I've made some hot sauce that consists of:

  • Whole large white onion
  • Jalapenos (about 5, seeds and veins)
  • Poblanos (about 3, seeds and veins)
  • Sweet Peppers (about 6, seeds and veins, unknown name, small and bright colored)
  • Can of roasted tomatoes with garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 Cup of White Vinegar

I blended all of the hard ingredients together until it was a fine puree, then added the vinegar, and blended some more. Then I simmered on the stove in a covered pot for about 20 minutes, until reduced, then blended again before using a wire mesh strainer and plastic funnel to put into cleaned squeeze bottles (most solids removed).

Similar questions such as How to determine if canning is safe? seem to indicate it's all about the acid content.

As does: http://foodinjars.com/2010/08/canning-101-why-you-cant-can-your-familys-tomato-sauce/

My concern is if I don't have enough acid content, or if the tomatoes have caused there to be a risk.

I would ideally like to store my sauce in the fridge for a few weeks (or longer, if conducive to proper home bottling) so that I don't have to think up 101 dishes that use hot sauce all before it spoils.

I've read that a pH of 4.6 is "good"... should I get pool water testing strips and test it against that?

How do I determine if my recipe has enough acid content to safely store longer than a couple of days in the fridge?

  • How much volume was there before and after you reduced it?
    – Catija
    Jul 5, 2017 at 23:44
  • @Catija Only slightly reduced... about maybe 1/4 of the original amount (3/4 remaining)... I'm no pro, so just "eyeballed" numbers ;)
    – SnakeDoc
    Jul 6, 2017 at 2:23
  • 2
    The ultimate solution is just bite the bullet and get a pressure canner, and then you don't need to worry about the pH. Costs a little once, but lasts a long time. If checking the acidity, I'd aim for some lower number to have a safety factor. I don't know if "pool test strips" are the best choice here, either - they are optimized for clear water, and reading a color test on a thick, colored liquid can be tricky at best.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 6, 2017 at 13:23

2 Answers 2


On the surface, the recipe would seem OK, but you can't really go by on the surface. What is is the source of the recipe? Is it a tested, reliable source such as a well-established book, say one in the Ball series or is it a home devised or family one? From the eye ball test, the onion and garlic would yell high pH to me, though all the peppers are well over 4.5. One cup of vinegar is a considerable amount, though, especially if it was say 7.5% instead of 5%.

But eye tests cannot be trusted. No, I would not come even close to trusting pool strips. Those would simply test the pH of the liquid which you know is there, they would not test he solids and without real testing I cannot say that simmering 20 minutes is enough to equalize levels and make the strips accurate. A pH meter, maybe, but still iffy I would think. What you need is a test on the recipe that was canned and then sat for months. Just one person's opinion though.

  • 1
    This is a home-made recipe that I'm experimenting with, so no authoritative source for canning info or it's actual acidity.
    – SnakeDoc
    Jul 5, 2017 at 23:08
  • (Thanks Catija. Wow was that poor typing on my part. I blame the storms and Earthquake.)
    – dlb
    Jul 6, 2017 at 16:44

Excellent question! I understand wanting to experiment with your own recipe. I hate following recipes and would much rather develop my own.

Virginia Tech has a PDF file that I consider invaluable to download at Boiling Water Bath Canning. In the downloaded file it says

Only high-acid food with a pH of 4.6 or less can be processed using the boiling water bath method. This is because only high-acid foods prevent the growth of spores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum which can't be killed by boiling. Foods with a pH more than 4.6 allow the spores to grow.

Everything that a home canner would need to learn and know how to successfully can using a boiling water bath method is included in this 15 page file. It even includes jam and jellies and some information on fermenting foods with advice about possible problems.

  • 2
    Bookmarking your link myself. Would have a suggest that in this case (since I am looking at going to pressure canning myself for easing these types of questions), this type of experimenting might be an example of try pressure canning. Then, when you later open a can, say in 3+ months, PH test it. Everything should be equalized by then, so should be accurate. If it is in the safe zone, and you get the results you wanted, next time you can water bath if you prefer. Just an option.
    – dlb
    Jul 6, 2017 at 17:02
  • 1
    It's a good file to keep handy, isn't it? Your suggestion is very sound and if I were to make the hot sauce following the OP's recipe, I'd definitely do that if I wished to sell it or give it as gifts to others. But personally (and only my opinion), after all the preparation he did (puree and then straining out solids, if it tested under pH 4.5 (to be safe), I'd have no qualms using it. And I'm a bit of a fanatic to most about safe practices in food prep. I just wouldn't use pool testing strips but look for an accurate testing method meant for food.
    – Jude
    Jul 6, 2017 at 19:31
  • I am with you. Don't think pool strips are the right tool. My feel is that acid levels are OK, but that is gut feel only. pH is logarithmic, not simple add and subtract so gut feel can be wrong. I would what to know for sure before doing it in quantity. Botulism is one area I try not to take chances. The odds are slim as long as you play by the rules even if you miss the pH mark by a bit, but, botulism is not your typical upset tummy if you lose on those odds.
    – dlb
    Jul 6, 2017 at 21:40

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