Gardenweb Harvest forum fame. This is her own recipe, which she actually sent and paid the National Center for Home Preservation to test for safety. And it’s delicious.
Annie’s Salsa
8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained 
2 1/2 cups onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups green pepper, chopped
3 – 5 jalapenos, chopped
6 cloves garlic, diced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canning salt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup 5% apple cider vinegar
2 cups (16 oz.) tomato sauce
2 cups (16 oz.) tomato paste
Supply List:
  • Canner
  • Jars – pints or smaller
  • Lids and Rings – lids must be brand new, rings can be reused if you have them
  • Jar Lifter
  • Funnel
  • Clean, damp washcloth
  • Non-metallic utensil – wooden spoon, silicone scraper, chopstick…
  • Scoop or ladle
Supply Prep:

Before chopping any ingredients, I like to get my jars, et al. ready, as it does take some time for the water to boil.

  • Sanitize jars – My method is to boil them for 10 minutes in the canner. Just fill up the canner, making sure the jars are fully covered with water (1″ over their tops). Put on the lid, wait until the water comes to a rolling boil and then start the timer for 10 minutes. If the jars are finished sterilizing, and you haven’t finished the food prep, leave the water at a simmer, covered, while you finish.
  • Simmer lids and rings. Don’t boil.
  • Set another pot with water to boil for peeling tomatoes. (See below)
I also like to put a thick layer of towels down on my all my work surfaces. It protects the counter from stains and acidity, and you don’t want to put a hot jar down on a cold counter either.

Ingredient Prep:

8 cups – measured after being peeled, chopped, and drained.
  • Peeling tomatoes: After washing your tomatoes, cut a shallow ‘x’ in each one towards the blossom end. Next, dip your tomatoes in the aforementioned boiling water for ~15-30 seconds, or until the skin starts to loosen. The skin should slip right off. If you have a particularly recalcitrant one, just pop it back in for a few more seconds in the water.
  • After skinning the tomatoes, the next step is to remove the seeds and gel sacks. You can skip this step, but I prefer the salsa without the seeds and sacks, and so does Annie.

Don’t throw away the leftover skins, juice, and seeds. I’ll show you at the end of the post what you can do with them.
  • 2-1/2 cups onion, chopped
    • 1/4″-1/2″ pieces
  • 1-1/2 cups green (or red, yellow, orange, etc…) pepper, chopped
    • 1/4″ pieces
  • 3 – 5 jalapenos, finely chopped
    • Notes on peppers: you can use any combination of peppers you’d like, but the total for all, jalapeños included, must not exceed 1 3/4 cups.
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
    • Do not increase. Differences in clove size should not matter.
  • 2 teaspoons cumin 
    • Can be reduced or removed entirely. For taste only.
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
    • Can be reduced or removed entirely. For taste only. Any dried pepper (i.e., cayenne) of your choice can be substituted.
  • 2 tablespoons canning salt 
    • Can be reduced or removed entirely. For taste only.
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
    • Can be reduced or removed entirely. For taste only. But do not increase.
  • 1 cup 5% apple cider vinegar
    • The addition of vinegar is crucial, as it safely acidifies the salsa to allow for water-bath canning. You can substitute any vinegar (white, cider, etc…) as long as acidity is at least 5%. You may also substitute bottled lemon or lime juice, or any mixture thereof (i.e., 1/3 cup vinegar, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/3 lime juice), as long as the total is one cup. Next year, I’m trying lime juice!
  • 2 cups (16 oz.) tomato sauce
    • Can be reduced slightly. I always add the entire amount.
  • 2 cups (16 oz.) tomato paste
    • For texture only. I usually add 1 cup and it is just right. You can remove or reduce it, as you prefer.
Annie’s original recipe also calls for 1/3 cup of sugar. I’ve made it both ways, and in my opinion, the sugar is unnecessary. If you like your salsas sweeter, feel free to add it.



If you’ve come this far, congratulations, the hard part is behind you! Now you are ready to cook. Take all the ingredients you’ve chopped and measured, and throw them into a big pot. Bring it all to a boil for 10 minutes. 
After the salsa has boiled for 10 minutes, it’s time to pull out your jars. Carefully lift out your hot jars and pour out the water into a reserve pot. You’ll need some of this water to top off the canner after the salsa-filled jars are inside it.
Once you’ve removed all your hot jars, you are ready to fill them with your salsa. Leave 1/2″ headspace at the top of your jars for proper expansion and seal. 
Remove any major air bubbles with a quick run around the inside perimeter with the scraper, or other non-metallic utensil.
Take your clean, damp washcloth and run it around the lip of the jar to clean it. This facilitates a good seal between the lid and jar.
Using your handy dandy lid lifter, carefully remove the lid from the simmering water, and center on your jar top.
Screw your bands onto the tops of the jar until just fingertip-tight, stopping just until you have to exert force to tighten them. Gently lower your jars into the canner and pour enough of your reserve water over the jars to cover them by 1-2 inches. Put your canner lid back on, and return the canner water to a boil. Once the water boils, begin processing your salsa for 15 minutes.
Altitude Adjustments:
  • Up to 1000 ft. Processing time is 15 minutes. 
  • 1001 – 3000 ft. Increase processing time an extra 5 minutes to 20 minutes total. 
  • 3001 – 6000 ft. Increase processing time an extra 10 minutes to 25 minutes total. 
  • 6001 – 8000 ft. Increase processing time an extra 15 minutes to 30 minutes total. 
  • 8001 – 10,000 ft. Increase processing time an extra 20 minutes to 35 minutes total.

When the processing time is up, careful remove your jars to the toweled surface and start listening for the “ping!” that is the lid concaving and sealing to the jar rim. Or otherwise known as the sound of your success. Leave your jars alone for 24 hours. You can then remove the bands, check for any loose seals, and label them. Then squirrel them away for the long winter (or football game or movie night or Mexican omelette, etc…). 

And all that leftover skin, seeds, and juice from the tomato prep? 
You’ve got options. You can simply strain it and drink the juice plain. Or you can throw in some Worcestershire, tabasco sauce, and your favorite vodka for a fabulous post-canning refreshment.
But my favorite use for the leftover mix is to blend it all up, strain it, and reduce it down into the sweetest, most flavorful tomato sauce your taste buds will know. Just stir and simmer the mixture in a wide pan until it thickens to your preferred consistency. I usually throw the sauce into a Ziploc bag and freeze it, or use it up in the next few days. I love not wasting what might have otherwise gone in the compost. 
And that’s it! We enjoy the salsa all year long, and it is a staple in our pantry. Cheers!
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  1. This is great I am pinning. I have been freezer canning, but want to purchase a water bath canner & get back to canning next year with fresh seasonal produce. Wish I lived where I could have a big garden 😉

  2. This is an excellent tutorial! Thank you so much for sharing it with Full Plate Thursday and have a great week.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  3. Heather: I dropped by from Dial Moms Mondays Linky Party and wanted to see your tutorial for making salsa. I am by nature squeamish about canning, even though my mom did it many years back. But I appreciate the work going into it and I love the fact that I can have a bit of sunshine during our long winter months. I also had to comment on your “options” with the leftovers from canning. You are a woman after my own heart! –Deb

  4. My kids when growing up did not like chunky salsa. I just threw everything in a blender including tomatoes with the skin on them. The only chopping I did was to cut ingredients to fit in the blender. Do not over blend. From the blender I pour the salsa into a kettle. Stir and cook. Then process for canning. The first year I did this my salsa only lasted until Christmas. The next year I made sure I made enough for 12 months. I grew everything in my garden for my salsa. Yummy.

  5. cbellscoutsatrout says:

    Alright lady you win 😉
    I have scoured Pinterest for hours on multiple days and have decided that the recipe you shared looks best and we will attempt our first batch tomorrow. I have two questions for you if I may. Is there any reason why I couldn’t use 1.5 pint jars (24 oz) instead of pint jars? Also, why wouldn’t I just use this scrumptious looking sauce you suggested for my salsa? Rather than buying cans at the store, this looks ideal. Thank you for sharing!!!

  6. I, too, prefer a smoother salsa. Is there any reason I couldn’t put this in my food processor before canning?

  7. Lindsey says:

    hi! Thank you for the post! I recently made a huge batch of my own fresh salsa. I didn’t use a recipe, just made it to taste. I’m scared to can it now after I read another salsa canning post on Pinterest. They said absolutely do not change some of the amounts because you will possibly make your can cause bacteria. I like my salsa but I guess I’m just going to have to eat it all up fast 🙂 It did say you may could add extra lemon juice to each can. What’s your thought on this please? Thank you!

    • Heather says:

      Honestly Lindsey – I didn’t know. A quick google search just said basically you have to boil the jars correctly (I’ve never canned so no idea). I think you’d be totally fine as long as the water bath was the right temp and the right duration? 🙂

  8. i dehydrate the skins and make them into a powder to add to soups, stews, and whatever else i can think of.

  9. Oh my goodness! I LOVE this recipe! Thank you so much!

  10. Photo instructions are super helpful!!!

  11. Very thorough! I love that you used up every last bit of the tomato! 😉


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