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Why add sugar to tomato sauce?
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wapsi



Joined: 23 Sep 2007
Posts: 2
Location: midwest us

PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 7:18 pm    Post subject: Why add sugar to tomato sauce? Reply with quote

My Italian grandmothers never added sugar to their tomato sauces. I have a friend who insists that anyone with culinary integrity knows that you add sugar in order to cut the acid. I don't find well-prepared tomato sauces to have an acidic taste.

What exactly does "cut the acid" mean? And does sugar actually do that?
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SirShazar



Joined: 30 Jul 2007
Posts: 89

PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I find tomato sauce to be a personal thing. For example, I don't like Olive Garden's tomato sauce because I find it too acidic, and I find most canned tomato sauces to be too sweet. I occasionally add a bit of sugar depending on how sweet the tomatoes and onions I was using were.

Cutting the acid means adding a contrasting flavor, which fools us into not tasting the extent of something acidity/sweetness/saltiness/fattiness.

Case in point, ketchup on fries. The main ingredients in ketchup are corn syrup (sweet) and vinegar (sour). We use ketchup on french fries because they tend to be very salty and fatty.
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DrBiggles



Joined: 12 May 2005
Posts: 355
Location: Richmond, CA

PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 2:05 am    Post subject: Re: Why add sugar to tomato sauce? Reply with quote

wapsi wrote:
My Italian grandmothers never added sugar to their tomato sauces. I have a friend who insists that anyone with culinary integrity knows that you add sugar in order to cut the acid. I don't find well-prepared tomato sauces to have an acidic taste.

What exactly does "cut the acid" mean? And does sugar actually do that?


Tomatoes and especially chile peppers do have some acid to them. This varies from fruit to fruit. Some people can't deal with it and are really sensitive to the acid. They need that sugar to cut the acid and if you spend some time reading such recipes you'll see the addition of such technology.

Adding sugar to both really do help and will usually do that if I have others eating muh food. The reason your grandmother didn't have to deal with such things is that she probably used garden raised tomato fruit. One can grow these beasts that don't need the addition of sugar or the removal of skin. It's all about your ingredients and checking them for such bitterness or skin removal action. You're doing fine, just taste what you gots and adjust as necessary.

Biggles
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The Yakima Kid



Joined: 15 Nov 2007
Posts: 27

PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2007 10:47 am    Post subject: Re: Why add sugar to tomato sauce? Reply with quote

wapsi wrote:
My Italian grandmothers never added sugar to their tomato sauces. I have a friend who insists that anyone with culinary integrity knows that you add sugar in order to cut the acid. I don't find well-prepared tomato sauces to have an acidic taste.

What exactly does "cut the acid" mean? And does sugar actually do that?


I suspect your grandmothers sauteed the onions in her tomato sauces which can accomplish the same effect of adding a contrasting flavor as a properly sauteed onion can be quite sweet enough to soften the acidity. Also, many people prefer foods far sweeter than traditional recipes.

The term "culinary integrity" as used by your friend is just a way of ridiculing those who cook the way he/she does. I remember having a discussion with a woman who ridiculed my baklava as "cheap" and "lazy" because I use a sugar/rosewater syrup instead of honey. She had no idea that honey in some circles is considered far too cloyingly sweet and overwhelming compared to the subtleties of a rosewater sugar syrup.
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wapsi



Joined: 23 Sep 2007
Posts: 2
Location: midwest us

PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2007 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Yakima Kid wrote:

I suspect your grandmothers sauteed the onions in her tomato sauces which can accomplish the same effect of adding a contrasting flavor as a properly sauteed onion can be quite sweet enough to soften the acidity. Also, many people prefer foods far sweeter than traditional recipes.


She never used onions. Her recipe consisted of tomatoes, garlic, lard, basil, oregano and salt.

Even the smallest amount of sugar added to a tomato dish offends my tastebuds. I don't like barbecue sauce, baked beans and the like because of it.
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Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1012
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2007 9:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wapsi -

not liking added sugar does not offend me in any way shape fashion or form.

if everyone had the same tastes, McDonalds would have six Michelin stars.

as a gardener, the other thing to remember is that a tomato is not a tomato and certainly doesn't even remotely resemble a tomato.

you'll get seriously big time differences making a tomato sauce from Romas vs. beefsteaks. and as we're speaking about two generations back, you have to add in "heirloom" varieties - which may no longer exist and/nor may not even be identifiable.

your point is however well taken. given enough sugar, even Mikey will like it.....
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IndyRob



Joined: 17 Dec 2006
Posts: 77

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 2:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not an expert, but I notice that the type of tomato is not considered in this thread. If you're using roma tomataoes and I'm using Red Gold Ohio tomatoes, well, yes, we're going to have disagreements regarding a particular recipe.

If someone is suggesting that you must always add sugar to a tomato sauce, well, they're just plain wrong. But, if they are suggesting that you should have added sugar to your sauce that they just tasted, then there might be room for debate.

To me, the basic culinary question is not whether you did do what you were supposed to do, but rather, did you get the results you wanted?
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Follow up question -- I usually add sauteed onions and grated carrots in tomato sauce and while this effectively counters the acidity when fresh, I notice that in next day leftovers, the acidity has returned. Since I usually start with a can of crushed tomatoes and work forward, could my tastes simply be different when cooking than eating the next day?
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Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1012
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

>>tastes simply be different when cooking than eating the next day?

well, there are probably only two or three trillion food combinations tastes that change with cooking &/or age, so not sure if there is a surprise here. . . .

but is there a problem? are you trying to create a tomato "dish" that is not acidic, or, ....
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 2:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dilbert -- I was just wondering if there was an explanation for this. I have no problem with acidic tomato sauce, however I'd prefer it to remain reasonably consistent. If this change is real and not my imagination, then so be it.
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Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1012
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

don't think I have experienced the same thing - but as to whether it is "real" I would not be at all surprised. couple strips of litmus paper could "prove" whether it is actually a pH change or a "taste" change.

onions are on the acid side - perhaps the overnight steeping of sliced / diced pieces does add to the acidity?
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gfairbairn



Joined: 07 Jan 2008
Posts: 31
Location: http://athenafoods.com/

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have never added sugar to my pasta sauces...neither does my grandma....I too have a friend that insists upon it, and his sauce is pretty good....just not my thing....I do use celery salt though...that's key, IMO.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 5:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

classically, tomato sauce also includes some pork--like a ham hock.

Any good (and by "good" I mean "well prepared") tomato sauce will include mirepoix [by weight: 50% onion, 25% celery, 25% carrot]

In this case, the carrot and onion will take out a lot of the acid from the tomato, and carrots are very sweet.

Also: blanch the tomatoes--cut out the stem and cut a cross shape in the bottom, peel, then seed. Seeds add bitterness, as does the skin.

for the "cut the acid" bit, sugar counteracts it, as does water.

Think about the little diagram of the tongue you got in 3rd grade: sweet, sour, salty, bitter. It probably didn't have umami (AKA savory) on there--also called glutamaic acid.

To ensure uniform results requires uniform application of techniques as well as ingredients. Since ingredients are uniformly variable...

Taste Everything. Twice.

Then do it again.
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srhcb



Joined: 07 Jan 2008
Posts: 12
Location: northern mn

PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 11:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sugar can paradoxically either add a "browning" element to the flavor of tomato based foods or counter the sharp, unpleasant taste of slightly burnt food.

It can also help tone down tomato sauces that have been over-salted.
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danicamoore



Joined: 16 Sep 2009
Posts: 58
Location: Illinois

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 9:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Putting some sugar on can manipulate or can control the taste of tomato sauces. But not too much. Pinch will be fine and depend on you.
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