How to test a home recipe's pH?

Asked September 14, 2013, 8:34 PM EDT

I have a home recipe I make in the summer that I'd like to test the pH to see if it can be safely canned with the boiling water method, or if it would require pressure canning. What is the recommended method to determine if a recipe is safe for boiling water canning or pressure canning? My recipe is a liquid/solid mixture (like a slaw/salsa). I found some tips online, but I want to make sure I'm safe!

Lane County Oregon

5 Responses

Please don't just assume that a simple pH test is all that is necessary to determine processing time of food. There are many factors involved and a simple home pH test is not adequate. It costs commercial companies thousands of dollars in testing for every recipe they make. If you want to develop a recipe and preserve it, it is always safe to freeze it.

If you are going to can salsa type recipes I strongly recommend you use a laboratory tested recipe like the ones found in PNW 395 Canning Salsa or the latest edition of the Ball Blue Book is a good resource as well.

I would not recommend following simple pH instructions posted on the web. Anyone can post information and no one is checking for accuracy.

If you have further questions you can call the OSU Extension statewide Food Preservation/Safety Hotline 1-800-354-7319. If operates M T Th and Fri from 9-4. Certified Master Food Preservers are available to answer your questions.

Thanks for using Ask an Expert.

Nellie Oehler

I'm aware of the vetted recipes, and I am aware that random posts on the internet are not guaranteed factual. That's why I posted here. My mistake for not making that clear.

The recipe is similar to salsa, but isn't salsa at all (so using a salsa recipe would be a completely different product). What I was getting at is--does the extension office do any testing of recipes, or is it able to judge whether a recipe would be safe based on the ingredients and their ratios? Or do all recipes have to go through expensive commercial testing? It just isn't clear because the vetted recipes are often given in cups and tablespoons, for example, rather than by weight, which is far more accurate.

Sorry for the misunderstanding. Extension does not test recipes. What does your recipe have in it and how dense is it? You could compare it with similar recipes like in the latest edition of the Ball Blue Book and see if they have tested something similar in ingredients and density.

The food technology department at OSU sometimes tests recipes if people want to make it commercially. You might check with Mark Daeschel who is the food microbiologist for that department and see what he thinks. His phone number is 541-737 6519. Sorry I can not assure you that your recipe is safe or what kind of a pH meter would be accurate.

Nellie Oehler

Thanks, I was afraid of that. Oh well--I'll keep it as a special summer item for now :)

Smart idea. Remember though you might try freezing some and see how it turns out. Never hurts to try. Then when you thaw it you could add a few fresh veggies to it for crunch.