Botulism confusion (Kitchen - Canning)greenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
I was tired and lazy when I posted, and I forgot to include a fairly clarifying bit of info that seems to have tripped a few folks up on my previous posting. I've corrected the muddle there, but thought that I should post a clarification seperately, just as (in the words of a fellow poster) a belt and suspender sort of thing. The difference between BOT BACTERIA< BOT SPORES< AND BOT TOXIN (with assorted snide asides)
1) Bot bacteria (and spores) are everywhere,just like Santa CLaus, but the soil, the North Pole, and other natural homes of these beasties are too high in oxygen to allow for them to form toxins (unless Santa's been into the fruitcake again).
2) Bot bacteria and bot spores are HARMLESS in and of themselves. Eat them by the sackful, bathe in them, paint your house with them, sculpt them into odd and wonderful shapes to impress your friends and livestock - you're safe so long as that's all you have. If you give them a happy home (low acid, no oxygen), the bacteria will give off bot toxin as a side effect of thier "go forth and prosper" mandate, much like we give off CO2 and Twinkie wrappers. Bot bacterium can be made dormant by refridgeration. Bot spores ditto. Bot spores (bot bacteria in a DEFCON4-like protective state) cannot be killed by boiling. Even for days. Not even if you claim "no tag backs".
3) Bot TOXIN will kill you, and in ridiculously small doses. The toxin forms in the following environment ONLY - LOW ACID, NO OXYGEN. In the case of our previous conversations, badly canned produce is a really great place for bot bacteria to live and fart out toxin as they do so. Your garden sucks, as far as they are concerned (to much oxygen pollution - the place is so overrated as a vacation spot these days), as does your gut (way too much bad acid, like Woodstock). As long as you are dealing only with the bacterium or the spores (present pretty much everywhere) nothing happens. We eat them all the time. Even at the Sanitary Fish Market (Coastal NC joke. The rest of you just nod and smile like you know what I'm referring to).
4) Bot TOXIN (not the spores, not the bacteria) is easily broken down by boiling, for 15 min at least. This is why you are advised to do so with canned, low acid stuff. No, it does not kill off any bot bacteriums or spores. No need to, now that you're adding oxygen to the mix by opening the jar, and soon to be delivering the suckers to a very high acid environment via the midnight munchies.
5) Some previously-considered "safe to water bath and hot-pack" foods, such as tomatoes, salsas, and pickled beets (this last especially) are not as safe as once thought. Part of the reason is that many varieties of tomatoes are much less acid than their older ancestors, and some bot bacteria are nastier than theirs. Part of the reason is better research. Another reason is that bot bacteria are one of the only creatures on the earth that will actually eat pickled beets (shudder shudder).
So here's the drill:
1)Pressure can any low acid foods, as this will hopefully kill off any bot spores or bacteria (which are there, bet on it, harmless in this stage, and are only killed by the temps reached by pressure canning). Unless you are really bad at canning (don't pay attention to psi or time correctly), or just plain unlucky, this will be enough.
2)HOWEVER, boil opened food anyway (not jam and other high-sugar/acid stuff, silly), 15 minutes, minimum, just in case you somehow managed to let a few beasties survive the steaming hell that was your fall kitchen. If they did survive, and did spend the winter farting up a toxic storm, this will render the HIGHLY POISONOUS (but relatively delicate, all things considered) toxin totally harmless. (The same procees can also work for Back Street Boyz CDs, but you must bump up the boiling time to 20 min.) The post-canning boiling will NOT kill off any bot spores or bacteria that are present when you open the jar, but they won't hurt you.
3)Eat your supper and quit whining about mushy, overboiled food. It beats the stuff they'd be tube-feeding you at the hospital, assuming you survived any unfortunate brush with the bot toxin in Granny Muddle's Famous Hot-Pack Greenbean and Pumpkin Curry Stew.
-- Soni (email@example.com), July 10, 2001
Thanks, Soni, for a great explanation! I never really understood this whole Bot tox thing until I read this. I'm going to print it and save it for my friends who think anything is safe if it's boiled a couple minutes. Lois :)
-- Lois (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 10, 2001.
In a world filled - well, overfilled - with Back Street Boyz CDs, do we REALLY want to deny the BOT their chance to release us?
-- Don Armstrong (email@example.com), July 10, 2001.
shewwwwwww...hot jam doesn't sound too appetizing! Thanks Soni, for taking the time to explain this to us. It's been a real help!
-- Annie (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 10, 2001.
This information has been very helpful,, Now, I have another question..What about the effects of freezing? Does it kill the toxins? I have made some chicken noodle soup from leftovers.. (cooked too much for the holidays) It is pretty tasty and we had some tonight, but now I want to divide into meal-sized portions (for two).. After reading these posts,I am simmering the soup for another 15 minutes before I freeze it! freeze it! Thanks in advance for any info..
-- Suzanne from western WA State (SuzanneL@webtv.net), July 10, 2001.
It would help if I proofread a bit better! Sorry about that.. Don't plan on double-freezing..
-- Suzanne in Western Wa (SuzanneL@webtv.net), July 10, 2001.
Thank you, soni. That was very informative. I guess I was wrong on some things. But I stsill cant understand why none of us 9 kids ever got botulism when my mom waterbath canned everything, and didnt even do it right! We ate home-canned meat straight out of the jar all the time! As most Mennonites, we lived on a little farm and put up enough food to see us through the winter. In other words, we LIVED off our canned foods. Yet not one of us 9 ever got botulism poisoning. In fact, I dont remember anyone from our entire church ever landing in the hospital from food poisoning! And all 30-odd families lived exactly as we did!
Given my life experience, I think there is a greater chance of getting skin cancer from working in your garden without wearing a hat and long sleeves, then from getting botulism from home-canned waterbathed meat.
-- daffodyllady (email@example.com), July 11, 2001.
There may be other practical ways (as in what you can do in your kitchen) of breaking down botulinum toxin other than by boiling but freezing won't do it.
One could say that it's the botulinum *toxin* that poisons you and not the botulinum *bacteria* and that would be true so far as it goes but once the bacteria breaks out of the spore form (think of spores as being like seeds) and begins to go about the business of living then it's producing toxin therefore if there are live, growing botulinum bacteria there is botulinum poison. Fortunately, the bacteria requires some fairly narrow environmental conditions to break out of its spore form and grown.
Chief among these are:
Lack of free oxygen in the atmosphere containing the spores.
A pH level over 4.3
A free moisture content over 20% (actually about 35% as I recall).
If you don't have one of those conditions the bacteria cannot grow.
The problem is that in the past we have made some dangerous assumptions about those conditions when we were canning, things like assuming all tomatoes are sufficiently acid to be safe to boiling water bath when, in fact, many newer varieties aren't. It was also assumed that boiling water at room pressure (what we're breathing now) would get hot enough to sterilize the contents of the jar to make it safe even though the pH of the contents was over 4.3 and had a very low oxygen level in the headspace of the jar. Well, so far as the more heat sensitive spoilage organisms are concerned that was true but botulinum *spores* are very heat resistant even if living, growing, botulinum *bacteria* are not.
Fortunately for all of us who have eaten a lot of low-acid, boiling water bath canned foods botulinum outbreaks are very rare and it is very seldom that an actual poisoning would occur, though until relatively recently when it did it was invariably fatal. Nowadays you probably won't die of it (in the U.S.) but it'll cost you hundreds of thousands in medical bills and you may never be the same again.
There are some excellent resources out there on home canning. One of the best online that I know of is at the Utah State Cooperative Extension Service website ( http://extension .usu.edu/coop/food/foodpub.htm from which you can download many *free* publications about all sorts of home food preservation, notably some on home canning.
Some excellent printed sources are:
Ball Blue Book Guide To Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration; 1995; Published by Alltrista Corporation, Muncie, Indiana, 47305-2398; phone (800) 240-3340; May have had a more recent release by now.
A standard in the home food preservation field. The book covers canning high and low-acid foods, pickle making (vinegar or brine pickles), jam and jelly making, freezing and food dehydration. I wouldn't get into the business without at least this book. I've never seen it in a book store, but it can often be found in those businesses selling home canning supplies, particularly during canning season. You can also find it by calling the 800 number above. Alltrista now owns the Ball, Kerr and Bernardin companies.
Putting Food By; Greene, Hertzberg and Vaughn; 1982 (14th edition); ISBN# 0-525-93342-5 (softcover); Penguin Group.
Among the knowledgeable this work is the bible of the home-canning movement and has sold more than a half-million copies. The in-depth explanations of why things are done the way they are can make the entire process understandable by anyone who's safe to leave alone in a kitchen. They give excellent advice for canning meats, seafoods, vegetables, fruits, jams, jellies, pickles, relishes along with high-altitude procedures. Also covered are freezing, drying, and root-cellaring. They even give three recipes for making your own hominy. If you're going to do home-canning you need this book.
Stocking Up (I, II or III); Carol Hupping and Rodale Food Center staff; 1986; ISBN# 0-671-69395-6 (softcover); Simon & Schuster
The closest competitor to Putting Food By on the market. They cover freezing, canning, root cellaring and drying fruits and vegetables as well as choosing and harvesting of same. Also covered are pickle making, jams and jellies, homemade butter, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and other dairy products as well as storage. In the meat line they address freezing, canning and drying of meats, poultry and fish.
I borrowed the above book descriptive text from A.T. Hagan's Prudent Pantry book to save the trouble of having to write it myself.
-- Live Oak (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 11, 2001.
Yeah, what s/he said (sorry, Live Oak isn't a real gender helpful name!)
You have no reason to fear that anything out of your freezer will be bot toxic, unless it went directly from a badly canned jar to the freezer unboiled The bot bugs are too cold to fart in your freezer, so you're left with safe food. Just don't can food directly from the freezer and expect it to be safe just because it had been in the freezer - the hot water (assuming you're just water-bathing) will just wake up those gassy little bot bugs like a warm shower in the morning, and they will start farting all over again.
-- Soni (email@example.com), July 11, 2001.
I'll bet Soni has been through the Master Food Preserver course! It's a great way to learn about preserving (freezing,drying,canning). It's also fun and you meet wonderful people. I've been through it twice, back in '94 and I'm just finishing it again. In Oregon it was free, here we had to pay $25 for the materials, but you really get your moneys' worth. Check with your Extension office. The classes are for both beginners and "old-timers". Hope you don't mind the "advertising" but I really do like MFP.
-- Bonnie (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 17, 2001.