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This is my recipe for canning peppers.

  • I bring 3 gal vinegar, 1 gal water and 1 lb canning salt to a boil.
  • Let cool down a bit then pour into 1 qrt large mouth with peppers, garlic and pickling spices.
  • Seal lid and let sit for 2 weeks before eating.

I have been doing it this way for more than 10 yrs now and never had a problem. But I've been doing some reading and I'm a little concerned about my process. All kinds of recipes say I should put my filled jars into a tub of water and boil for 15 minutes. I just want to be safe and not get anyone sick. Any advice would be appreciated.

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That's a greater than 10% salt brine with plenty of vinegar. You should be safe, but if worried, buy an inexpensive pH meter (about $10) and make sure your pH is below 4.6. –  Wayfaring Stranger Jun 21 at 12:23

2 Answers 2

The right way to know if your recipe is safe is to use a recipe from a trusted source. What you're doing is pickling, so just search for pickled pepper recipes. For example, I quickly found this one:

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/pickled_hot_peppers.html

The NCHFP is one of the big authorities on canning in the US, so you can certainly trust that. You can add spices, and if desired add more salt or vinegar, but you don't want to use less - it might become unsafe.

And follow their process - there are reasons for everything. For example, all the boiling and details about how to fill the jars help guarantee that you get a good seal, so your jars will stay safe long-term. What you're doing is really prone to bad safety issues. For example, things could get colonized by bacteria while you let them cool, then you'd seal it in the jar and let it go to town. Or your seals could fail. You may get lucky for a long time, but not everyone will every time.

You should be able to find plenty of similar things from other universities, if you need, or you can buy an authoritative cookbook/reference.

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@Tim Since these pickles are generally being kept for a relatively short period of time (2 weeks) you could alleviate some of the safety concerns by keeping them in the refrigerator. If you're planning on laying any down for a month or more, you'll want to include the final boil to sterilize. –  logophobe Jun 21 at 21:49
    
@logophobe I'm not sure if they're only being kept that long - it wasn't clear if the OP is eating them all then or not. –  Jefromi Jun 21 at 23:20

I remember my grandmother telling me the last boiling when making jam was to get a better seal. The resources I found seem to indicate that the last boiling also serves to remove some bacteria or parasites, but is primarily for sealing. In general I would think that if your process otherwise is clean enough it the additional boiling would only serve to give the peppers a longer shelf life (due to fewer bacteria that can develop as quickly and change the taste, and obviously better sealing = less air, which adds to the effect).

I don't think there are any health problems as long as you don't cater to people of very poor health, sell commercially, and the taste doesn't seem off. However, if you are experiencing a number of not properly sealed jars by the end of your process, it might be worth giving the after-boiling to try and see if it reduces the number and doesn't affect taste.

However, I am not a professional, and especially not at health, so take this with a grain of salt. The resources that I found and mentioned above:

Is the double boiling canning procedure really necessary?

foodinjars.com/2013/07/new-to-canning-start-here-boiling-water-bath-canning/

southernfood.about.com/od/canning/qt/canning-jars.htm

localkitchenblog.com/2009/02/15/canning-in-a-boiling-water-bath/

(With pictures):

www.gov.mb.ca/ana/pdf/nhfi_basics_canning.pdf

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