Urgent! Is this canning method a major botulism risk?

TunnelerOctober 28, 2011

I have a friend who is canning hot peppers and giving them away as gifts, but I'm not sure they are safe to eat.

He slices the fresh peppers (jalapenos) and packs them into jars with some chopped onion and some dried oregano.

He then heats (but not to boiling) a solution of cider vinegar, sugar and salt, and pours that into the jars of peppers. The reason given for not boiling is to avoid burning the sugar in the mixture.

He boils the lids, then puts them on. That's it.

Is this safe?

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It is probably as safe as opening a jar of peppers that were canned correctly and leaving it in the fridge. If he is not refrigerating them, then I would say he is asking for trouble.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 4:19PM
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The vinegar should be boiling - it won't burn the sugar. If he's getting it close to boiling (not just warm) it may be OK but jars should be processed in boiling water.

*IF* he's using straight vinegar, then they're probably OK to open and stick in the fridge even a couple of days after they were made. Even if they never sealed (better that way - botulism needs low-oxygen environment). I don't know if I'd keep them on the shelf - certainly not long-tern.

If he's mixing vinegar and water without following an approved recipe (at least half vinegar, depending on how tightly the slices are packed and how much onion - which is very watery), warming it just enough to dissolve the sugar, and not processing the jars (but they seal b/c it's hot enough to do that - called "open kettle" method), then I wouldn't touch them, not even to put in the fridge, since botulism can grow to toxic levels within 48 hours.

If they never seal, then botulism shouldn't grow, but other yucky things can if not enough vinegar and/or not heat processed.

Really, if he wants to keep making these, he should use approved recipes including processing times. Here is a very useful site

Here is a link that might be useful: NCHFP

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 6:13PM
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botulism risk, who knows.

Based on your description, your friend is using an untested recipe and not even meeting an "old method" standard for canning, open kettle method where jars were filled with boiling liquid and capped to seal without processing in a BWB (boiling water bath).

At the very least, your friend risks making people sick from any number of pathogens that may thrive in a shelf stored jar. They should give them away ASAP after topping and instruct people to refrigerate and consume within a week.


    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 6:57PM
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Thanks, all.

He is not telling people to refrigerate. He seems to think this is an acceptable method for canning, then storing long-term on pantry shelves.

He probably does clean the jars beforehand, but not sure if he boils them.

I am really worried but he is the kind of person who "knows it all" and won't listen.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 11:56PM
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Don't make yourself crazy, some people will not listen to reason or admit they didn't know. The best you can do is point your friend to the link ajsmama provided and warning anyone you know who received the jars about the risk.


ps. I've admired your green island home from across the channel for years while vacationing on SMX. Next trip I'm definitely heading over!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 7:59PM
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You could warn him that his house, car etc are at risk here if he makes someone sick and they sue....

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 7:50AM
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Is your friend named Dr Kavorkian? I wouldn't eat that if it were more than a week old. I'm actually pretty brave, doing my own fermentation and all, but that sounds pretty dangerous to me unless he's packing them to the top to eliminate the air and allowing them to ferment. Doesn't sound like it though.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 10:14PM
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