spaces in my tomato sauce

awalker2318July 14, 2014

Hi again,

I just canned 7 pints of the Better Homes and Garden magazine Tomato Basil Pasta sauce. It's a BWB recipe that you do for 35 minutes. I used citric acid instead of lemon juice.

The jars are cooling and all appear to be sealed correctly, but I'm seeing spaces in the sauce. I made sure I had gotten rid of air bubbles while filling the jars. Is this ok?

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Usually trapped air in the jars is an indication that the sauce was too thick when jarred. It is supposed to be "sloshy". It is safe to eat but may not store as long, has a higher potential for mold, and will darken faster.

Not familiar with that particular recipe or how it compares with the tested and approved instructions for Tomato-Basil Sauce (and some recipes from that particular source have been questionable in the past) so it is a do at your own risk recipe.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 11:10PM
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fyi - here's the recipe..

12 lbs tomatoes peeled
3 Tbsp packed brown sugar (1 put in a tsp less as it was pretty sweet)
2 Tbsp Kosher salt (I put in 1 Tbsp as we need to cut down on salt)
1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1 tspn freshly ground pepper
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, snipped
1 cup lightly packed assorted fresh herbs such as oregano, thyme, italian parsley
1 Tbsp crushed red pepper (optional)
6 Tbsp lemon juice (I used citric acid instead)

1. Cut peeled tomatoes into chunks; add chunks to food processor. Cover and process until chopped. Add all processed tomatoes to pot.

2. Add brown sugar, salt, vinegar, and black pepper. Bring to boiling stirring frequently. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 70-80 minutes . You should have about 11 cups.
Remove from heat; stir in basil and herbs and crushed pepper if desired.

3. Spoon 1 tablespoon lemon juice into six hot sterilized pint jars leaving 1/2" headspace

4. Process filled jars in boiling water canner for 35 minutes (start timing when water begins to boil). Turn off heat after 35 minutes; let sit 5 minutes. Remove jars and cool.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 11:31PM
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I don't know, seems like a lot of fresh herbs. The NCHFP recipe for Spaghetti Sauce without Meat uses 1C of peppers, 1C onions and 1 lb mushrooms for 30lbs of tomatoes for 9 pints, but that's pressure canned.

Ellie Topp's Tomato Basil sauce that a lot of us use calls for red wine (and more than 1 Tbsp vinegar, plus tomato paste) to acidify for BWBing and uses a lot less basil/herbs. Even with only 1/2C basil I found it went bitter in storage (basil tends to do that).

How long ago did you make it I would open the jars and freeze it if within 24 hours.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 7:46AM
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yes I thought it was too much fresh herb too and used closer to 1/2 cup (maybe a smidge more) total herbs - a combination of basil, thyme, rosemary and oregano. I figured I could use more afterwards. I'll test one in a week and see what's up and plan to use it first. I'll look at Ellie's for the next go around because I love red wine in sauce.

And unfortunately, I'm just over 30 hours after canning.

Thanks to you and Dave for the responses.

On another note, I was bummed to hear that the specialty canning magazines may not be reliable sources of recipes. The articles seem to promote safe canning practices, but clearly the recipes themselves may not be. How's a canner to determine what's what?

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 9:57AM
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ooops. i was wrong... i don't know what I was thinking, but I finished canning this batch at around noon yesterday, so I'm under the 24 hour mark.

I couldn't stand worrying about the sauce, so I opened all the jars and am heating it up right now. The sauce is very "sloshy"; not thick at all - pours readily. It's a bit tart with the citric acid in it.

I'm tempted to re-can it, but should probably give up and freeze it... eh?

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 10:40AM
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Might taste better - I don't know if herbs change flavor as much in freezer as they do on the shelf anyway. Without knowing exact measurements for tomatoes and herbs it's hard to know how much acid is needed and I'm sure extra cooking after adding herbs isn't helping the flavor.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 11:06AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

The standard guidelines really restrict the use of fresh herbs in canning recipes. Dried are fine but fresh herbs change the pH drastically is some cases. So that is the first clue that the recipe is questionable.

The second is the small amount of vinegar added. There simply is no way the 1 T of vinegar can off-set all those herbs and the lemon juice called for is the standard per pint amount so there is no herb pH compensation there either.

The third issue is that the processing time called for is exactly the same as for plain tomato sauce with no additives. You can't add all that other stuff and not expect to have to increase the processing time or change the method to pressure canning yet they don't do that. Pressure canned the recipe would likely be safe. BWB - not in my opinion.

Stick with the tested and approved sources for canning - not the specialty publications that "claim" to be safe. There are far too many bad sources like this out there.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 1:29PM
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I'm trying to salvage this sauce to freeze and have resorted to chemistry experiments. I'm actually having a little fun with this since I have nothing to lose...

After getting all the sauce back in the pot and simmering for a bit it was incredibly tart from the added citric acid for processing - not just lip puckering, but suck in your cheeks puckering! I added some wine to help sweeten it, but it really didn't even take the edge off.

An Italian neighbor of ours used to put baking soda in her sauce when I was growing up to reduce the acidity and help ward off heart burn. So I thought I'd give that a try to help neutralize the sauce a bit. (did I mention that I started life as a chemical engineer...)

Think vinegar and baking soda rockets... I threw in a tablespoon and the sauce started foaming! I just stirred it until the reaction subsided. I threw in a little more - more foaming. Then I let it rest a bit. Heated it up. The sauce was fantastic! The tartness is completely gone.

Then about 10 minutes later, this little after taste comes - a little tingling like you brushed your teeth with baking soda...

Any ideas? I'm perfectly fine with chucking it. It's been a live and learn project from the beginning...

Thanks again for the patience and help!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 9:44PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Sounds like the mad scientist! :) We usually use small amount of sugar to off-set excess acidity. Try that. Can't guarantee what the chemical explosion might be like.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 9:53PM
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I thought my tomato sauce was a little thicker than usual when canning last night. I was inspecting seals this morning and my bands were sticky indicating siphoning had occurred. I also notice some huge air bubbles. This was pure tomatoes with only 1tsp citric acid and 1 tsp canning salt added to each quart. Should I reprocess tonight or just simply freeze?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2014 at 7:43AM
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I forgot to say, I Processed for 40 mins in BWB.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2014 at 7:51AM
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I'm no expert, but I had some look like that, after moving the jar the gaps disappeared and Carol and Dave said it looked OK. BTW, only 1/2tsp citric acid is called for per quart. You may find you need to add sugar when you open the jars.

After 12 hours I think it's safe to tilt the jars a little - see if it looks sloshy. Here's a picture of mine compared to Classico (BWB jar in the middle, PC jar that I thought might have been too thick, but wasn't, on the right).

    Bookmark   September 16, 2014 at 7:59AM
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Darn! I put in too much citric acid! That's the problem with Pinterest vs actual canning book.

I'm still considering opening them, would reprocessing with more water to thin out the sauce be better? Or just leave as is?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2014 at 4:19PM
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Can you post a picture of the jars lying on their sides? And you really should get the Ball Blue Book - it's less than $7, try Target and Walmart.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2014 at 9:31PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I would rather add baking soda when I am using it.
Adding baking sod to sauce is defeating the purpose of acidification for preserving and safety.

I add a tiny bit of BS to my coffee pot to reduce acidity.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2014 at 2:43AM
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