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I am looking to bottle my father-in-law's peri peri sauce and sell it at markets. The ingredients consist of fresh and dried herbs, garlic, salt, lemons and oil (sunflower, canola and olive). This is the method I used with him in the past and make to make sure it's food safe to do so. The batch is brought to a boil and simmered for 5 mins. It's left to cool and then bottled. The bottles are sterilized in hot boiling water for 5 minutes, left to dry (5-10 minutes) before adding the sauce. The caps (plastic) are also sterilized in hot water. Nothing else is done prior to storing them in the fridge, as they are perishable.

Is this a safe practice?

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Sorry to rain on your parade, but unless you use an acid which you forgot to mention, this is a happy breeding ground for botulism bacteria (Clostridium botulinum).

You are creating anaerobic conditions with the oil, which means this specific bacteria are happy to multiply there.

Unfortunately, a simple boil, even for 20 minutes, won't make it safe. It will kill the live bacteria and even destroy the toxins they produced, but it will not kill the spores.

To kill the spores, you need commercial pressure canning with temperatures of 121 C / 250 F.

So you can keep the sauce for a limited time in a refrigerator (3 C or lower), but you must make sure your buyers realize that need, too.

To give you an idea of how poisonous the toxin is: 1kg is said to kill the entire human population, the lethal dose for an adult is about as much as a quarter grain of sand. And contaminated food can not be recognised by sight, smell or taste.

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In general this sort of sauce is safe to bottle in sterilised containers and should keep for at least a few weeks,

Here the fat content form the oils, the salt and the acid from the lemons should act as natural preservatives and is no different from jam, chutney or any other traditional preserve.

It is best if you bottle it while still hot as this will minimise any potential bacterial growth before it is sealed and the vacuum created by sealing the contents hot will help to seal it.

This sort of bottling process has been used for centuries and so should be pretty reliable as long as you are careful with general kitchen hygiene and make sure that the sauce is refrigerated once it has been opened.

  • People have also been getting botulism from home-canned goods for centuries. (See cooking.stackexchange.com/q/66426/1672 if you want some serious reading.) Stephie pretty much explained exactly why this doesn't actually stop botulism: the temperatures aren't high enough to kill the spores, it takes a lot of acidity to stop them from growing, and oil just helps make the anaerobic environment that botlinum likes. If the pH is 4.6 or below it's okay, but... no idea if the OP's sauce is that acidic. – Cascabel May 10 '16 at 22:59

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