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I put uncooked hot peppers in olive oil with garlic, onions, and seasoning. When I opened the jars, they fizzled. Is this safe to eat?

  • Hi David, welcome to Seasoned Advice! I made a couple of minor edits to help with formatting. Did you store this in the refrigerator or at room temperature? I have a feeling somebody will be able to find an instance where this question has been answered before but I couldn’t find it easily when I checked. – Preston Oct 21 at 3:04
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    It would also be helpful to know what seasonings you included. Were you following a recipe? I would assume it is NOT safe, but that information would help us know for sure. – kitukwfyer Oct 21 at 3:40
  • For us to be able to help you properly, we need: what ingredients were used (which seasonings?), in what ratios, what method you followed (room temperature? Fridge?) and, if possible, a picture – Juliana Karasawa Souza Oct 21 at 6:57
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    @kitukwfyer I can't imagine any situation in which fizzing from a jar of infused oil could be declared safe. Also, at this distance, we can't "know for sure." – David Richerby Oct 23 at 17:09
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Without further ado, that’s an indication of biological activity. Both garlic and hot peppers are used for making fermented hot sauce, but using specific recipes known to (or designed to) stop pathogen growth.

I believe your intention was to infuse the olive oil with hot pepper and garlic aroma, it looks like it didn’t go well as some biological activity took place. I don’t think at this point you can be really sure what was growing inside the jars.

Taking the presence of raw garlic into consideration, and the oxygen-free environment created by the garlic being submerged in the oil, I’d be scared of a potential botulism pathogen growth as the olive oil itself won’t be enough to inhibit the growth of such pathogens. And raw garlic can host such bacteria.

And as a general rule:

When in doubt, you should discard it.

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    Or, for a version with more of a ring to it: as we say in pharmacy "when in doubt, throw it out". – Carcigenicate Oct 22 at 18:53
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I would go a step beyond @zetaprime: Oil is the perfect, preferred environment for botulism. Garlic and onions are low acid roots and have a high probability of exposure. Peppers and spices are also normally low acid and considered potentially exposed. USDA recommendations are refrigerate at low temperature, lower than most home units, and use within 4 days to slow potential growth or freeze, never can and leave at room temperature.

People often point to commercially canned garlic in oil and herb infused oils. Those items have typically been pasteurized, and always acidified to make them safe even at room temperatures. They are not the same as what you can make at home.

Finally, any hissing, bubbling, or other signs of off gassing such as a bent lid is a sure sign of potentially deadly bacterial action. You have a presumably sealed environment and yet gasses are being produced. They have to come from somewhere. It could be a chemical reaction, fermentation, or bacterial, but none of those sources is intended or likely to be desired and could be far worse than just a poor product. The absence of such activity is not a sign of safety, but the presence should always be considered a sure sign that it is not safe. This was considered true long before the USDA started publishing stricter guide to home preservation: when our grandparents would regularly reuse mayonnaise jars and lids, and trim half spoiled fruit. If they saw signs of gas, they assumed it was bad and tossed it.

  • @RonJohn Fair enough. Even wend not actually a bulb like scallions, they are not really roots that we use. – dlb Oct 21 at 14:26
  • @Sneftel I just reread what I wrote before I drank my morning coffee. Somehow I was thinking "garlic and peppers". :( – RonJohn Oct 21 at 14:31
  • @Sneftel Wish I could blame my typing on coffee. It is really just that I am a bad at it, and make more errors when I try to correct them. ;) – dlb Oct 21 at 14:52

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