I made salsa last week, and processed the jars (quarts) for 20 minutes (may have been 25, I forgot to note exactly when the water started to boil). I got my times mixed up for the salsa and some applesauce that I was preparing to can also, so I didn't process the salsa long enough.

Can I reprocess the salsa? Do I need to open the jars, reheat salsa and re-can it all, or can I just reprocess without redoing anything? Or is it too late because it's been 5-6 days until I realized what I did?

  • 1
    How long did they need to be processed for, and what size jars are you using?
    – lemontwist
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 16:10

4 Answers 4


In general, if jars are improperly processed or don't seal, you reprocess them exactly the same way you did the first time. This doesn't depend on the original recipe; you just have to do the exact same thing over again. In your case, since it sounds like your original process was hot pack, you would have to open the jars, dump out the salsa and reheat it, resterilize the jars, and reprocess.

But in your case, unfortunately, it's too late. If you didn't process it long enough the first time, you have to assume that it wasn't sterile, and treat it as equivalent to not canning it at all. Yes, probability-wise, your situation is safer than that, but you have to plan for the worst case, because you have no way to tell. Something may have grown in there. Canning just isn't a good place to mess around with safety.

And before someone chimes in and says it, yes, if you're the kind of person who eats things that have been left out way longer than is reliably safe, you could save it. It'll work out some fraction of the time, so there are plenty of people out there who can truthfully say "I've done this and never had a problem." But it could also get you sick, so I can't recommend it.

  • So if I understand you correctly, you are saying that even though I did hotpack into sterile jars with sterile lids and processed them in a hot water bath for 20-25 minutes, since that wasn't long enough that the salsa was not sterilized (or whatever the correct term is for what happens in the water bath) and not safe to eat. Yes? I understand the point about not messing with safety. A batch of salsa in the trash is WAY cheaper than a hospital visit. It's just hard to accept that it can't be reprocessed at all.
    – Anne
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 3:24
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    @Anne: From what I understand, that's the case - a too-short processing time isn't guaranteed to get enough air out and leave a sterile environment. (The problem with reprocessing is that if something has already spoiled, simply cooking it more won't unspoil it.) Kate seems to think that sealing means there was sufficient time, and it's certainly possible I'm wrong, but I've never seen that written anywhere.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 3:25
  • I had a job years ago in a hospital, and a patient came in about the time I started who had eaten home canned salsa. They got to leave after about 5 months and huge bills. Botulism poisoning isn't something to trifle with. Yeah, it's probably safe, but are you willing to bet your life it is safe? Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 20:34
  • +1 here. If @Anne had quickly noticed that the processing was incorrect, she could re-do the same day. However, now the salsa has been sitting around for 5-6 days without being safe - and organisms could have been making toxins that whole time.
    – KatieK
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 3:47
  • The official word is that if a jar fails to seal, you can reprocess within 24 hours. You're quite a bit past that, unfortunately.
    – derobert
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 7:08

If you hotpacked, then "long enough" means long enough for the lids to stay down. If your lids are staying down, you're good. If they're not, and you didn't check as you were putting the jars away, throw them out.

  • I want to believe this, but I haven't found any mention of it in a couple sources - do you have a reference?
    – Cascabel
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 17:19
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    try nchfp.uga.edu/questions/FAQ_canning.html which just wants "ten minutes or more" even if your jrs were unsterilized Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 17:59
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    If you're talking about the "Is it necessary to sterilize jars before canning?" part, that's not the same thing - that's saying that in some cases you don't have to pre-sterilize the jars. It doesn't say that it's safe if jars seal after ten minutes of processing even if the recipe said they needed 20.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 18:06

Sealing and sterilizing are two different things. The long processing times are to kill all the microorganisms that could spoil the food. The seal keeps new baddies from getting in.


If they're sealed, it's okay.
Most hot pack salsa recipes require only 15 minutes in a water bathe or in a pressure cooker at sea level. Check your altitude for time differences.

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