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Can I get botulism from fermented veggies?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Can someone please talk me down off a ledge here? I was trying out a fermented cabbage recipe from the Joy of Pickling. Turkish spicy cabbage or something to that effect--shredded cabbage, garlic, ginger, and hot pepper seeds, and salt, of course. You brine the cabbage, then mix in the remaining ingredients and top off with brine. Then you put it in a mason jar and stuff a ziplock bag filled with brine in the jar to weigh it down and keep it under the brine. The instructions say to take out the bag and stir it every day, then replace the bag. It's on day four, I think.

But now I'm totally freaking out about the ziplock bag being used as the weight. Wouldn't this create an anaerobic environment that would allow botulism to grow? I tasted a tiny bit this morning when I stirred it...should I go drive myself to the ER (only half kidding there--I'm really freaking out!)?

Help...
post #2 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elecampane View Post
Can someone please talk me down off a ledge here? I was trying out a fermented cabbage recipe from the Joy of Pickling. Turkish spicy cabbage or something to that effect--shredded cabbage, garlic, ginger, and hot pepper seeds, and salt, of course. You brine the cabbage, then mix in the remaining ingredients and top off with brine. Then you put it in a mason jar and stuff a ziplock bag filled with brine in the jar to weigh it down and keep it under the brine. The instructions say to take out the bag and stir it every day, then replace the bag. It's on day four, I think.

But now I'm totally freaking out about the ziplock bag being used as the weight. Wouldn't this create an anaerobic environment that would allow botulism to grow? I tasted a tiny bit this morning when I stirred it...should I go drive myself to the ER (only half kidding there--I'm really freaking out!)?

Help...

Water is part oxygen. The simple act of stiring it add oxygen too.
post #3 of 9
Both salt and the acid being created by the fermentation should create an environment hostile to botulism.
post #4 of 9
Don't freak out. You're going to live. You sound like me. haha
My friends make sauerkraut with a plastic bag with water in it to weigh it down and they don't stir it. They have the best sauerkruaut I have ever tasted and not one of us has gotten sick.
I don't know the science of it but from experience it is safe.
Fermenting is scary especially when you are not around peolple who do it or it is not a tradition in your family so it is very unfamiliar to you.
I think that it is great that your taking the leap and going for it.
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks, everyone. I'm still here! I totally believe that fermentation in itself is safe--it was the plastic bag's potentially being too air-tight that was freaking me out. I googled and saw all these stories about people in Alaska getting botulism from fermenting fish in plastic and let my imagination run wild from there. Plastic is really not traditional so I think I'll avoid it in future. DH was kind of iffy about it in the first place, not liking the idea of plastic on the food. When I make kimchi I make it in my crockpot insert and use a plate to weigh it down but I need to figure out something for smaller batches, like this recipe was.

Also, does anybody know how long it takes for the acid to actually form? like, wouldn't the mixture be non-acidic for the first few days as it gets started and hence potentially allow the growth of botulism because of the higher ph? Maybe I need to take a course in food microbiology, lol!

I did throw away this batch of Turkish cabbage at the height of my freakout. Sigh. I'll try again this weekend and use something else as the weight.

you all are the best, I love this forum!
post #6 of 9
Quote:

It is generally accepted that in Colstridium botulinum, b
oth growth and toxin formation are completely inhibited at pH values below 4.6. This critical pH value has been confirmed by many investigators using food as substrate or culture media. Occasionally, growth of C. botulinum and toxin formation at pH values lower than 4.6 have been reported. In these cases the authors ascribed the unexpected outgrowth and toxin formation to local pH differences in inhomogeneous media and growth of C. botulinum before pH equilibration, or to the fact that fungi created microenvironments within or adjacent to the mycelial mat, where the pH was higher than 4.6 as was demonstrated by Odlaug and Pflug.

We show here that the general assumption that
C. botulinum does not grow below pH 4.6 is incorrect. We have observed that growth and toxin formation by C. botulinum can take place in homogeneous protein rich substrates (containing 3% or more soya or milk protein) at pH values lower than 4.6.
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal.../281398a0.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/39257
http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/j...47068/abstract
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science...2f1740fefaaf87

Science of Fermentation and ph:

http://books.google.com/books?id=ERo...um=7#PPA267,M1
http://www.fao.org/docrep/x0560e/x0560e10.htm

Basically, from what I've read, it takes about 8 hours for the acidity to become low enough to inhibit pathogens. That is the main reason that brine, at a salinity above 5% (10% inhibits more effectively) is utilized- to inhibit opportunistic pathogens.

I'm not comfortable with the idea of having plastic in contact with an acid food medium, especially for an extended period of time.

I'm passionate about fermented and cultured foods. However, I haven't yet dabbled in making fermented vegetables myself. Many of the women here have done so without harm.

To be certain, probably test the ph, and consume only if below ph 4.0. Here is more information about safety and fermentation: http://www.mothering.com/discussions...y#post13282315

And,
Sandorkraut aka Sandor Ellix Katz answers the question: Is it possible to get botulism from sauerkraut, kimchi, or other fermented vegetables?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QdhSFfaoz0
http://www.wildfermentation.com/reso...age=vegetables


HTH, Pat
post #7 of 9

same question, ... have started doing my first batch, used a larger piece of cabbage on top which i pushed down

it rose a bit after 2 or 3 days SO i pushed it back down

threw away the top layer after 7 days and bottled it &put it in the fridge

 

saw on you tube afterwards about the trick of using an open plastic bag filled with water on top

was wondering if i would do it for next batch ....

have not decided yet, am wondering

.... and trying to buy something that comes in a smaller glass jar than the opening of my glass jar for fermenting

i suppose filling up a glass jar to put on top of the bigger cabbage leaf that is on top should do the trick ....

 

BUT have been wondering exactly the same questions as OP, am i going to make myself sick by eating my home made ferments ????

so far, so good, have had some 4 times in 6 days ... and am still there !
 

post #8 of 9

I am still a beginner at fermenting, but I have made pickles, Korean radish pickle and jazzed up sauerkraut (with a few extra veggies and peppers thrown in) and don't use a plastic bag at all, just a glass jar. I just make sure some liquid is covering the top and no problems so far. When I was growing up, my grandmother made pickles like this & she kept the crock in the basement with a rock on top of it. We never got sick. shrug.gif I don't think introducing plastic is a good idea.

post #9 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by IsaFrench View Post

same question, ... have started doing my first batch, used a larger piece of cabbage on top which i pushed down

it rose a bit after 2 or 3 days SO i pushed it back down

threw away the top layer after 7 days and bottled it &put it in the fridge

 

saw on you tube afterwards about the trick of using an open plastic bag filled with water on top

was wondering if i would do it for next batch ....

have not decided yet, am wondering

.... and trying to buy something that comes in a smaller glass jar than the opening of my glass jar for fermenting

i suppose filling up a glass jar to put on top of the bigger cabbage leaf that is on top should do the trick ....

 

BUT have been wondering exactly the same questions as OP, am i going to make myself sick by eating my home made ferments ????

so far, so good, have had some 4 times in 6 days ... and am still there !
 


It seem silly to be to be concerned about pathnogenic organisms flourishing in a bag of water with no food source.

 

If you have eliminated BPA exposure in all other parts of your life, then maybe you should be concerned about potentially BPA containing plastic being in an acid environment.  We will never eliminate all the toxins in our food supply, but IMHO we should spend out time addressing the most dangerous and the easiest to rectify.

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