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While following the advice in this answer I placed two ripe Bhut Jolokia peppers in a fresh bottle of olive oil, and put it on the shelf to sit for a month so the heat from the peppers would infuse the oil.

However, one of the peppers became covered with white mold.

The two peppers were put in at different times, as they ripened, since I only got half a dozen peppers from the plant, and they all ripened at different times.

The first pepper went into what had been an unopened bottle of olive oil, after I cut out a small blemish, and removed the stem and top of the pepper. It floated at the top of the oil for a few days, perhaps as long as a week, before sinking to the bottom of the bottle.

The second pepper was added about 1.5-2 weeks later, and was more intact (there was no blemish, so I only removed the top to remove the stem and expose the seeds). That pepper floated on the surface as well, but about 1.5-2 weeks later, I noticed that it was still floating, and was now covered with a patch of fluffy white mold just above the surface.

What did I do wrong here? How could I prevent this from happening next time?

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I'm watching the answers. I had something similar happen to me about a month ago. The mould was sort of puffy-looking and translucent. The difference: My pepper had been cut open to expose the inside and had sunk to the bottom (and stayed there for about 2 weeks before the mould appeared). The alternative to cold infusions seems to bee heating up the oil with the pepper and then putting them back in the jar (after they cool), but that much hot oil kinda scares me. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Oct 10 '11 at 20:55
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1 Answer 1

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Unfortunately...I think that other answer gave some dangerous information.

Sticking a raw pepper in oil and letting it sit out is dangerous. Not only could the moisture cause mold apparently but sticking something like that in oil runs the risk for botulism.

You could reduce the risk of mold by using dried peppers, but botulism is still there.

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Can you bake them or anything to kill the bugs? or soak them in vinegar or anything? –  Rikon Oct 11 '11 at 0:35
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@Rikon You're not going to be able to heat them high enough in a homemade product and still have a usable ingredient afterwards. Making them more acidic should help. Chili infused vinegars don't have the same issue because of the PH. If you sterilize the jars and soak the chilies in vinegar first, then put them in the oil, and refrigeration - you'd be much better off. This is basically what the USDA requires now, both acid and refrigeration to reduce the botulism risk. –  rfusca Oct 11 '11 at 0:45
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rfusca is correct. You should never, ever make flavored oil this way. Always heat it to at least 160F for 20 minutes with the flavoring ingredients (exact temps/times can vary). Infusing raw peppers into cold oil carries a serious risk of botulism: ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09340.html –  FuzzyChef Oct 11 '11 at 5:14
    
That linked articled from CO state backs up my acid comments, get the PH below 4.6 to be safe. –  rfusca Oct 11 '11 at 5:21
    
@rfusca: Would the chiles have to drain the vinegar and dry out before putting them in the oil or would it be OK to put a chile still dripping in vinegar into the oil? I don't really want an infused vinegar, I'm not sure it could be used the same way as an oil. Do you have a link to this process in more detail (or can you describe it in more detail)? –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Oct 11 '11 at 22:56
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