Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Sauce

Tonight I made another 7 quarts of tomato sauce.  I used an entire case of tomatoes and about 5 pounds of onions purchased from the co-op and farmers' market.  In order to make this sauce, I also had to procure some wine.  

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't know jack about wine.  In fact, ALL I know is that I don't care much for white wine and I care even less for red.  But what I do know are the USDA organic standards. And I butted heads a bit with a staff person at a local wine shop over organic wines.

I stopped in on Friday and asked for some organic red wine that was reasonably priced to use for cooking.  The woman showed me a bottle right away.  I noticed that the label said nothing about how the grapes were grown and also said "contains sulfites".  The woman reassured me that although the wine wasn't certified organic, she knew it was grown sustainably.  As for the sulfites, she insisted that wines only contain sulfites because of the naturally occurring sulfites in the grapes and that whether it contains sulfites or not doesn't have anything to do with its organic status. My gut said, "That's wrong!  You know better, Liz!"  But instead, I bought the wine and went home to do a little research.

Sure enough, my gut was right.  While sulfites do naturally occur in wines (from the grapes and due to the fermentation process), most wine makers add additional sulfur dioxide as a preservative.  Unless a label says "no added sulfites" or "sulfite free" or is certified organic, you can assume sulfur dioxide has been added.  

Now, I'm not allergic to sulfites (that I know of), but I just don't like chemical preservatives added to my foods.  I like my dried apricots brown, not neon orange, thank you very much.  I also like my raisins brown, not weirdly golden.  It only makes sense to keep those standards for my homemade tomato sauce.

So in true food snobbery fashion, I returned my sulfured wine and assured the staff at the wine shop that being certified organic DOES mean something about sulfites.  It means there is no sulfur dioxide added to the sulfites already naturally present in the wine.  After questioning me about why I cared about such things, they showed me a nice bottle of certified organic wine that was sulfite-free and cheaper than the previous bottle.  I left a satisfied customer, although I'm sure a "difficult" one.

3 comments:

Alice (in Veganland) said...

Sometimes they just want to sell you something, no matter how. It's so annoying! As if you didn't know what you wanted... You did the right thing coming back, and you're sauce will show it :-)

allularpunk said...

ha! that would totally be me with the wine. i'm probably one of the most difficult customers when it comes to food in my town. oh well, though, it's what makes you happy that matters!

darci said...

OK, I'm gonna play wine snob right now, but I warned you.

Read this:
http://www.wineintro.com/glossary/s/sulfites.html

Like I said before though, about 95% of European wine is produced with minimal input, so I think you are pretty safe there. Don't worry about the sulfites. Unless you have an allergy, they won't kill you. I have also heard that in the cooking process, most of the sulfites are cooked off. I could be lying about that last part though. It sounded good--according to the two glasses of sulfite rich rose I am drinking right now.

Congrats on having such a successful blog Liz! You're the best.