Fix tomato sauce indigestion.
June 26, 2008 8:12 PM   Subscribe

Cooking puzzle: Help me nullify the acidity of tomato sauce (and heartburn) in this recipe I've concocted.

1. 2lb browned ground bison
2. bag of frozen blueberries
3. 2 3/4 cups of no-salt tomato sauce
4. 1/2 cup of flax seed
5. Mix all the above together.
(6. topped with a bunch of stuff)
7. Bake on low heat.

The above has slowly started giving me uncomfortable burping-up and heartburn. I took out the tomato sauce and the symptoms went away immediately and completely. However, the tomato sauce makes it taste even better (heh) and it kind of holds everything together. And it's really nutritious.

I'm allergic to eggs, wheat, dairy, and corn.

*Is there anything binding and nutritious that I could replace the tomato sauce with?

*I'd like to get my tomato sauce in a can or something super-easy, but google says there are ways to prepare tomato sauce that are less acidic. Personal experiences and/or store-buyable suggestions?

****Even better, mega bonus points, does anyone have ideas for basic/alkaline ingredients to nullify the acid and add even more nutrition to my crazy recipe? The ingredients should start out basic and should probably stay net basic after they're metabolized. I'm a terrible cook, so I don't know where to start, beyond that.

Besides the indigestion, this recipe really, really works for my body, so thank you!
posted by zeek321 to Food & Drink (21 answers total)

posted by amtho at 8:29 PM on June 26, 2008

I've got a tomato soup recipe that turns out acidic with some brands of tomatoes. I usually add a few pinches of sugar and a few of baking soda. It'll fizz like made when the baking soda goes in. I keep adding pinches until the bite lessens but not so much that I can taste it.
posted by mostlymartha at 8:29 PM on June 26, 2008

It doesn't meet whatever nutrition requirements you have, but you could try adding baking soda. Experiment, starting out with a teaspoon or so. Baking soda is alkaline and could neutralize the acids in your dish. I have seen it used in tomato soup recipes with much success to affect the acidity and bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes.
posted by Anonymous at 8:30 PM on June 26, 2008

Carrots will absorb a lot of the acidity of the tomatoes so that you don't have to worry as much about pH balancing the sauce.
posted by netbros at 8:31 PM on June 26, 2008

That recipe seems like sort of a funky cross between pemmican and meatloaf. I don't know all that much about pemmican, but meatloaf usually has less tomato than you are using. The binders in most meatloaf recipes I've seen are eggs and breadcrumbs, which are no-nos for you unless the breadcrumbs were non-wheat.

When I make chili or pasta sauce, to prevent over acidity I add either diced carrot pieces early on (the fancy term for carrot + onion + celery is mirepoix; it tastes great and the sugar in the carrots helps in tomato recipes) or if I'm being lazy a bit of sugar later in the cooking process. In meatloaf, this is usually done by using ketchup, which comes with the sugar pre-added.

Can you eat root vegetables like potatoes, or starchy/sweet ones like squash? I'm wondering if cooked squash might provide a better binder than what you are using, while tasting pretty good. If you go this route, you might want to lighten up on the blueberries, though, because it could end up pretty sweet otherwise.
posted by Forktine at 8:32 PM on June 26, 2008

Just read that you're allergic to dairy.

Try soy yogurt or soy cheese (make sure there's no diary in the soy cheese - "casein" is dairy). Soy yogurt has turned out to be a pretty good binder for me in muffins and cupcakes.

It may be that the acidity in the tomatoes is what tastes good to you. I sometimes substitute acid for salt - would adding some salt help? You can also try some black pepper.

You could also try different fruits to replace the tomato, which is, after all, a fruit -- just a salty acidic one.
posted by amtho at 8:37 PM on June 26, 2008

There is a chart on this page that lists foods by the level of acid in them. Tomatoes are middle of the road. Less acidic than tomatoes are the following vegetables:
Asparagus, Onions, Vegetable Juices, Parsley, Raw Spinach, Broccoli, Garlic, Barley Grass Okra, Squash, Green Beans, Beets, Celery, Lettuce, Zucchini, Sweet Potato, Carob

See the chart for more ideas.
Good luck!
posted by mcarthey at 8:44 PM on June 26, 2008

i prefer brown sugar in my tomato recipes to regular sugar. i like the deeper taste it lends the dish.
posted by nadawi at 9:13 PM on June 26, 2008

yeah, brown sugar is the classic italian way. if you wanna be fancy use tomatoes rather than sauce and simmer it seperately. don't be afraid to be generous with the brown sugar but taste it constantly.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 9:45 PM on June 26, 2008

Yup, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is basic and will neutralize acid. Go easy on it, though - if you add an excess you'll get an unpleasant metallic taste. I'd start with much less than a teaspoon and add it in small portions, stirring thoroughly and tasting between additions.

Also, proteins can neutralize acids via their basic amino groups. This reaction goes more slowly, though, so it might take a few hours or overnight for something like meat, cheese, eggs etc to neutralize the acidity (I know you're allergic to some of this stuff; I'm just talking general chemistry here). I often use grated Parmesan cheese to neutralize the acidity of tomato sauce; maybe you could find a non-dairy substitute for cheese that would go well in your recipe?

In fact, the meat in your dish would probably neutralize quite a bit of the tomato acid if you let it stand for a while. Have you had leftovers of this dish with the tomato sauce? Did you still have trouble with it after it had sat in the fridge for a day or 2? Maybe just making the dish ahead of time and letting it stand would solve the problem, and recipes like this often taste much better after aging for a day or so.
posted by Quietgal at 9:52 PM on June 26, 2008

How about rice and some sun-dried tomatoes? You can get the sweet/acidic flavor periodically throughout, and the rice will help bottom out the dish.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:54 PM on June 26, 2008

tea spoon of sugar will remove the acidity from tomato sauce
posted by mattoxic at 10:36 PM on June 26, 2008

I've had luck with ground rice and/or spelt crackers for binders in meatballs made for wheat-allergic friends.
posted by judith at 11:23 PM on June 26, 2008

Response by poster: This is super-helpful, everyone. Thank you. I'm going to start by experimenting with carrots and baking powder.
posted by zeek321 at 5:13 AM on June 27, 2008

Don't use baking powder. That actually has added acid (cream of tartar) so it won't help your cause. Use baking soda.
posted by cabingirl at 5:46 AM on June 27, 2008

Check out Alton Brown- I seem to remember a show he did where he explained why that happens. I don't remember, however, what it was. I *think* it had to do with using the right type of tomato, and preparing it properly.
posted by gjc at 6:42 AM on June 27, 2008

I've added cocoa to tomato sauce and chili, on the recommendation of various TV chefs and internet sources. I seem to recall that the stated purposes were to add "depth" of flavor and also to help neutralize some of the tomato acid. You'd want to use dutch process baking cocoa (most stuff you would buy at the grocery store is dutch process, so this shouldn't be hard to find), because it the processing makes it more alkaline. Start with just a spoonful and see how it tastes. Don't worry, you'd have to add a pretty ridiculous amount (half a cup?) to taste the chocolate.
posted by vytae at 7:46 AM on June 27, 2008

Response by poster: Hmm, cocoa.

@cabingirl - don't worry, I read up on the difference between baking powder and baking soda. :)

My first revision is in the oven right now. I added a conservative teaspoon of baking soda to unsalted tomato sauce (1 3/4 cups). I mixed it in, and it changed from red to orange as it started to fix and release gas. Eventually as I continued to stir, it changed back to red. Pretty cool. Then I added one more conservative teaspoon. It turned very slightly orange and quickly turned red again. Acid neutralized!

It'll be done in an hour and tonight I'll see how it tastes...
posted by zeek321 at 8:31 AM on June 27, 2008

Response by poster: *fizz
posted by zeek321 at 8:32 AM on June 27, 2008

If you're willing to forgo the tomatoes' volume but still want the flavor, a squeeze of tomato paste might give you the same flavor without putting as much acidity in.

Also, I know the problem went away without the tomatoes, but the blueberries are also pretty acidic I think (well, they taste sour at least). It's possible reducing both of them a bit might work too.

The first result in google is a chart of acidic and alkaline foods, so if you want to use someting other than baking soda that might be a good option.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:18 PM on June 27, 2008

Response by poster: update: adding the baking soda completely eliminated any stomach issues but also eliminated the tomato taste (but no other tastes). super-interesting. anyway, this is a really great first pass. i'm going to try using less baking soda on the next round. thanks again, everyone.
posted by zeek321 at 12:15 PM on June 28, 2008

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