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At the end of last summer we made up a huge batch of salsa and successfully canned it (approximately 8 months ago). My wonderful hubby finished it when I was at work. Now I opened a jar and realized it is bitter and he forgot to add the sugar after cooking it and before sealing the jars. Is it safe to reopen and add the ingredient from my recipe and re-can them after this much time? They were all successfully sealed and I was hoping to not have to doctor each jar after opening it before consuming. Thanks for your help.

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The conservative answer is that you should only do canning based on an approved, known to be safe recipe from a reputable source such as a university extension or a safety agency.

Having canned the salsa without the sugar, you have deviated from such a trusted recipe, and so the contents of the jars has to be considered at risk, as the sugar may have been a part of the reason the contents was safe or required less processing time than it otherwise might have (sugar in solution reduces the biological availability of the water).

This is especially true if the salsa was not made to have a pH of less than 4.6, to qualify as a an acid food.

Therefore, you should not adjust and re-process as the major ingredient may contain toxin.

Please see the information at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

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    Without the recipe it's hard to say, but sugar in salsa is nearly always a flavouring agent, not a preservative, and would have no effect on the shelf-life. Regular canned tomatoes require no sugar at all. – Satanicpuppy Apr 28 '14 at 14:17
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    No matter what the recipe says, nor the quantity of sugar involved, I would give the same very conservative answer. Now, if individuals choose to assess and accept certain risks based on their understanding, that is another issue--I did give the link to the NCFHFP where the real information about canning safety can be found to make that decision in an informed manner. – SAJ14SAJ Apr 28 '14 at 15:10
  • Especially with a tomato-based substance like salsa, which is acidic and can be done just in a water bath, I'd think you should be fine. If anything, excluding sugar would make it less likely to grow microbes and pathogens. Now the quality upon cooking it a second time, I can't vouch for. – PoloHoleSet Sep 6 '16 at 20:10

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