Is my quick Jalapeno pickling method/recipe safe?
December 12, 2011 5:20 PM   Subscribe

Is my quick Jalapeno pickling method/recipe safe?

I am planning on making jars of pickled jalapenos to give as gifts to people for xmas. But I realize my method may not be safe. I've been just chopping/slicing jalapenos and covering them with white vinegar in an 8 ounce jar and sticking it in the fridge. no boiling, no cooking. I've been eating these for a couple months and haven;t gotten sick. but I did a quick search and realize this is perhaps not the safest method. I was planning on boiling the jars before pouring the vinegar and jalapenos in them, and then boiling the sealed jars for about a half an hour. questions: 1- Will this be safe? Or; will botulism still be able to grow in pure white vinegar? 2- Should I only use mason style jars, or are these (which I've already purchased but have not used).. should've asked these questions in late november! ha! help~! thanks! -cc
posted by 5lbauthority to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I pickle things using a brine of 50/50 vinegar and water, plus a teaspoon of salt per pint jar. I cap and seal in standard canning jars, and process for 15-20 minutes in a boiling water canner. I've been eating carrots I pickled two years ago all this month, kept on the shelf, and they are DELICIOUS!
posted by KathrynT at 5:23 PM on December 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'd run this past the experts at the Ball Jar company - they have an 'ask the experts' line at the bottom of this page. I mention it because their book makes a point of insisting that the recipes and instructions be followed very closely.
posted by jquinby at 5:35 PM on December 12, 2011

I don't think the jars you link to are th kind you can process in boiling water. The mason jars have lids that burp and whatnot.
posted by atomicstone at 6:35 PM on December 12, 2011

If you're planning on keeping the jalapenos in the fridge, your approach is likely fine, but if you're planning to can them to keep them at room temperature, you should consult a recipe as suggested above.

I agree with atomicstone that the jars you linked can't be sealed for canning with a boiling water bath, but if you're keeping them in the fridge, it's okay.

If you want to can them so that they can be stored at room temperature until you open them, here is a recipe. If you've never canned before, read what the Nation Center for Home Preservation has to say.
posted by asphericalcow at 6:41 PM on December 12, 2011

And then there's naturally fermented jalapenos -- no vinegar, no boiling water, just brine, natural lactobacillus, and time. Fantastic flavor, and full of probiotic goodness. They live on the counter until they're as tangy as you like them, then in the fridge.

Here's the bible.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:47 PM on December 12, 2011 [9 favorites]

Yeah, you have to be really clear what you're up to. Your method will probably keep them fine to eat for a matter of weeks. But if someone gets this as a gift and thinks they're "canned" and puts them up in their cabinet until summer, they might not be finding them so good, or so safe, by then.

You need to do some research on the proper methods for preserving if you want them to be real pickles, storable for months or years. The Ball site is a good recommendation - don't wing it or guess how to process pickles, follow instructions exactly.

If you're happy, though, to give them away as quick pickles (chilled) while saying "be sure to eat these within the next couple weeks, they won't last" they're as fine as any other homemade refrigerated food. Just don't confuse people by miscommunicating your preservation method.
posted by Miko at 7:31 PM on December 12, 2011

They're safe provided that a) you make sure people know to keep them refrigerated, and b) people know that they have a shelf life of several weeks, after which they can and will go bad.

It's not a bad idea to sterilize the jars first. Run them through your dishwasher, or put them in a pot of water and bring it just to a simmer. (Put a dish towel on the bottom of the pot so that they don't get, um, jarred.) Botulism isn't a concern here -- it's a toxin that grows in low-acid foods, and is mostly a problem with improperly sealed or sterilized jars. Mold could be a problem, though; there are some that will grow in acids. Bacteria, not a huge problem until the vinegar level starts to drop.

You're not going to kill anyone with your method. Just be careful not to sicken them -- they're fridge pickles, and they don't last forever.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:14 PM on December 12, 2011

Pickled chiles are a mainstay in our house. Sometimes, I've done giant batches and only had bigger jars handy, and I will vouch for chiles kept in the fridge for months being totally, absolutely fine and not remotely the worse for wear.

I wash the chiles, slice them, and pack them into clean jars. The pickling liquid is half vinegar and half water and whatever spices suit my fancy, along with some thinly sliced onion, and usually at least a pinch of sugar and salt (not enough to make it either sweet or salty, it's just amplifying flavors a bit.) This gets brought just to a boil, then I turn the heat off and let it steep for at least 20 minutes, then pour it over the chiles until the jar is full. Jar sits on the counter overnight to cool, then goes into the fridge.

They won't mold. They won't give you botulism. Straight vinegar is acidic enough that they'll eventually maybe start to get a little mushier than desired?

If you're giving them as gifts, it would behoove you to be a bit more cautious with the instructions. You can use whatever container you want, but you can't use those jars in your link to properly can them for cabinet storage. Just tell people to keep them in the fridge.
posted by desuetude at 9:24 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's where you deviated from typical picking methods:
1. Sterilized jars and lids. Did you? That wasn't clear.
2. All vinegar (instead of 50/50 vinegar/water with salt) - more acid for you, not a bad thing.
3. Boiling brine over veg in jars
4. Processing time - this varies depending on the size of the jar. 30 minutes is VERY long except for quarts and larger, IIRC. Processing time starts when the water returns to a boil.

Are your friends and family OK with these as gifts? Sure - just communicate that they are hand-crafted and should get eaten soon and with a critical eye ("These are not industrially produced. If in doubt, chuck them. It won't hurt my feelings in the least, and that's way better than you getting sick. I'd be happy to make more for you.")
posted by plinth at 3:05 AM on December 13, 2011

Response by poster: all right,
I'll alter my method by:
1- Sterilizing the jars and lids prior to canning
2- boiling the water and vinegar mixture prior to pouring over peppers.
3- include a note instructing recipients to refrigerate the gift asap.

Additionally I am trying the probiotic/countertop method for my own consumption...though I am unsure how that this method manages to be 'safe' while being so contradictory.
posted by 5lbauthority at 5:43 AM on December 13, 2011

The fermentation methods works because you're creating an environment where lactobaccillus and other human-friendly flora overgrow in such a large colony that other harmful bacteria cannot establish themselves. When preserving food, your choices are to either create a bacteria unfriendly environment via sterility, aridity (too dry to grow), salinity (salt inhibits bacteria growth), acidity, or extreme temperatures OR to put out a welcome mat to human-friendly flora (fermentation) that will crowd out the bad. Your body works like this, too. There are parts that are meant to stay sterile, acidic parts, dry/tough parts, and parts where our friendly flora overgrow to prevent establishment of invaders.
posted by rumposinc at 7:43 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Here's more on natural fermentation from the blue today.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:23 AM on December 13, 2011

Lactobacilli are AWESOME, is how it works. My brother and I have 15 pounds of salami curing in his pantry -- lactobacilli are what is keeping it salami instead of an intestine full of botulism.
posted by KathrynT at 9:57 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

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