How long is it safe to keep salsa? That depends on whether the Mexican style sauce is fresh or cooked and preserved, say the experts who staff the Food Safety Information Society?s Canada-wide consumer line.

If fresh – a short time. Fresh salsa, a spicy combination of chopped vegetables and fruit, should be kept refrigerated and used within 3 to 5 days much like a salad. And you can be adventuresome with these mixtures, adding and subtracting ingredients, to taste.

If cooked and preserved – a long time. A sealed jar of cooked salsa, commercially made or homemade, can be kept on the shelf up to a year. Once opened it should be refrigerated and used within a month.

When preserving salsa, follow a reliable recipe exactly to be sure there is a safe level of acid. Don?t vary the ingredients. And process it in a boiling water canner to destroy microorganisms that cause spoilage and to create a strong vacuum seal.

This recipe for cooked salsa has been provided by Bernardin Ltd.

Vegetable Salsa

– 7 cups (1750 ml) chopped tomatoes, about 6 lb (3.3 kg), 7-8 medium-large

– 8 jalapeño peppers

– 2 cups (500 ml) coarsely chopped onions

– 1 cup (250 ml) coarsely chopped green bell pepper

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 can (156 ml) tomato paste

– 3/4 cup (175 ml) white vinegar

– 1/2 cup (125 ml) chopped cilantro, lightly packed

– 1/2 tsp (2 ml) ground cumin

Place 5 clean 500 ml mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer (180 degrees F/82 degrees C). Set screw bands aside; heat SNAP Lids in hot water, NOT boiling (180 degrees F/82 degrees C). Keep jars and SNAP Lids hot until ready to use.

Blanch, peel, seed and coarsely chop tomatoes. Measure 7 cups (1750 ml). Wearing rubber gloves remove seeds and finely chop jalapeño.

Combine tomatoes, onions, green pepper, jalapeño pepper, garlic, tomato paste, vinegar, cilantro and cumin in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil; boil gently, stirring occasionally, until salsa reaches desired consistency, about 30 minutes.

Ladle salsa into a hot jar to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top rim (headspace). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Center SNAP Lid on jar; apply screw band securely & firmly until resistance is met — fingertip tight. Do not over tighten. Place jar in canner; repeat for remaining salsa.Cover canner; bring water to a boil. At altitudes up to 1000 ft (305 m), process ?boil filled jars ? 20 minutes. At altitudes higher than 1,000ft (305 m) the processing time must be increased. Remove jars without tilting. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours; do not retighten screw bands. Makes about 5 (500 ml) jars.

For information about increasing processing time or other preserving tips, call the Food Safety Information Society 1-800-892-8333 Monday thru Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT or visit the website at