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I have a recipe for chili sauce that has tomatoes, onion, sugar, and spices. After it has cooked down, I just put it in hot jars and put the canning lids on. Is that okay, or do I need to process in a boiling water bath?
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Will you please send me your chili sauce recipe in full? I need to compare it to the tested recipes we have here in our office. Does your recipe use vinegar or lemon juice as added acid?
If yes: you do need to water-bath it. One recipe for Chili Sauce in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving sais to process for 15 minutes (adjust for Utah County Altitude by adding 10 minutes for a total of 25 minutes).
If no: If it does not have added acid (vinegar or lemon juice), then it would need to be pressure-canned to ensure a safe product. I don't have a recommended time on that until I can look at the recipe a little more closely.
The purpose of processing a product is to ensure that it has reached a safe internal temperature, which kills any lingering micro-organisms. Tomatoes are right on the border of low-high acid levels - some are more acidic and some are less. This is why almost every tomato canning recipe (unless it's pressure-canned) calls for added acid (lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid). The added acid allows us to use the water-bath canning method, rather than having to pressure-can it.
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