Monday, October 19, 2009

Why Botulism is a bad thing.

Botulism; What to look for if you have stunningly impeccable eyesight.
Properly Pickled Peppers

As much as your Nana's tomato sauce probably rocks in the winter with slightly over-cooked spaghetti (and why DOES she add olive oil to the blanching water anyways?!), your granny has to be careful because canning has the very real potential to make a bad day for someone who inadvertently consumes tainted preserves with botulism. With roughly 1oo cases of food-born botulism reported annually in the U.S., it is rare, though remains a big concern due to it's ridiculously high mortality rate (Upwards of 60% if left untreated).
This has to be the priority prevention when canning anything. There are a couple ways to avoid this super-heat resistant, low-acid loving spore.

A) Use a lot acid. Seriously, anything with a pH balance of 4.6 or less, this generally includes fruits and properly pickled vegetables. Only these are suitable for the boiling jar method of preserving.
B) If sticking with low acid (Proteins, Oils), it's imperative to bring the contents of the jar to 250f for at least 3 minutes through pressure cooking. While the bacterial cells are killed at 212f, the spores can remain intact past that.

Now, how to pickle and preserve peppers that happen to grow on the top of your hotel;

As a standard brine with Chilies, for every 1 Cup White Vinegar (Cider Vinegar works as well), I add 1Tbs. Salt.

i) Sterilize the jar (we use the hot bath for 10 minutes).

ii) Separately, blanch the de-stemmed chilies for 3 minutes. Time it so that they go into the jars as soon as they are removed.

iii) In co-ordination with the first two steps, bring Salt, Vinegar, any aromatics you choose to use (in this case, Shallots, Garlic, Bay Leaf, Pepper Corn, Fennel Seed, Celery Seed, Mustard Seed, Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme) up to a boil.

iv) Using sterilized tongs, remove the jars from the water and place the chilies neatly into the jars. Right away, cover the jars to the top with the brine solution. With a sterilized cloth, tightly seal the jars, submerse into boiling water for 1 minute.

v) Remove, cool off on a rack in a cold space.
When completely chilled, check the seal to makes sure it's tight and concave inwards (no broken seal). Store in a dark dry area.


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