Author Topic: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....  (Read 79524 times)

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Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #80 on: June 04, 2007, 05:04:54 PM »
Hi, all!
I'm a newbie to this site and have been reading the forums with great interest, this thread especially!

I have a comment about spices, mentioned a couple of pages back... I buy a lot of my herbs and spices from Penzeys (penzeys.com) and in the catalog (which you can read online with adobe acrobat reader) they say that herbs and spices are harvested only ONCE a year... so if you replace every six months, you are probably buying the same batch as you tossed!  Their rule of thumb is one year shelf life for ground H&Ss and 2 years shelf for whole.  If the spices are top quality (like, not from a grocery store where you never know HOW long they've been sitting there...!) they may last longer than that, so their other suggestion is the sniff test... open the jar... if it SMELLS nice and spicy, it's still good, no matter the age.  Now, this company wants to SELL you spices, not talk you into leaving them on your shelf, so I tend to believe them. 

As for me, I'm trying to capture a pizza memory from my childhood (late 50s, early 60s)...  a pizza from Tommy's (now Pizza L'oven) in Exeter PA (Wyoming Valley)... my grandpa used to send me down to Tommy's to buy 12 cuts of the most WONDERFUL cheese pizza!  I have tried for YEARS and have not been able to duplicate that pizza. My web-snooping has helped... apparently, this type of pizza is labeled NEPA STYLE and the sauce is very onion-y, probably uncooked... and the crust probably "fried" in the oil that lubes the pan.  If anyone can point me in the direction of the proper thread... or give any suggestions, I would be forever grateful!!  (And I'm not trying to change the subject here... but rather thought I'd kill two birds with one bottle of oregano!) 

Red November, I really appreciate the science (and sauce!) you've presented!  I never thought of microwaving my herbs before, but I'm going to use the technique for many more applications than just pizza sauce!  I'm a diehard foodie (and was a deli manager for a large, upscale grocery chain in the Puget Sound area of WA for MANY years!) and... after 45 years of cooking (!!)... am still learning as much as I possibly can every day!  DH certainly enjoys the end results of all my different research projects!  Bless him, he'll eat anything I put on the table... and toasts me for my efforts!  And yesterday, when I told him of my further pizza research, he called me a PIZZA SNOB!  With a twinkle in his eye, of course!

Thanks to all for your input!  This has been a fun thread to read.... now, about that NEPA style pizza.....   ;) hmmm??

~sd   :pizza:
« Last Edit: June 04, 2007, 05:11:31 PM by sourdough girl »
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Online Pete-zza

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #81 on: June 04, 2007, 05:30:29 PM »
sourdough girl,

I don't know whether what you are looking for can be characterized as an Old Forge pizza, but there is an entire thread devoted to that style of pizza, at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,1082.msg9655.html#msg9655.

We also happen to have a member who goes by the handle of nepa-pizza-snob. Maybe he will be able to help.

Peter

Offline November

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #82 on: June 04, 2007, 06:20:54 PM »
if you replace every six months, you are probably buying the same batch as you tossed!  Their rule of thumb is one year shelf life for ground H&Ss and 2 years shelf for whole.  If the spices are top quality (like, not from a grocery store where you never know HOW long they've been sitting there...!) they may last longer than that, so their other suggestion is the sniff test... open the jar... if it SMELLS nice and spicy, it's still good, no matter the age.

There are one and a half small flaws in that line of thinking.  The herbs sitting on the store shelf aren't being opened repeatedly during that six months, exposing the herbs to moisture and oxygen.  Half of that of problem leads to the next which is that some flavor compounds in herbs may in fact oxidize while aroma compounds don't.  So the odor won't always indicate the overall quality.  I have a bottle of chili powder that's probably over 15 years old.  It still smells pungently like chili powder, but it tastes like paprika mixed with dirt.  There is also the greater chance that bacteria or other microflora have had a chance to collect in the bottle during one of the many times it's opened, and with just enough moisture over time could pose a problem.  Preservation is always a sliding scale based almost exclusively on moisture.  Where I live humidity is a problem, so there's no way I'm going to use 1-year old herbs if it's important.  I only use older herbs during tests when I don't expect to eat all or any of the end product.

- red.november

EDIT: Clarified which shelf I was referring to.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2007, 06:26:04 PM by November »

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #83 on: June 04, 2007, 06:54:54 PM »
Thanks for the reply, Peter!

It appears that the only similarity between Tommy's of the 60s and OF pizza is the use of the rectangular sheet pan.  And, my research tells me, Tommy's is not really like Victory Pig, either, but more like that than OF.  In talking to my almost-80 yo mother who grew up just a block or so from Tommy's, she says it's got more flavor than VP, i.e. better sauce, better cheese, but maybe the crust was about the same?  Of course, my memories are probably enhanced by the fact that I LOVED visiting my grandparents... therefore LOVED the pizza I got there.  I grew up in Oregon and, to be honest, don't remember eating much pizza there (and my first memory was SHAKEY'S...  :-[  yech!)  so, i'm sure that's the reason that this pizza seems like such nirvana!  And, amazingly, the same exact flavor of Tommy's pizza was captured in a late 60s snack called Pizza Flavored Bugles.  Bugles still exist, so I contacted General Mills, knowing of course, that they'd probably think me a crazy old woman... but they had no info that they could share.  Big surprise!  But, my logic is... if it was in a "pizza flavored" snack food of the late 60s... the ingredients probably were not very trendy, exotic or expensive, since any of those attributes would reduce the bottom line.

In reading the posts, I did notice the handle of nepa pizza snob and am hoping that he will see these posts and respond!

hey, red.november... good to hear from you! 

I have a bottle of chili powder that's probably over 15 years old.  It still smells pungently like chili powder, but it tastes like paprika mixed with dirt. 
I understand your concern with the humid climate, especially... and those spices that you use all the time.  Those that are used much less frequently (and I know I have many of THOSE in my cupboard!) probably would be safer to keep longer.  Also, I think Penzeys is refering more to pure spices like nutmeg and cinnamon rather than combined spices (which can react with each other) like chili powder.  And if you open an herb bottle and it smells like hay instead of say, oregano, it's probably time to ditch it.  Also, they said ONE YEAR, not 15!  My question is, if said chili powder is in such geriatric condition, why do you still have it??  It must hold some sentimental value since it obviously has no culinary value... care to dish??


So, my quest continues... and my mother is (im)patiently waiting for me to make her a "Tommy's" pizza!

Thanks again for the post and suggestion, pete-zza!
~sd
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Offline November

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #84 on: June 04, 2007, 07:17:24 PM »
sourdough girl,

I have no problem with accepting that herbs and spices can have a shelf life of one to two years, but the moment it's opened, it's no longer living a "shelf life."  That's why there are some products labeled with either USE BY or SELL BY dates.  It's an important distinction to make.  As far as I'm concerned, herbs and spices are at the heart of the character you give your food.  This isn't like discussing fresh flour versus 6-month old flour.  If your flour tastes 75% of what it did when it was fresh, I don't think too many people would care or possibly even notice.  But add 1/4 less of a seasoning in a recipe sometime and see if you can tell the difference.  I bet you can.  Herbs and spices are that important.

Also, they said ONE YEAR, not 15!
I guess the following was editorial then:
so their other suggestion is the sniff test... open the jar... if it SMELLS nice and spicy, it's still good, no matter the age.

My question is, if said chili powder is in such geriatric condition, why do you still have it??  It must hold some sentimental value since it obviously has no culinary value... care to dish??

I have oregano (over 25 years old) and hickory smoked salt (over 30 years old) that I hold on to for posterity, but everything else I keep for testing purposes.  Just like some of the chemicals and materials in my lab, I like to keep things on hand in case I need to test the properties of an aged product.

- red.november

EDIT: Corrected age on "posterity" seasonings.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2007, 07:50:21 PM by November »

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #85 on: June 04, 2007, 08:01:04 PM »
Hey, red.november!

I must tell you, as a former deli manager who had to deal with the health dept, WA state dept of weights and measures, HAACP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point),vendors... etc... I fully understand all the ramifications of "shelf life"!  It used to bother me terribly that manufacturers applied a shelf life to the vac-pac cheeses on my cheese table... it was my job to check those dates and, when the date arrived, throw the perfectly-good cheese in the garbage.  Literally.  Our company would not even allow it to be donated to the local foodbank because of liability issues.  The "shelf life" of cheese is... mold.  (with the obvious exception of soft ripened cheeses and deliberately moldy cheeses!)  So, my point is this:

I think that what you and I are discussing here is actually way beyond the ken of the average consumer who buys herbs/spices from grocery stores or even Penzeys.  And that's why Penzeys offers such a broad outline for "shelf life" which, of course, changes or disappears completely upon opening the jar.  As soon as you open a gallon of milk, for instance, that "sell-by" date is moot.  Hence, the use-by date, which is the opened-container date.  But, just like my herbs, if the milk still tastes (smells) good even after the use-by date, i use it.  My sister-in-law pours the milk down the drain ON the use-by date and is horrified that I would even keep it in the fridge, let alone DRINK it!  So, I think Penzeys point is, if the herb/spice is still flavorful, use it. 

I personally think that people of a scientific ilk, (myself included in that group) tend to behave in ways that the normal public would not, therefore, the broad guidlines as to whether your spices are still good.  I don't think the average consumer writes a date on the bottle of oregano when he opens it so he will know when to toss it.  I'll bet you do, though, because it's scientific method.  And cooking is no more than applied (or sometimes even pure) chemistry.

Let's call a truce and get back to the issue of cooked vs "raw" sauce, cause I sure would love to figure out how Tommy's made that sauce!

(That said, I DO enjoy the brain exercise and repartee!)
~sd
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Offline November

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #86 on: June 04, 2007, 08:34:04 PM »
I think that what you and I are discussing here is actually way beyond the ken of the average consumer [...] I personally think that people of a scientific ilk, (myself included in that group) tend to behave in ways that the normal public would not, therefore, the broad guidlines as to whether your spices are still good.  I don't think the average consumer writes a date on the bottle of oregano when he opens it so he will know when to toss it. 

I think that sidesteps the point of discussing this here at all.  The "average" consumer doesn't make their own sauce, they buy it pre-made or already on a pizza when it's delivered to them.  I would hope that I'm addressing a class of pizza enthusiasts who cares enough about their pizza to take the time to come to this forum in order to discuss better ways of doing things.

I recognize that it's a matter of preference when it comes down to the flavor of seasonings, but it's hard to deny that seasonings can detectably change in as little as a few months with repeated exposure to air.  I'm not sure what you're wanting to call a truce to.  I haven't once suggested that people throw out their seasonings after only a few months.  I was only pointing out that there is a difference between a seasoning that sits on the shelf for a year without being opened and one that is opened frequently.  Are you disagreeing that changes happen to herbs and spices within a few months of repeated exposure to air?  If not, what are you actually disagreeing with so we can talk about the need for a truce?

I'll bet you do, though, because it's scientific method.

Actually, I don't unless I'm keeping it for testing beyond its standard culinary use.

- red.november

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #87 on: June 04, 2007, 10:20:47 PM »

Yeah, it helps to have seasonings not older than six months.  Herbs and spices cost so little compared to the impact they make on our food.  I usually buy all new seasonings every couple of months whether I'm out or not, and I keep the older stuff for emergencies.

- red.november

This is the reason that I paraphrased Penzeys catalog.  Just from my couple of days perusing this site and many of the threads, I have come to realize that you are the "go to" person for the science of many pizza topics, so when you say that YOU use all new herbs/spices every couple of months, most of the ppl reading your comments on these threads might think they have to do the same thing.  There was no mention made of the humidity in your area... how many times per hour/day/week you open your bottles and expose the contents to all the nasty things floating around in the atmosphere...  there was also no mention made about checking your herbs/spices before you replace them, just that you do it whether you're out or not.

I'm also aware that the pizza addicts who frequent this site are looking for LOTS of kinds of info... (why do you think I'M here?!) and are not the "joe jiffy-mix" types!  BUT, if you make pizza as often as once a week (Friday night!!) and don't leave your jars sitting around open after you've taken what you need... and your climate is "normal" humidity-wise (like mine is) then I really see no reason to replace what most palates would consider perfectly good herbs/spices every couple of months.  That's basically what this whole conversation boils down to...

And I admit to being an herb snob.... I grow my own.  I buy most spices from Penzeys (since most of the trees/shrubs don't do well in my temperate climate) and some of the harder-to-grow herbs that don't do well here.  The basics, however, are out in my herb garden, some grown for specifically for drying, some for use fresh, some for both.  And with my upper-Puget-Sound climate, I can harvest many year-round, so for me, that point is moot.

I just thought there should be some clarification about the replacement of items in the pantry... I don't think most ppl, even pizza junkies, are aware that herbs/spices are harvested once a year.  Might make a difference to some folks who think they're harvested all year long so that each bottle they buy is a newer (i.e. fresher) crop.

The reason I mentioned a truce is because I'm feeling a little guilty that a thread titled "cooked vs uncooked pizza sauce" has become an herb primer... so was trying to return the thread to its title.  I also admit that I haven't been on these boards enough to know if that (straying from topic) is a normal occurrence or not!

have a good night!
~sd
« Last Edit: June 05, 2007, 12:42:39 AM by sourdough girl »
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Offline November

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #88 on: June 04, 2007, 11:33:24 PM »
This is the reason that I paraphrased Penzeys catalog.

I was well aware of why you made the comment you did.  I was the only one on this thread that said anything about replacing herbs and spices within six months, so it was obvious you were addressing my comment.  In turn that is why I responded to yours.  However, you failed to keep my comment within the context of that post.  The following was what I was responding to:

By the way, when I tried your sauce something didnít taste right. I figured out that the dried onions I used were rancid. I thought about the fact that Ĺ of my seasonings are over 2 years old and probably ľ of them are over 5 years old.

This isn't me bringing up the subject.  This is someone recognizing that old seasonings caused an off flavor and I carried the point.  To use your reasoning, one would expect that I think everyone should to use my sauce recipe just because I posted it.  Sharing information does not equate expectation of compliance.

There was no need to mention the humidity in my area or the other things you think were lacking in that post.  We weren't having a detailed discussion about climate effects on seasonings in that brief exchange.  So why does it bother you that I didn't describe my entire pantry regimen at the time?  I'm telling you now what can happen to seasonings due to exposure to air.  Whether that's something people feel they should be concerned about is completely up to them based on their circumstances, but that should be good enough for you until such time I'm able to see into the future or predict every circumstance.

and you're climate is "normal" humidity-wise (like mine is) then I really see no reason to replace what most palates would consider perfectly good herbs/spices every couple of months.  That's basically what this whole conversation boils down to...

And now you decide to qualify your position, even after telling me about the lack of qualifying information in my post that predates our conversation.

I don't think most ppl, even pizza junkies, are aware that herbs/spices are harvested once a year.  Might make a difference to some folks who think they're harvested all year long so that each bottle they buy is a newer (i.e. fresher) crop.

Oregano, tarragon, mint and other perennial herbs are quite often harvested twice a year.  If an herb can bloom more than once a year, it will be harvested more than once a year.  Herb cultivators aren't going to just let money sit out there in the fields.  Spices are another story altogether, which is what Penzeys seems to be describing when they state in their catalog, "Since most spices are harvested once a year" as they did not discuss herbs in that paragraph except for once in passing.  To be honest, I care less about spices than I do herbs, but I have far more herbs than I do spices, so my total investment in seasonings is weighted heavily in favor of herb quality.

- red.november
« Last Edit: June 05, 2007, 01:35:40 AM by November »

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #89 on: June 05, 2007, 01:49:24 AM »
red.november:
i give up.
i bow in awe of your awesome scientific achievement.  you are the better man.  but sometimes, it is better to listen and contemplate than be right.  my comment was certainly not meant as a personal attack,
I was well aware of why you made the comment you did.  I was the only one on this thread that said anything about replacing herbs and spices within six months, so it was obvious you were addressing my comment.  In turn that is why I responded to yours.  - red.november

just something for folks out there (who worship your posts but dare not argue lest they incur your wrath) to think about.  i apologize for daring to offer a slightly differing view on something you said.   i thought that's what forums were for. i was obviously wrong because i apparently can't be right. but i still won't throw away my perfectly good herbs every couple of months.  you're not THAT right.  oh, yeah... seems i'm not the only one who bows to you:

I wrote a big long reply and realized it would just make everyone here miserable to continue.  If it successfully ends the discussion, then I hereby surrender!
i asked for a truce and you asked why... well, now it's no longer repartee.

guess i'll read these forums but keep my mouth shut.
thanks for the learning experience.
~sourdough girl   :-X
p.s.  if i get that electron for you, will it help??

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Offline November

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #90 on: June 05, 2007, 02:48:19 AM »
sourdough girl,

That's appalling.  There's nothing I've posted that warrants worshiping or anything of the like.  In fact, there's nothing extraordinary about anything I post.  I just approach information sharing on a more analytical level.  Your difference of opinion about when to throw out herbs is not under dispute as far as I'm concerned.  It never was.  Your initial post gave me the impression of contradiction, so I wanted to be sure it was known that there is a perfectly good reason for the commonly held belief herbs should be replaced every six months.

You presented a generalization, and I presented a specific situation which stands in contrast.  I am not going to ignore a specific case just to make somebody happy.  To the contrary, here's more information that stands in contrast.  While some spices are harvested only once a year, they can be stored in their whole form and ground just before bottling in order to provide a fresher product.  That would render the "harvested once a year" argument void, but I wasn't just trying to prove you wrong, otherwise I could have mentioned this as well as the harvesting of perennial herbs at the start.  I was just trying to give a reasonable explanation for the six month rule.  How fresh one wants their herbs and spices is still very much up to the reader.

"i apologize for daring to offer a slightly differing view on something you said."

The two statements you made that I focused on were concerns for me from a standpoint of full disclosure.  A bottle of often used herbs sitting on the shelf for a year is not the same as an unopened bottle of herbs, and you can't always determine the freshness from the aroma.  That's it.  That's essentially what you're arguing with me about and I don't understand why.  What it really sounds like is you're distressed that I would throw away herbs in less than six months.  It's not for you to worry about.  It's my choice because I like herbs (dry or otherwise) to be in the best shape possible.

Your recent comments are unbecoming and frankly, aren't going to accomplish anything.  I wish you would reconsider keeping your mouth shut.  You sound like you could provide some useful information on this forum.  Just keep the somewhat inaccurate generalizations and cross-threaded personal remarks to a minimum.

- red.november
« Last Edit: June 05, 2007, 02:50:04 AM by November »

Offline MWTC

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #91 on: June 05, 2007, 10:18:18 AM »
I was just thinking that he might not have mixed the microwaved seasonings enough and he got chunks of seasonings that he sees as "chunky". Due to not enough water in the pre-microwaved seasonings or insufficient mixing after microwaving.

MWTC  :chef:

Offline November

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #92 on: June 05, 2007, 10:29:53 AM »
MWTC,

While that's a possibility, it's probably a very slim one.  I would give Andy the benefit of the doubt on mixing seasonings into the sauce, especially since he mentioned the chunkiness appearing after 10 hours in the refrigerator.  Andy would have probably noticed chunkiness due to unthorough mixing before putting the sauce in the refrigerator.  Hopefully he reports back with more information.

- red.november

Offline Adydar

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #93 on: June 05, 2007, 10:47:06 AM »
Sorry, been busy and have not had a chance to reply.

I will try your suggestion Red about putting a non mixed version of the puree into the fridge for a similar length of time to see if I get the same result.

For the record, after I mixed in the seasonings, it appeared perfectly fine visually, it was only after the refrigeration that I noticed the 'chunks'.

I'll report back after I get the chance to test and I appreciate the input.

Offline November

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #94 on: June 05, 2007, 10:52:12 AM »
Andy,

I'll look forward to the results.  This is definitely one of those things that would come up less often if the sauce were as the subject of this thread says "cooked vs. uncooked" but I think it's worth finding out the cause before resorting to cooking if uncooked sauce is one's preference.

- red.november

Offline Adydar

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #95 on: June 11, 2007, 10:24:27 AM »
Slight update.  

I found the following on Encylopizza site, section 8 under sauce. (sorry, won't let me include the direct hyperlink because I am a new memeber)

NOTE ON SAUCE GELLING: Although it happens only infrequently, when preparing uncooked pizza sauce itís possible for a gelling reaction to occur if the recipe contains onion or garlic, particularly of the dehydrated type. This reaction happens within an hour or two after mixing and results in the sauce transforming from a semi-liquid form into a semi-solid, or gelatinized, form. The problem with this condition is that a gelatinized sauce is hard to portion and hard to spread, resulting in incorrect portioning and wasted time. The cause of the gelling is an enzyme in the onion or garlic that reacts with the natural pectin in the tomato, triggering the gelling reaction. Most types of onion and garlic lack the type (or sufficient quantity) of enzyme necessary to cause the gelling. However occasionally it turns up. So if one day you find your sauce turning into aspic, you can remedy the problem one of two ways: (1) Blend the onion or garlic with water and heat the mixture to boiling temperature, thereby neutralizing the gel-causing enzyme, or (2) switch to another brand, type, or grade of dehydrated onion or garlic.

Offline November

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #96 on: June 11, 2007, 10:35:34 AM »
Yes, Andy.  That has been discussed and is one of the reasons for MAE.  That's why I initially asked if you used MAE.

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3735.msg31879.html#msg31879

- red.november
« Last Edit: June 11, 2007, 10:37:25 AM by November »

Offline Adydar

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #97 on: June 11, 2007, 02:12:36 PM »
Sorry, I did not realize that was the reasoning.  Perhaps then, I did not microwave the mixture long enough....interesting, hopefully this coming weekend I'll have time to do some more testing.

Offline November

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #98 on: June 11, 2007, 02:47:19 PM »
Andy,

Enzyme-activated gelling is one of two reasons.  I could provide details of the enzyme deactivation procedure recommended commercially, but I wanted to keep the concept of MAE as it applies to home cooking/baking simple.  Essentially, the main reason for the lower (i.e. 30%) power to get up to 160įF is to prolong the enzyme exposure to heat so that they denature more completely.  A quick (high power) microwaving of the garlic or onion for just a few seconds is not usually enough to deactivate most the enzymes.  It's a balancing act between avoiding extracting too much from the seasonings and consequently evaporating some of the flavor and aroma away, and getting the garlic and onion hot enough and for long enough to neutralize the threat of enzyme-pectin reaction.  If you wanted to make sure you denatured pretty much all the enzymes, you would have to hold that temperature for at least two minutes.  However, by that time a lot of the essential flavor compounds will have evaporated.

It's rare that enough enzymes to make a noticeable difference would still be active after MAE.  That's why I was curious how your puree would fair in the refrigerator on its own.

- red.november

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Cooked vs Uncooked pizza sauce....
« Reply #99 on: June 12, 2007, 04:23:55 PM »
First of all, I apologize to all members of this forum, red.november included, for my emotional outburst.  I also apologize to the member whose quote I lifted from another thread.  This is the first forum that I have ever signed up for and didn't realize that removing his name from the quote did not guarantee his anonymity because I didn't know that the quote line was actually a link. 

But, also after some thought, I must speak up.  Silence is acquiescence....  Please also know that I hold a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture from Oregon State University (1979) and my major course of study was Herbaceous Plants.  I also worked for a famous plant geneticist at the OSU research farm full time for 5 summers and PT in the greenhouse ranges during the school year.  He was also my major professor.  I have studied and worked in the food industry for 32 years.  I think those are reasonable credentials.


Oregano, tarragon, mint and other perennial herbs are quite often harvested twice a year.  If an herb can bloom more than once a year, it will be harvested more than once a year.  Herb cultivators aren't going to just let money sit out there in the fields. 
- red.november

This is partially correct: perennial herbs are often harvested twice a year... but what is misleading about this statement is that normally, all harvests of culinary herbs for the dried herb market occur during THE SAME GROWING SEASON, most usually in mid-summer and early fall before the first frost.  Perennial herbs go through a dormant period in the winter when essential oil levels fall and leaf production slows to very little or nothing (the plant puts any energy it has into root production to support the spring flush of growth), making off-season commercial harvest unreasonable from both an economic and quality standpoint.  There are some growers, mainly in Southern CA, where there is seldom fear of frost and winter doesn't exist... who harvest year-round, but they generally grow for the organic and fresh herb markets, which IS economically feasible based on the prices paid for these products by the consumer. 
Therefore, I stand by the statement that herbs are harvested "once a year".  They are then dried, processed and bottled... once a year. 

Also, the second sentence of the above quote begs the question of the necessity of flowering for harvest.  In actuality, herbs are harvested BEFORE flowering because said flowering causes the levels of the essential oils in the leaves to drop which leads to a decrease in the flavor of the plant materials.  Flowering can also cause a decrease in the production of leaves (the energy of the plant is focused on flowering, so that it can reproduce itself before the season is over), and both of these issues are detrimental to crop quality, unless, of course, you're growing culinary lavender or the like. 

Also, since my last post on this public forum, I have done a lot of research on the internet, visiting the websites of Tones (spiceadvice.com/usage), mccormick.com, spicebarn.com, spicehouse.com and the website of The Herb Companion magazine and they ALL agree with the Penzey's advice that I originally posted, both the once-a-year purge of your seasonings cupboard as well as the "scratch-n-sniff" freshness test.  None of these companies qualified their statements in any way... the natural assumption made by the consumer reading these recommendations is that they have been USING said herbs and spices all along, not leaving them sit unopened in a dark cupboard.  I did find one company on the internet who will, for a premium price, grind herbs and spices to order, but they are what's called a "special niche" company.

So, the bottom line for all the folks out there trying to make the tastiest pizza sauce they can:  replacement of herbs is based on personal preference and palate sensitivity. Crush some between your fingers... if it doesn't smell strongly of the  herb you're using, replace it.  Tossing your herbs every 6 months might get you SOMEWHAT fresher (i.e. unopened) herbs.  However, if you keep your herbs in tightly-closed jars in a cool, dark cupboard, they may be fresher than those on the grocery store shelves which are exposed to light, often 24 hours/day, and often not rotated by busy employees who also donít have time to check pull dates regularly (Iíve worked in grocery stores for many years!) all of which can also degrade the product.  The point is, use your own judgement, but be aware that culinary herbs for the dried herb market are not harvested year-round, and if you replace often, what you replace will probably be the same "age" as what you replace it with.

~sd
Never trust a skinny cook!