My wife's boss makes some absolutely great salsa, so we got the recipe from her so that we could try our hand at it with our fresh garden veggies. The recipe is below:


  • 16 cup tomatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 4 cups onions, chopped
  • 2 cup jalapenos, chopped (with without seeds) -- adjust this (1 1/4 cup, 1/2 of seeds used)
  • 2 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 c pickling salt
  • 3 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 T chili powder
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 T cumin seed
  • 1 tsp alum
  • 2 (6oz) cans tomato paste

Blend together and cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, uncovered. Put into hot sterilized jars; seal and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Makes 8 pints

WARNING: When slicing jalapenos use rubber gloves and don't touch your eyes

(original recipe)

Last summer I made 16 pints with this recipe, and it was basically inedible due to the overwhelming vinegar bitterness. We ran this back by her boss who gave us the recipe, and she said she really just wings it on the vinegar.

So my question is, for this recipe how much white vinegar should actually be used? We have our garden veggies ready for salsa making this weekend, and I really don't want to waste all of them again this year! Hope I can get some help on the vinegar part!

  • If you're canning this you either need high acidity or you need to use a pressure canner. If you drop the acid you need to consider how to process it for safe consumption later.
    – GdD
    Aug 4, 2017 at 13:36
  • 1
    Are you concerned about the acidity or the bitterness. Do you have one, the other or both? If both, which one do you want to get rid of more?
    – GdD
    Aug 4, 2017 at 14:03
  • 4
    One important thing to note is that winging it with acid levels for non-pressure canned foods is unwise.
    – GdD
    Aug 4, 2017 at 14:07
  • 4
    What do you mean by "get it right"? If your goal is to taste like the boss does it, then you also should add vinegar to taste, and make the informed decision of eating unsafe food. If your goal is to eat safe food, then you will have to use the exact recipe without any changes (presuming that the original recipe has been tested for safety with the canning method you use). There is no "do it right", it is your decision which one you prefer.
    – rumtscho
    Aug 4, 2017 at 14:22
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    Rule 1: never make two gallons of anything before making a small batch to make sure it's good. Aug 5, 2017 at 13:20

3 Answers 3


The guideline for the safe canning of tomatoes is for 2 tbsp of 5% vinegar per pint of tomatoes. If you made 16 pints then you'd need 32 tbsp of vinegar, and that is almost 2.5 cups. This isn't to prevent spoiling, the processing will do that, it's to prevent the growth of botulism, which boiling does not do.

However, the recipe above calls for 16 cups of tomatoes, 4 cups of onions and 2 cups of jalapenos, for a total of 22 cups of vegetables. That's 11 pints, not 16, so if you added 2.5 cups to that you've gone almost 50% over the amount you need, which could account for the strong acid flavor. For that volume 22 tbsp or 1.65 cups would be sufficient.

It's possible your wife's boss is adding vinegar until it tastes good, then canning the result. This isn't safe because it means there could be far less acidity than would be wise (I'm assuming that the boss is using a water bath method because that's what the recipe says, if she's using a pressure canner then it's a different story). If this is the case then this recipe will never really work as is because to make it taste right you'll have to compromise on food safety.

You have a couple of options here:

  • Buy a pressure canner: you can probably ebay one for not much money, and it means you can get the flavor you want. Processing time is much shorter as well, giving you superior product (the guidelines for a water bath are 40-50 minutes, in a pressure canner it's just over 10)
  • Try a different acid: citric acid powder adds acidity without much flavor. The guideline is 1/4 tsp per pint. Canning supply shops will carry it, it's easy to find on the internet. Lemon juice (commercially bottled for consistency) is also a favorite for salsas, 1 tbsp per pint is the guideline.

If you decide to change acids or acid levels then I suggest you do a small test batch to make sure it's good before going full scale.

A good page on canning tomato products is here.

  • Sorry, I guess I should have mentioned that we doubled the recipe, that's how we ended up with 16 pints. So in total we used 5 cups of white vinegar.
    – AndyWarren
    Aug 4, 2017 at 14:41
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    Gawd almighty! That's far too much, no wonder it came out too sour!
    – GdD
    Aug 4, 2017 at 14:49
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    Just a note - the pressure canning directions for tomatoes mimic the waterbath process and do not actually get the heat up to the proper "pressure canning" temp and indeed the added acid is still required. To pressure can a recipe involving tomatoes and other veggies, you should process for the time of the longest ingredient which would probably be onions or peppers. Aug 4, 2017 at 17:11
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    also, @AndyWarren - you can use the salsa recipes found on the NCHFP website as references for ratios of low acid ingredients (peppers, onion), tomato and acid (vinegar, lemon juice, etc): nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_salsa.html Additionally, I believe that the 2 tbsp of vinegar/pint of tomatoes is for PURE tomatoes. I do NOT think that would sufficiently acidify low acid ingredients in there such as peppers and onion (but I could be wrong). Aug 4, 2017 at 17:14
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    That's gotta be good salsa @AndyWarren, glad it's worked out for you.
    – GdD
    Aug 7, 2017 at 14:57

The 2 tbs vinegar per pint guide lines are for tomatoes. You are adding other ingredients that would change the PH of the tomatoes which is 4.9 to 5.2 so it would take more vinegar to get the PH level to the safe 4.0 PH level.


Maintaining a PH below 4.6 is considered safe when canning salsa. Buy some test strips or litmus paper and be sure to taste test salsa before canning. My homegrown tomatoes already test at 4.3 to 4.4 PH without adding anything. Good luck!


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