Shelf stable homemade condiments
March 4, 2009 6:40 PM   Subscribe

Homemade condiment preservation without canning. I've made ketchup, hot sauce, and worcestershire sauce in the past. All the recipes say to store the finished product in the refrigerator and use within a relatively short time.

Worcestershire seems to be the longest lasting at about 8 months. I understand since there are no preservatives the condiments keep best refrigerated. My question is: Is there any simple way to make hot sauces or worcestershire shelf stable (not needing refrigeration) without adding a pharmacy of chemicals or without canning the condiments? I'd like to give them as gifts and not kill my few friends.
posted by sharksandwich to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It's the canning that does the preserving. But some of what you're making only requires a water bath, that is, you wouldn't need a pressure canner to make them shelf stable, just a big enough pot and clean jars and lids.

You'll want to look for tested recipes where the pH is acidic enough; low-acid preparations do need to be pressure canned. I should think hot sauce, at least, would be a no-brainer.

There's a wealth of information out there, and county extension and agricultural college websites tend to be the best in my experience.

And for what it's worth, pressure canning isn't exactly hard. The equipment is bulky and somewhat pricey but easy to find.
posted by padraigin at 6:57 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Firstly, you want to avoid any possibility of botulism. To do this, acid is required. Most recipes for ketchup etc. should be fine, as most will have a significant amount of vinegar in them, but you should probably do some research to check. Botulism is particularly worrying as you can't see or smell it, and it will kill your friends.

Secondly, you want to reduce the possibilities of bugs etc getting in. So sterilise the jars, put the stuff in whilst hot, and make sure that the lids seal. My dad used to dip the lids in wax, but there are more elegant, if more expensive, ways of doing this.

Canning websites can probably give you more details, but those are the basics.
posted by kjs4 at 6:58 PM on March 4, 2009

I understand since there are no preservatives

Actually sugar and salt are among the oldest preservatives known (their osmotic activity dehydrates potential bad guys), but to use them properly requires some experience. Look to the slow food movement for some ideas on how to make shelf-stable condiments.

As an aside, a mixture of peppers and salt can be fermented for up to three years and still result in a commercially viable product.
posted by TedW at 7:25 PM on March 4, 2009

kjs4 is spot on. You want a pH of 4.6 or below when "regular" canning to eliminate the potential for botulism. You can get litmus paper or more expensive testers from pet stores or online if you want to test your recipes.

Pressure canning raises the temperature above 212F/100C. It can affect how the end product tastes vs. boiling.
posted by graftole at 7:25 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

This recipe for red pepper paste is excellent and can be preserved without canning, as long as you freeze the finished product. More of a "send your guests home with a jar" than a party present sort of thing.

Helen Witty's "Fancy Pantry" gives two recipes for hot sauce, neither of which involves water bath canning and both of which are shelf-stable in a cool place for several months. I can't vouch for them, and would feel better with canning them, but the recipes are out there.

From the International Society of Hot Sauce Aficionados:
Dr. Kitchener's Hot Stuff

The recipe page might have something else for you -- have a look around.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:46 PM on March 4, 2009

All of the items you mentioned would freeze well.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:57 PM on March 4, 2009

I would think hot sauce has enough salt and vinegar to be shelf-stable, but I always refrigerate my Sriracha and Frank's anyways. I think it has more to do with taste than safety.
posted by O9scar at 11:18 PM on March 4, 2009

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