Are my fermenting green beans ok?

NilaJones(7b)October 10, 2013

They don't have a layer of yeast on top, thought they do have some little floating colonies of stuff.

They have been at 62-65 degrees for about 2 weeks, on the kitchen counter. I used a brine bag, but I saw today that some bean tips had poked up between the bag and the back side of the glass, and are sticking out 1/4".

My main concern is this: Some of the beans (maybe half?) have a coating of light colored substances covering a whole side, under the brine. What is that?

They smell ok, but I am chicken to taste them!

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Probably but can't be sure without seeing them. Is a photo possible?

Your temp is low and that concerns me as it can sometimes lead to poor quality and some undesireable yeast growth. The stick up tips can just be cut off.

But after 2 weeks, assuming you started with sufficient salt they are safe to taste. Check out the chart below and see which category best describes them.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: Fermenting problems

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 2:11PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Thanks Dave!

I checked the calender, and today is day 16. With your reassurance, I tasted a bit of one. VERY tasty and delicious!

Pics are attached. The bean sitting on the rim, you can see the marks of my fingertips in the whitish bloom.

The broth is cloudy but that may just be because I didn't have canning salt. The brine concentration is from JOP.

I didn't realise low temps could be an issue. I was waiting for the house to not be 80 every day, before I tried out fermenting. And then I put them in the fridge for the past 24 hours, to stop whatever was happening microbiologically until I heard from you folks.

So.. at this point should I just put them back in the fridge and call them done? And edible? Or ???

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 10:26PM
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NilaJones(7b)

The other pic:

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 10:27PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

The picture's a little hazy but it looks like yeast. If it were a mold you'd be able to smell it and the beans would have soft slimy spots. So if the beans are firm and smell and taste good then you're fine.

Assuming you had sufficient salt in your solution, fermented products aren't prone to spoilage this late in the year because it's not hot enough to create problems (unless you like it really warm in the house).

In future make sure to keep air out of the fermenting beans, check for "bloom" and skim. If you see what you think might be mold but aren't sure, after skimming add just a little vinegar as a preventive.

Fermentation brines do tend to get "funky" on occasion and they can be intimidating for the inexperienced who aren't sure what they're looking at.

Carol

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 12:44AM
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NilaJones(7b)

Thanks, Carol!

Yes, i took a million pics trying to get it to look right and not be blurry. But through glass, and with my cell phone...

The beans I checked are not soft, and there is no mold smell.

The coating on them is continuous and matte, not clumpy and slimy like it looks (to me) in the photos.

They are runner beans; maybe it has to due with their hairs?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 1:23AM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I can't answer you on the hairs issue. I haven't fermented runner beans.

I don't know if you're canning these or keeping them in the fermentation container, but once they're all done you may want to dump the existing brine, which has become rather yukky (nice technical term there!), rinse thoroughly and place them in a finishing brine instead.

Then they could be refrigerated.

Carol

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 1:46PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Ok, I will do that :).

Would it make sense to wash the mystery layer off the beans? Or would washing take away a lot of the flavor?

Should the finishing brine be the same salt:water ratio as the original brine?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 2:10PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I've done runner beans but can't really recall if they got more hair trapped yeasts or not. Possible tho. But without canning salt use that is much of your cloudiness too.

But the yeast coating does rinse off. In fact you can lightly stir the contents around in the jar and much of it will float free, form a crust and can be skimmed off.

But if they taste great and they have gone 16 days you can do whatever with them now - keep fermenting, fridge store or can them. When they taste good I quit fermenting (other than the little that will continue in the fridge).

I agree with Carol that a good wash and a fresh brine works best for appearance but you do loose a bit of the flavor and beneficial bacteria. Another alternative when fermenting in jars rather than crocks is to dump all the brine into a pot, simmer (do not boil) it for about 10 mins skimming as it simmers and then let it cool. Rinse the beans well, wash out the jar, put the beans back in the jar and refill it with the cooled (room temp, not cold) brine and stick the jar in the fridge. Beneficial bacteria will re-grow and they will continue to ferment slowly while you eat as desired.

Dave

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 2:13PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Oh, dang, I wish I had not thrown out the brine, now!

Well, I will put the unwashed beans in the new brine and maybe that will be good... maybe leave them out at room temp for a while longer to recoup some flavor?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 4:17PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I think both of us recommended washing/rinsing them. Your choice.

Dave

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 5:21PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Argh, I guess I misread!

I did eat a few of them with lunch, and boy are they tasty :).

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 6:11PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Live and learn. If you have great-tasting beans that's the main thing. Fermentation requires its own skill-set and you'll pick up tips along the way to help you troubleshoot whatever happens during the process. It's like bread - you're dealing with a set of variables that requires some adjustment on the part of the "cook."

Carol

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 6:30PM
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sidhartha0209(KY_6a)

"But after 2 weeks, assuming you started with sufficient salt they are safe to taste."

Are there USDA/NCHFP guidelines that define when a ferment in progress leaves the safe zone and becomes noxious? At what point does the ferment become unsafe to taste? How does one determine with certainty when the ferment is done and is no longer dangerous?

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 9:06AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Yes there are guidelines. Various sources and links but since the USDA website is down right now due to the government shutdown I can't link directly to them.

NCHFP gives a chart of Problems and Causes:

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/fermentproblems.html

They also post the research that led to the guideline for # days fermentation before consumption safety margin (varies depending on strength of brine and ambient temps but general guide is 7 days). The same research resulted in the refrigerated storage guideline. We have linked to that before.

As to when the fermentation is done - that is determined by taste and general appearance as long as it has been fermented for a minimum of 1 week first and shows none of the negative symptoms on the chart linked above. So since the beans in question in this post had been fermented longer than that they were safe to taste.

As for when it "leaves" the safety zone that depends on the type of storage used and the specific food to a degree. For example, sauerkraut, dill pickles, and similar mixes stored in the fridge are fine for 4-6 months assuming proper fridge temps and skimming as needed. Longer storage or shelf storage requires canning or pasteurization according to the guidelines.

NCHFP also posts links to all the USDA storage guidelines for all sorts of foods but with fermented foods the storage time has to be calculated based on the vegetable itself, particle size, the strength of the brine, the ambient temps maintained, opened or unopened containers, light exposure, and the appearance. So it becomes recipe-specific.

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/store.html

The general guides are the stronger the brine the longer the safe storage, the cooler the storage the longer the safe storage, the less light exposure the longer the safe storage, etc.

Dave

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 11:32AM
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NilaJones(7b)

I didn't realise light was an issue. My beans have been on the kitchen counter the whole time.

I don't think any sunlight ever hits the glass (I did realise THAT would not be ideal, if it led to waming) but there is a lot of ambient sunlight. Is this not where I should do fermenting?

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 2:23PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

It is a secondary issue. if you notice on the problems chart linked above it lists excessive light exposure as a cause of spotting and fading. It can also warm the brine and lends itself to increased yeasts growth.

It is probably one reason why fermenting crocks are dark brown. :) Plus many fermenting instructions will make some reference to protecting from light like store in a dark place out of direct light. EX: the sauerkraut instructions say to cover with a towel.

So if you are fermenting in clear jars/containers out on an open counter just drape a dark towel over it.

Dave

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 3:22PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Ok, I will do that :).

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 3:44PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

The document I've linked to is still up online for you to check. While its focus is principally cucumber pickles, it provides a good "primer" on fermentation as well as some helpful troubleshooting info.

It also includes the finishing brine I alluded to, though that's principally used for canned product.

As Dave said, temperature and exposure to light/air are significant factors in fermentation and can affect such issues as speed of fermentation, spoilage and/or development of harmless but unappealing yeasts.

Carol

Here is a link that might be useful: Homemade Pickles and Relishes

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 5:48PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Thank you, Carol!

The beans are back on the counter. Since the main fridge has died and the spare is packed to the gills, I am thinking they can ferment a few more days. Unless y'all tell me otherwise :).

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 12:58AM
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sidhartha0209(KY_6a)

Yes there are guidelines. Various sources and links but since the USDA website is down right now due to the government shutdown I can't link directly to them.
NCHFP gives a chart of Problems and Causes:

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/fermentproblems.html

The chart you reference pertains to cucumbers, and I think you may have misunderstood the question, I asked:

"Are there USDA/NCHFP guidelines that define when a ferment in progress leaves the safe zone and becomes noxious? At what point does the ferment become unsafe to taste? How does one determine with certainty when the ferment is done and is no longer dangerous?"

When NilaJones washed her green beans and placed them in the fermenting vessel, they were 'safe' and 'ready to eat' at that moment in time, you know, like washing any number of veggies prior to eating fresh, lettuce, celery, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, cherry tomatoes etc.. After being placed in the fermenting vessel and brine is added, when do these beans become unsafe to taste? 4 hours? 12 hours? 24 hours? Are there USDA/NCHFP guidelines that define when this transformation from 'safe to taste' to 'unsafe to taste' occurs?

They also post the research that led to the guideline for # days fermentation before consumption safety margin (varies depending on strength of brine and ambient temps but general guide is 7 days). The same research resulted in the refrigerated storage guideline. We have linked to that before.

How can 7 days be 'safe'? Another NCHFP cucumber publication that has been referenced numerous times on this forum,'Listeria monocytogenes survival in refrigerator dill pickles', showed conclusively that there was an actual increase in population of L. monocytogenes after the cucumbers were fermented at room temperature for one week.

Considering this, how can a 7 day ferment possibly be deemed safe to eat?

Here is a link that might be useful: Listeria monocytogenes survival in refrigerator dill pickles

This post was edited by sidhartha0209 on Mon, Oct 14, 13 at 21:51

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 9:40PM
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sidhartha0209(KY_6a)

digdirt:
"As to when the fermentation is done - that is determined by taste and general appearance as long as it has been fermented for a minimum of 1 week first and shows none of the negative symptoms on the chart linked above. So since the beans in question in this post had been fermented longer than that they were safe to taste.

How can you possibly tell us that one week makes a ferment safe when NCBI bulletin, 'Survival of Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli O157:H7 during sauerkraut fermentation', .plainly states that acid-tolerant strains of E. coli and L. monocytogenes were detected as far out as 35 days?

Here is a link that might be useful: Survival of Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli O157:H7 during sauerkraut fermentation.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 9:32PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

It is pointless to try to discuss this with you as you insist on pulling comments out of their context in an effort to prove your personal opinions. As has been said repeatedly you are free to ferment as you wish.

Yet you have gone from first denying that any bacteria even exists in it unless someone puts it there intentionally, to arguing that it can be safely eaten at any point no matter how early or late it is in the process, to now disputing that it can possibly be safe to eat even after 7 days.

That is arguing just for the sake of arguing.

You totally ignore the methods compared in the study you linked (shredded vs. whole head), the titrated pH of the various methods, the different brine levels used in the various tests, the ambient temperatures used, etc.

For example the only time "acid-tolerant strains of E. coli and L. monocytogenes were detected as far out as 35 days" was with a whole head fermentation in the lowest salt brine level.

And the word "detected" does not mean unsafe for consumption nor does the word "isolated". One can "detect" or "isolate" bacteria in most all foods. That doesn't make them unsafe to consume. It is the amount of that bacteria relative to the amount of the consumable food that matters.

I can say that a 7 day fermentation is safe to taste when the fermentation process is properly done per the instructions provided and using the recommended level of salt brine because the USDA lab testing has proven it to be true.

But saying it does NOT mean that there are no e.coli or listeria present, merely that they are below the levels required for safe consumption. Nor does it mean that you should immediately eat all the food - rather pointless when the fully fermented results are the reason why you fermented it to begin with - merely that you can "taste it" safely. Nor does it mean you can choose to do your fermentation in any way you choose using any level of salt brine you choose and expect safety after 7 days.

It means literally that after a period of 7 days the fermented food, when it has been properly fermented per the USDA instructions, is safe to taste if desired. The fermentation should then continue until the time recommended in the instructions.

Your fixation on this debate is moot given the basic question, Why ferment foods if you don't want to eat fermented food? It isn't fermented food at 1 day or 3 days or even at 7 days so why would you want to eat it? But at least after 7 days, given proper methods and conditions, it has some fermented flavor and IF it was contaminated to begin with has reached sufficient fermentation activity to be ok to taste.

I am not the "germaphobe" or the "excessively conservative" or the "gross exaggerator and fabricator of the facts" that you insist on labeling me (among the other names you have called me in your other posts here) and for no other reason than the fact that I disagree with you on some points of fermentation.

Rather I am an active food fermenter and have been for many years. I simply choose to follow the research-based approved guidelines for doing it and so be assured of not only high quality fermented foods to eat but also foods that are safe to consume for all.

Dave

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 2:40PM
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sidhartha0209(KY_6a)

It is pointless to try to discuss this with you as you insist on pulling comments out of their context in an effort to prove your personal opinions...

Lol! And you haven’t done the same? I admit, I've intentionally been facetious and used/abused the ‘research’ (if that’s what you want to call it) to make a point and to give you a dose of your own medicine. You’ve made no bones about using NCHFP 'Listeria monocytogenes survival in refrigerator dill pickles' in order to misrepresent partial ferments showing ‘ the great danger’ of Listeria of ANY and ALL vegetables when the publication specifically states that it pertains to cucumbers, and that of a particular type pickling process.

Now, pertaining to NCHFP 'Listeria monocytogenes survival in refrigerator dill pickles', the publication plainly states “The initial Listeria population was 5.4-5.6 log cfu/cm² on the surface and 3.9-4.6 log cfu/g internally. There was approximately a 0.5-1 log increase during fermentation at room temperature” which was SEVEN DAYS.

The publication says Listeria population increased during first 7 days, you say a ferment is safe after 7 days. Tell me why there’s not a stark contradiction here Dave. Explain it to me.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 5:03PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

So once again you admit that you have no desire to actually discuss something much less learn anything. That your ultimate goal is nothing more than to attack me personally and to try to discredit anything I may say.

Sad and petty but then you have to get your kicks somehow I guess.

Dave

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 6:38PM
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sidhartha0209(KY_6a)

Ah, you are distorting what I said; and I'm not attacking you, and I think this is not worth it, so I'm going to drop it. Not going away mind you, just dropping it, it ain't worth it.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 6:58PM
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