Food safety canning question....garnishes/decorations?
August 2, 2020 6:11 AM   Subscribe

What are rules of thumb for adding garnishes to pickles? Looking to add a few black peppercorns and a pinch of hot pepper to pickled garlic.

I have several good canning books but I'm a little confused about guidance about when it's okay to garnish. The Joy of Cooking has a 'Sure, add a little twist of lemon rind to jelly as a decorative touch' note in the jellies section but I can't find any such guidance on pickles or condiments.

I have a good, authoritative, reliable pickled garlic recipe I've used before, but it would be prettier, and maybe better, with a few black peppercorns and a pinch of hot red pepper in each jar. I'm talking about literally 'a few' and 'a pinch' -- not substantially changing any proportions.

The recipe is 100% safe and I've used it before. Kind of hoping to find something from a home preservation authority but I have been unable to this morning and I want to make the garlic.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Food & Drink (5 answers total)
Best answer: I can, but I'm not an expert. I'd say you're fine. Canning isn't that exact of a science where you need to measure spices out to the gram to add to each jar, so throwing in a few extra pinches of spices isn't going to make a difference as far as food safety goes. Just googling brings up a number of different recipes for spicy pickled garlic with varying amounts of additional spices.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 6:37 AM on August 2, 2020

Is your concern botulism? The acid inhibits it.
posted by Candleman at 7:20 AM on August 2, 2020

Beyond canning considerations, peppercorns and dried pepper have no moisture content, so bacteria can't grow it it anyway.
posted by saeculorum at 8:09 AM on August 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Is your concern botulism?

It's just that canning recipes so often come with admonitions not to change a single thing or you'll explode into a cloud of bats. Just wanted to make sure it was okay.

Thanks everyone.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:21 AM on August 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The reason for the warnings is because water-bath canning recipes published by official sources are crafted to have the right level of acidity to safely preserve via this preservation method. Your question is sound and reasonable! But as others have said, a few peppercorns and a sprinkle of dried red pepper won't tip the balance.

Things that might cause the cloud of bat explosion would be stuff like adding non-acidic liquid to the recipe, or increasing the amount of vegetables/solid moisture-containing ingredients and therefore reducing the amount of the acidic ingredients.

Note this answer assumes you're doing water-bath canning. If you're pressure-canning, with a pressure-canner (NOT a pressure-cooker), the acidity issue isn't a concern.

If you feel like being overly cautious, you can always contact your county's ag extension agency. Their phone lines may not be staffed due to, y'know, pandemic, but they might still have an email address that's staffed.
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:29 PM on August 2, 2020

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