Freaking out - Question about safety, may be too late

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Rockergirl

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Hi, For some reason I thought I read you could use citric acid when canning salsa - if you pressure canned (not water bathed). I made salsa 10 days ago - VERY basic. It was mostly tomatoes (more than 5 pounds) with maybe 6-7 jalapenos and some garlic. That was it, no onions, cilantro or anything. It was basically like pressure canning crushed tomatoes and adding a small amount of peppers and garlic. I added 1/4 tsp of citric acid to each pint (just as you would for crushed tomatoes) and pressure canned it for 35 or 40 minutes. I did not add lemon/lime of vinegar juice. I thought the citric acid was fine since I was pressure canning and that is what you do with tomatoes. Again - it was only 10 days ago

Now - I can't stop freaking out because I just ate it tonight and when I told my mom about it, she said I had to use vinegar or lemon for salsa. So I started researching and she is right. But I DID pressure can it. So I pray I'm going to be ookay. Is there some kind of vitamin or something I can take just in case, now that I have eaten it....this waiting period to see if I am going to get VERY sick (along with my husband) is AWFUL. Am I over worried or do I really have something to worry about?
 

Rockergirl

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Also - there is a ranchero salsa in the ball book of canning that gives the option to use citric acid. The ingredients I used are really close to that one except mine doesn't use onions (the ball ranchero calls for 1 cup), but I do use a few more jalapenos (but not enough to total the amount of onions.. The ranchero recipe calls for 35 mins of water bathing and I did 35-40 of pressure canning. I am never canning salsa again....
 

summer57

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When canning, even pressure canning, it's important to use a recipe from a source like Ball, Bernardin, or https://nchfp.uga.edu/#gsc.tab=0

Adding and subtracting ingredients, such as adding a few more jalapenos, garlic, or leaving out the onions, can alter the acid balance. You can always add minced jalapenos when serving the salsa.

Don't be afraid of canning! Do follow the recipe.

If you made this 10 days ago, you're probably just fine, if you freeze it or eat it right away.
 

pepperhead212

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I always read that you should add the citric acid (or other acid) to tomatoes when water bath canning, and not pressure canning. That's what the acid is needed for - non acid foods need the pressure canning. But I'm no expert on canning.

 

summer57

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I always read that you should add the citric acid (or other acid) to tomatoes when water bath canning, and not pressure canning. That's what the acid is needed for - non acid foods need the pressure canning. But I'm no expert on canning.

USDA recommends adding acid to tomatoes when pressure canning, as do virtually all legit canning sources.

Not all tomatoes, especially the modern varieties, have the same level of acidity or starch. Adding a bit of lemon juice or citric acid ensures a safe product, and really doesn't affect the taste, in my opinion. If you know your tomatoes & the pH is consistent in your batch, I suppose you're ok to pressure can without adding acid.

If the recipe is modified to include low-acid products like peppers, garlic, or onions, then you definitely need to add acid.
 

Rockergirl

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Thanks Summer57 for the explanation. I think what confuses me (as I am new to canning this year), is that I pressure canned a lot over the winter - since I was using low acid foods such as chili, pinto beans, chicken broth, etc. and I never used citric acid for those, since it wasn't part of the recipe. What I learned through all of my reading is that the purpose of using a pressure canner was for low acid foods. That is why tomatoes confuse me.....I don't understand why we need to use citric acid when pressure canning tomatoes, when they are higher in acid than the other things I can, such as chicken stock and since it's in a pressure canner. I've searched for an explanation. Do you know the reason behind this?

Thank you.
 

taxlady

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Rockergirl, I was baffled by the need for adding acid to tomatoes for pressure canning too. I found an article. It sort of boils down to the fact that the tomatoes are not pressure canned for as long as is necessary to prevent botulism in a low acid food. They simply have not developed the recipes to safely pressure can tomatoes without the addition of acid.

Here's the link to the article: https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/factsheets/acidifying.html
 

Rockergirl

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Thank you Taxlady! That makes sense! I've been racking my brain on that one....I sure wish the "test kitchen" would spend some time in this area - tomatoes in the pressure canner (no acid added) or salsa...(I'm sure I'm not the first person to feel this way, ha!) I guess it takes a lot of testing, etc. I think salsa is not in my future any longer. Maybe just canned tomato and then add the good stuff later when it's time to eat it. I just can't do vinegar, etc. in my salsa.

So far I'm okay, I'm not sick yet. I'm about about 26.5 hours past eating it....I read you typically get sick from botulism within 18-36 hours. So I guess I have 10 hours to go....I did read it could take as long as 10 days to show up though....but typically within 18-36. So I'm def not past it yet, but so far so good.... I did pressure can the heck out of the salsa, with the added citric acid. If I recall, crushed tomatoes are for around 20 min and I pressured much longer. My salsa actually tasted more like overly cooked tomato sauce with a slight kick.

Thanks for the response!
 

summer57

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Thanks Summer57 for the explanation. I think what confuses me (as I am new to canning this year), is that I pressure canned a lot over the winter - since I was using low acid foods such as chili, pinto beans, chicken broth, etc. and I never used citric acid for those, since it wasn't part of the recipe. What I learned through all of my reading is that the purpose of using a pressure canner was for low acid foods. That is why tomatoes confuse me.....I don't understand why we need to use citric acid when pressure canning tomatoes, when they are higher in acid than the other things I can, such as chicken stock and since it's in a pressure canner. I've searched for an explanation. Do you know the reason behind this?

Thank you.
Timings are also critical, as well as altitude, and most importantly, the source & reliability of your recipe.
Are you using (current, not old) recipes from Ball, Bernardin, or something like the National Centre for Home Food Preservation? If so, it's a reliable recipe.

You might luck out and not get sick, but I'm not inclined to take chances over a few minutes in a pressure canner or a spoon of lemon juice,

I can salmon without acid, but -- it's pressurized for 100 minutes. That's been tested to be safe. I do not mess around with canned salmon. Or with any canned food.

Back in the old days, people used the open kettle method, even for low acid veg. Most people didn't get sick, or didn't realize the cause of their 'flu' or whatever.

I recall talking to an oldtimer, a 'farm' wife who tried canning veg from the garden for her first time as a new wife. A few months later, they were shocked to hear explosions from the cellar. Turns out all her jars of home canned veg exploded. She said she quickly changed her canning methods!
 

summer57

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Here's another excellent article on canning salsa safely, and the reasons behind acids etc. It includes a tip for figuring out whether a recipe is safe for canning.

Here's the link:
https://extension.umn.edu/preserving-and-preparing/canning-tomato-based-salsa

I though this was interesting:
Canning recipes for salsa are popular on food blogs and social media sites. The University of Maine researchers evaluated 56 home canning salsa recipes from 43 blogs and found 70% of the recipes did not include USDA food safety home canning standards.

The article confirms taxlady's comment about the lack of safe recipes for pressure canning salsa.
 

Rockergirl

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I have definitely learned my lesson! I am 110% committed to not putting myself through this stress again. The remaining pretty red cans of salsa I have left are now marked "DO NOT EAT" and I'm using them as decoration. Luckily, I only made a few.

I do have one more question, unrelated - is it a problem if my head space is too low? I have several cans of different items that started out with proper head space but after going thru the pressure canning process, the head space dropped a good bit. I think I've recently learned how to prevent that, but is my old cans ruined if it's too low? Will it make you sick? The lids are very well sealed.
 

Rockergirl

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Thank you for the article! Wow, I can't believe that many recipes posted were not approved recipes! I would think posting recipes on blogs, the person would be extra cautious! I do watch a lot of canning youtube videos and follow a handful of canning people on the internet....That's a bit scary to think about.
 

GotGarlic

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Thank you for the article! Wow, I can't believe that many recipes posted were not approved recipes! I would think posting recipes on blogs, the person would be extra cautious! I do watch a lot of canning youtube videos and follow a handful of canning people on the internet....That's a bit scary to think about.
The problem is that there are no standards for or oversight of food blogs and a lot of food bloggers don't really have a lot of training or experience in what they write about. They may not know anything at all about proper canning techniques or they might be passing on their grandma's recipe from 50 years ago. There's just no way to know, which is why we always recommend using only recognized authoritative sources.
 

blissful

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I have definitely learned my lesson! I am 110% committed to not putting myself through this stress again. The remaining pretty red cans of salsa I have left are now marked "DO NOT EAT" and I'm using them as decoration. Luckily, I only made a few.

I do have one more question, unrelated - is it a problem if my head space is too low? I have several cans of different items that started out with proper head space but after going thru the pressure canning process, the head space dropped a good bit. I think I've recently learned how to prevent that, but is my old cans ruined if it's too low? Will it make you sick? The lids are very well sealed.


There is an article from NCHFP, that will say that if the water level (liquid level) is above 1/2 the jar, then it is OKAY to eat. Any canned goods that have siphoned off a lot of the liquid, should be eaten first. 1/2 inch lower, no big deal, 1/2 the level in the jar, a bigger deal.
 

summer57

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Vancouver
Siphoning has happened to me when I started pressure canned tomatoes.
I found that if I let the pressure drop naturally, I had fewer problems with siphoning. So be patient, let the pressure drop on its own. Might make a different for you,.
 

Rockergirl

Assistant Cook
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Aug 31, 2022
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Raleigh
Thanks everyone! Everything that you all have said makes perfect sense! I'm so glad to have found this site, I kept wanting to find somewhere to ask my questions since I'm so new! This has been very helpful. And...the good news, I made it well past the 36 hour window I was worried about :) I will be sure to be extra careful to follow the recipes. Regarding my head space, my cans are well above the 1/2 mark so they should still be good - whew! Thanks again!
 

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