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Last summer I made a batch of BBQ sauce. The recipe contains bourbon, lemon juice, Worcestershire, vinegar and dark molasses. It was simmered before being bottled. It's been sitting in a capped jar in the fridge since then. I know the flavor might not be optimal now, but is it safe? It's at least six months old.

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You're essentially asking if it's okay to eat things that were canned improperly - and the answer is very definitely no. –  Jefromi Feb 12 '12 at 21:33
    
@Jefromi: It wasn't canned and I didn't mean to imply it had been when I used the word "bottled." It was simply put in a clean jar with a sealed lid. –  Carey Gregory Feb 13 '12 at 0:21
    
I know you didn't claim that you'd canned it; what I meant is that "put it in a bottle" is basically what's meant by improper canning - it was hot, but not sterilized. –  Jefromi Feb 13 '12 at 1:42
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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Rule #1 is always: When in doubt, throw it out. Nobody here can guarantee that it is safe. If you didn't pasteurize (or sterilize depending on acidity) then there is always a chance of dangerous contamination.

That being said, Worcestershire and and molasses are both shelf-stable while bourbon (alcohol), lemon juice (acid), and vinegar (acid) are all types of preservatives. So if that is the complete list of ingredients (no garlic or other perishable food) then the chances of this mixture developing any harmful bacteria, especially if it's been sealed and refrigerated all this time, are slim to nil.

I'd still throw it out. Your health is worth more than the $2 and 10 minutes it costs to make a new batch. Even if it won't harm you, it can't be very good in terms of quality anymore.

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I forgot to list Ketchup, but that's the only other ingredient. As I said, it was simmered for 20 minutes, so I would think that counts as sterilizing (the jar was not sterilized). –  Carey Gregory Feb 12 '12 at 21:42
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@CareyGregory: Simmering for 20 minutes is not sterilizing. Please see point #5 in the food-safety wiki. –  Aaronut Feb 12 '12 at 21:51
    
I stand corrected. It was pasteurized. +1 –  Carey Gregory Feb 13 '12 at 0:22
    
@CareyGregory: So, a pasteurized product is only guaranteed to still be safe if it's been acidified (pH < 4.3). That's likely to be the case with all the vinegar and lemon juice, but the only way to know for sure is to test the pH. –  Aaronut Feb 13 '12 at 14:05
    
It's fairly tangy and acidic, and I figured it was probably okay, but I had a partial bottle of Canadian whiskey on hand, which I don't drink anyway, so I threw the old stuff out and made some new. Like you said, $2 and 10 minutes.... Thanks for the advice. –  Carey Gregory Feb 13 '12 at 16:01
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I wouldn't trust it to still be safe. You didn't sterilize the container first, and you absent any qualitative analysis of the overall Ph of your ingredients, I would assume it's not acidic enough to inhibit growth.

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