Hot sauce lovers worldwide have collections of their favorite sauces taking up a lot of real estate in their cabinets. The favorite sauces may get used up quickly. But the remaining sauces that are used only occasionally, may be at risk of going bad.
To better provide for your customers, it’s important to consider the shelf life of your product and take steps to increase product life for as long as possible.
What goes into hot sauce?
The main ingredients of most hot sauces are vinegar and chili peppers. Both of these ingredients have natural preservation properties that keep your sauces safe to eat for longer periods of time. The capsaicin in the peppers also helps to prevent the growth of bacteria, and even older bottles of hot sauce are unlikely to cause major illness if consumed after an expiration date.
Additional food safety issues can arise when you begin to add other ingredients into your sauces. Many hot sauce makers are adding a variety of vegetables or using sweet fruits, like pears and apricots, to enhance the flavor of their hot concoctions. These ingredients can lessen a hot sauce’s shelf life.
Do you need to refrigerate homemade hot sauce?
When these additional ingredients are added to a sauce, refrigeration is required once the hot sauce bottle has been opened. The more complex your hot sauce recipe is, the more food safety issues come into play.
Still, even opened bottles of hot sauce can keep in the refrigerator for up to three years. Bottles that remain sealed can last even longer. However, the hot sauce flavors will change over time and lose their potency. In some cases, shaking the hot sauce bottle several times before use can restore some of the flavors, but there isn’t a guarantee.
In many cases, hot sauce can get hotter the longer it sits on the shelf, or the opposite can occur, leaving your hot sauce without any heat at all. Time not only causes flavor changes in your hot sauce, it can also affect its color. Peppers often turn a darker color naturally and the sauce may do the same.
Other indications your hot sauce has gone bad include the growth of mold that starts out as little black specks. Some consumers may mistake these specks for black pepper until eventually, the mold starts to grow out of control.
Once mold starts to grow, there is another potential danger looming in your refrigerator. Hot sauce ingredients may begin to produce gases that gradually build up until eventually, the entire bottle explodes.
Preserving Sauces in Bottles – Extend the Shelf Life of Hot Sauce
Use quality hot sauce bottles and caps
One method for protecting your hot sauce and providing customers with a longer shelf life is to ensure you are using the highest quality hot sauce bottles and caps to seal in and protect the flavor.
Bonus Tip: Customers can also help extend shelf-life of their favorite hot sauces by keeping the bottle cap clean at all times. When old sauce cakes around the cap, it can attract bacteria that can infect the rest of the bottle’s contents.
Follow sterilization protocol
To prevent harmful bacteria from entering your products during the manufacturing process, make sure all supplies are properly sterilized.
Avoid using oil
Most hot sauce experts recommend that you avoid using oil in or around your hot sauce manufacturing process as it can introduce a botulinum toxin, a poisonous protein.
pH for Shelf Stable Hot Sauce
Ideally, a pH measurement of 3.4 creates a sufficiently acidic environment to prevent bacteria from growing. To achieve this balance, use citrus fruits like lemons or limes, or a high-quality vinegar.
Depending on your actual recipe, you may need to address other concerns that can shorten the shelf life of your hot sauce. In addition to ensuring your customers are getting the best tasting, highest-quality sauce, you also need to ensure your hot sauce bottles are made of high-quality materials and are properly sealed to protect the sauce’s flavor and integrity.