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I made a barbecue sauce that I want to send to a friend (internationally). I bought some mason jars, and was planning to just put the barbecue sauce in there, tighten the lids back on, and ship it off. Then I started seeing people say things about hot water bath canning and etc, and I am concerned. I don't want my friend to get sick, but this is also not intended to be some long-term barbecue sauce. She should begin using it soon after receiving it.

I also don't want to spend a ton of money on those fancy canner things. Is this safe? I appreciate any feedback, this is the first time I've made my own barbecue sauce.

Edit: Barbecue sauce contains: 3/4 cup bourbon 1/3 cup cider vinegar 2 cup ketchup 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup tomato paste 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce 1/3 tsp tobasco + salt, diced onions, diced garlic (both cooked)

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    You're going to need to tell us about your barbecue sauce recipe... I'm not an expert in canning but I'm sure that knowing the amounts of ingredients, particularly sugar and vinegar will be very helpful. – Catija Sep 26 '15 at 5:53
  • Great call, added those now. – Brandon Sep 26 '15 at 6:45
  • @Brandon onions and garlic cooked? – Stephie Sep 26 '15 at 7:01
  • Cooked for ~10 minutes! Updated, thanks. – Brandon Sep 26 '15 at 16:07
  • @Brandon Good! Your ingredients are not of the "spoils quickly" kind, but raw garlic and onion need special treatment, e.g. acidity and canning time. – Stephie Sep 26 '15 at 16:55
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I'll leave the question of food safety and mandatory canning or not with regard to ingredients to others, but frankly, if you have a large pot in your kitchen you have a canner. For small batches and only very occasional use, there is no need to buy a separate canner.

Place a small metal rack (if you have one small enough) or a folded towel on the bottom of the pot (I like to use my pasta pot with the insert), put jars on top and fill with water until almost to the top of the tallest jar. Yes, you can process jars of different sizes in one batch. Rule of thumb: cold jars go in cold water, hot jars in hot water. This setup is equivalent to a separate canner minus the extra gadgets like timer, thermometer / thermostat and other features that are for your comfort and ease of use, not essential for the physical process of heating and sealing the jars.

So if you want to play it safe, put your sauce in the jars1, add lids and screw them on with the bands "fingertip tight". Place them in the water bath and slowly bring to a boil. Once your water is simmering, "canning time" starts. Off the cuff, ten to fifteen minutes should be fine for a cooked BBQ sauce, longer isn't a problem either. After that, lift the jars out and cool slowly in a drought-free area. If done correctly the lid will stick to the jar even without the bands, so you get an extra safety mechanism: If your sauce should spoil, the lid will come off, being a clear indication of trouble.

But my main reason why I suggest canning the jars is this:
If you ship your sauce, you have no control over the storage conditions of your jars during transit and - depending on the destination - constant refrigeration or similar might not be possible everywhere on this world. That alone would be reason enough to do the extra step, which is surprisingly easy once you give it a try. I suggest leaving the rings on during shipping and instructing the recipient to remove them on arrival to notice any signs of spoilage.


1 This includes the usual steps done even without canning, e.g. cleaning the jars and lids, "sterilizing" them in your oven or in boiling water, keeping the rims of the jars clean and filling the hot food immediately into the jars. In short, what you would normally do to ensure general cleanliness and food safety.

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    "Fingertip tight" (literally grabbing the band with the tips only of your fingers and thumb, and tightening) is an important concept - the lids need to be held on the jar, but not so tightly that gasses cannot escape. Current USA recommendation for waterbath is to submerge the jars completely, so it has to be tight enough to not leak water in, but not so tight that gasses cannot burp out under pressure. And jars do ned to be upright (not that you didn't say that. but some folks will try to go sideways to fit in a smaller pot, and leak sauce, not gasses.) – Ecnerwal Sep 29 '15 at 3:58
  • @Ecnerwal thanks a lot for the details. This answer was never intended as "canonical instruction on how to can", but just as s few pointers. I will add that OP should consult the usual sources for precise instructions. The submerged-or-not question is discussed here in Germany, the leading manufacturer (Weck) states that both methods are fine, but jars that are fully submeged tend to wobble, especially if they are small and have a comparative large amount of air in them. – Stephie Sep 29 '15 at 4:51
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We do big batches of hot sauce every year and while it has a lot of vinegar in it, we still prefer to do a water bath as an extra step towards food safety. It's very easy as Stephie pointed out and you have a very good seal once you've done it. Well worth the effort.

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