Follow the Recipe

This is not the time to experiment.

Use reliable recipes that have been tested in a lab and follow the directions exactly.

  • They produce the same good results each time
  • Ingredients are measured
  • Cooking times and processing times have been set

Processing Time

  • Each recipe has its own processing time
  • Follow directions carefully!
  • Processing time may differ with the size of the jar
  • Too little processing time can result in spoilage

Canning Without Sugar

  • Sugar does not preserve the fruit; sugar helps fruit hold its shape, color, and flavor
  • Splenda® (sucralose) is the only sugar substitute that can be successfully added to replace sugar in fruits and sweet spreads
  • Saccharin sweeteners turn bitter
  • Aspartame sweeteners lose their sweetness

Canning Acidified Foods, Including Pickles and Pickled Products

In order to sell fermented or acidified foods, a cottage food operator must either:

  • use an approved/tested recipe (USDA or state cooperative extension service) and follow the recipe exactly, or
  • submit an annual written food safety plan using the form provided by the county health department for each category of products that uses the same procedures. For example, if the cottage food operator planned to sell fermented pickles and acidified pickles (with vinegar), the operator would need to submit two food safety plans since the procedures are different. In addition, a pH test must also be submitted every 3 years.


  • Do not alter the amount of vinegar, food or water proportions in a recipe
  • Only use vinegar with 5% acidity
  • Firming agents are not needed for crisp pickles. Soaking cucumbers in ice water for 4 to 5 hours prior to pickling and removing 1/16-inch slice from the blossom end is a safer method for making crisp pickles

Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Products

In order to sell canned tomatoes or canned tomato products, a cottage food operator must either:

  • use an approved/tested recipe (USDA or state cooperative extension service) and follow the recipe exactly, or
  • submit a recipe to a commercial laboratory to be tested annually to verify that the product has been adequately acidified. Use only the varietal or proportionate varietals of tomato included in the tested recipe for all subsequent batches. Provide documentation of test results upon registration.

Tomatoes fall on the borderline of being high acid and low acid. You must add acid to tomatoes and tomato products, even when pressure canning. Choose one option:

  • 1 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice (not fresh) per pint or 2 Tablespoons per quart
  • ¼ teaspoon citric acid per pint or ½ teaspoon per quart
  • 2 Tablespoons 5% acidity vinegar per pint or 4 Tablespoons per quart (may have undesirable flavor)

Do not can tomato juice in anything larger than a quart jar.

Do not alter salsa recipes. Tested recipes from approved sources are required for safe preservation.

  • Do not change the amount of onions or peppers
  • Do not alter the amounts of acid
  • Do not substitute vinegar for bottled lemon juice in salsa recipes. You can, however, substitute bottled lemon juice for the vinegar.
  • Do not thicken with flour, cornstarch or other starches
  • You MAY alter or leave out dried spices and herbs
  • You MAY alter the types of onions or peppers but NOT the amount