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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

August 11, 2020 - 8:00am --

Red, yellow or green tomatoes come in many different sizes, shapes and colors, but when it comes to processing them, they are all treated the same.  From the calls I’m receiving, many tomatoes are ripening and ready for canning.  Here are a few reminders for a safe tomato product:

*Select only disease-free, preferably vine-ripened, firm fruit.

*Do not can tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines.

*Unripened tomatoes are more acidic than ripened fruit and can be canned safely with any of the following recommendations.

*For best results, process tomatoes within 2 to 3 hours after harvest or purchasing. 

*Salt is a flavor enhancer, not essential for safe preservation.

*Canning whole cherry or grape tomatoes is not advised.

*Tomatoes have a pH between 4 and 4.6. Acidification is required when pressure canning or boiling water bathing tomatoes.

Add one of the following for acidification: Pint Jars Quart Jars

Bottled Lemon Juice

1 tablespoon

2 tablespoons

Citric Acid

¼ teaspoon

½ teaspoon

Vinegar (5 percent acidity)

2 tablespoons

4 tablespoons

*Add acid directly to the jars before filling with tomatoes. If desired, add up to 1 tablespoon of sugar per quart to offset acidic taste. Vinegar may cause undesirable flavor changes.

For more information see

When you are making a particular recipe, look for the qualities that best fit your need.  I’ve had several calls about making salsa, so here are a few tips to help you make the best recipe yet.

*Choose a firm tomato for thicker salsa

*Use fresh, high quality tomatoes, not ones that are overripe or spoiled.  Poor quality to begin with may yield poor quality salsa that is more likely to spoil.

*Read your recipe first, then follow it if the tomatoes need to be peeled or not. 

*If you are adding peppers, be sure to use rubber gloves and be aware that not doing so may cause skin irritation.  Bell peppers can be substituted for some or all of the long green chilies.  Canned chilies can be used in place of fresh if you desire.  (For detailed directions see the fact sheet reference listed below)

*Vinegar or lemon juice should be in the recipe to raise the acidity level for canning safety.  Make sure to use vinegar of at least 5% acidity and bottled lemon juice.  An equal amount of lemon juice can be safely substituted for vinegar, but do not substitute vinegar for lemon juice as this could result in a potentially unsafe salsa.  Lemon juice is more acidic than vinegar and it has less effect on the product’s flavor. 

*The amount of spices and herbs can be altered in these recipes, so that they are made to you and your family’s flavor preferences, and doing so will no compromise the safety of the product.   

*DO NOT alter the proportions of vegetables to acid and tomatoes because it might make the salsa unsafe.

*Process the recipe in a boiling water bath according to directions.

Canning is a fun way to involve the whole family and maybe even start a new tradition.  Local Foods week is here August 9-15, and salsa might be a great way to start your home food preservation journey! Visit for a salsa recipe and another on at

Don’t forget, Kate and I’ll be doing gauge style canner inspections, by appointment on Wednesday August 26th at Mt. Hope Hardware from 9-4 and on Thursday August 27th at Lehman’s in Kidron also from 9-4. You can schedule your appointment at  If you need your canner tested before then please call either the Holmes Co Extension office at (330) 674-3015 or the Wayne Co Office at 330-264-8722.  Both offices are offering testing by appointment.