Food Safety Question (Tomatoes)

Settle a disagreement:

The setting: home-grown tomatoes, boiling and then simmering in a pot, reducing to become tomato sauce.

The problem: overnight storage.

Scenario 1: Leave them out in the 68–75 °F kitchen overnight. Bring them to a boil the next day, they’ll be fine. Refrigerating the hot tomatoes will harm the refrigerator and / or its contents and is unnecessary.

Scenario 2: Refrigerate them. Leaving them out and re-boiling them will kill us all.

The tomato-handlers of the world recommend refrigerating cooked tomatoes within two hours of being cooked, but they are (of course) inclined to be safe rather than sorry.

I was Scenario #2, but I couldn’t muster a counter-argument to what could happen. Botulism is out (anaerobic), as is salmonella (known clean source, no contamination). It seems that boiling would take care of anything else. What don’t I know? Why are the tomato growers so cautious?

PS: In IMHO rather than GQ or CS because I’m more concerned with what other people would do in this situation than strict food science, but mods please move if fancy strikes.

Are the tomatoes in jars and sealed (i.e. canned)? My mom used to can stuff every summer, and once they were processed, they were simply left on the shelves until eaten. If they’re not properly canned, I don’t think they’re actually anaerobic.

Fresh tomatoes, just picked, not canned.

I don’t know. I’ve always avoided the problem by getting everything done in a day.

A third option would be to leave them out until they’re room temperature and then refrigerating them. That’s what I’d do.

Not very helpful, huh?

Moving thread from IMHO to Cafe Society.

It will be fine to leave them out and then boil them.

This may be disgusting to some, but I often make a big pot of soup/chili/tomatosauce/whatever which lives on my stove top for weeks at a time, even in summer, never in the refrigerator. All I do is bring it to a full boil once a day. And since I got salmonella (from chicken fingers in a bar), I’ve been extremely sensitive to gut bugs; cold or raw fish or meat, or anything from a steam table, will invariably give me the projectile squirts. But not my stovetop pot, as long as I bring it to a full boil at least once a day, before eating it.

Put the lid on the pot for the last 10 minutes of the boiling. Leave on stovetop with a hermetic seal overnight. No huhu.

I’ve done this hundreds of times with beer. If that didn’t get contaminated, I wouldn’t worry about tomatoes, which are so acidic that no self-respecting bacteria would go near them anyway.

Divide them into smaller, non-insulating containers (like disposable Tupperware/Gladware) and they will cool pretty quickly. Sure, you’re probably safe 9 times out of 10, 99 times out of 100, whatever. But if you usually refrigerate your food, why make an exception this time?

Something to think about- I make tomato sauce in a crock pot because it’s simple and requires minimal tending. Lid off it maintains ~190F.
Scenario #1 wouldn’t worry me too much in my kitchen, not at all if re-boiled.

Most people leave pizza on the counter for breakfast the next day. Tomato sauce is very acidic and is almost like a pickling solution in that it will prohibit the growth of bacteria. IANAFoodSafetyGuru.

I believe featherlou meant after cooking. Mis-sterilized home preserves are a source of botulism, but so long as you observe basic precautions they’re perfectly safe and don’t need cold storage any more than industrial ones.

The tomato sauce, if it’s just in the pot with the lid on, is not in an anaerobic medium. Any bacteria in the air (including from Joey who sneezed as he entered the kitchen) can get there and will find the sauce perfectly edible. Re-boiling long enough will kill them, though.

However, boiling does not kill all toxins - just the bacteria that produced them. When I’ve needed to cool a pot of something down in a hurry, occasionally I’ve thrown some ice in a Ziploc bag or two and put it in there. Doesn’t water down the soup or whatever, and cools it pretty quick. Of course, my grandmother would just leave it out, and nobody died.

I leave stuff like that out until room temp, then refrigerate. Sometimes I’ll forget, and leave it out all night, but then I put it in the fridge in the morning.

True. Which was why I was specific in my examples. I wouldn’t do this with raw pork, for example.

Which is exactly what ended up happening. I boiled the hell out of it the next day, and then re-refrigerated it. We haven’t eaten it yet. When we do, I’ll post results, unless we die.

Micro lab tech + home canner here. The oxygen level may be low enough after boiling for the bug that causes botulism to grow, and it is resistant to acid at or above pH 4.6. It’s also a spore former, so it can survive boiling. Some tomatoes are more acidic than others, so many canning recipes call for lemon juice to ensure that the pH level is low enough to prevent it from growing in the jars after boiling water canning.

That said, it is unlikely that you will get sick from leaving at room temp overnight, as the growth rate is pretty slow, and repeated boiling will sterilize liquids, as it promotes spore germination and subsequent boiling will destroy vegetative cells. I’d just boil it again as soon as I got up the next morning. I also would not feed it to the very young, very old, or otherwise immunocomprimised.

I wouldn’t worry too much about it, but I wouldn’t reccomend doing this as standard practice. Personally, I add lemon juice and can it in a boiling water canner while still hot.

Everyone I know refrigerates pizza, even the bachelors who can’t be bothered with much else in the way of cleanliness. There are, of course, other bachelors who are neat freaks.

Hmmm, so what does this say about me and my friends*? :eek: :smiley:

*All of whom are alive and well.

Good advice, master. Home canning is certainly do-able, but it is best done with established techniques and not screwed around with. My mom’s home canning never made anyone sick, but she was using techniques passed down through generations of home canners (lots of boiling water and boiling hot jars and boiling everything). At this point I wouldn’t start canning stuff because I don’t know enough about it, and you can kill people with home canning.

I don’t actually know anything, but I would put it in smaller dishes, let it cool some, and refrigerate. IME, tomato products grow mold easily when left out.

Is there any truth to the idea that some people’s immune systems get “used to” certain toxins? So if someone uses the same bad food practices they’ve always used, they’re not getting sick because they are “used to it?”