12

Last december I made my own garlic salt, and since then I have learned that storing homemade garlic stuff has risks of botulism. However, most info I can find is about garlic oil, and I am now unsure if this applies to my garlic salt as well.

Here is how I made it:

I ground some sea salt and garlic together in a food processor, then spread it out on an oven tray and dried it over ~4 hours in the oven at low temp, I think around 65°C. I wedged a wooden spoon into the oven door so the humidity could escape. This process did not completely dry the garlics, it was still quite sticky and with a green-brownish hue.

I then stored it at room temperature in a big preserving jar, which is about head-sized and was filled not even half full. I have read that botulism needs absence of oxygen, does this apply here or not?

By now, the greenish hue has completely turned into brown, indicating the garlic has fully dried. It's also no longer sticky.

I would be interested if you would keep it or throw it out? It would be such a shame, but if it's too risky I'll do it.

PS: I have made this garlic salt before (2 years ago) and have used the last bit of it this week (Hence why I wanted to open the new batch). I remember when making the previous batch, I kept it in the oven for longer until it was more brown/dry than this time.

4 Answers 4

16

Yes, there is a risk. It's up to you to decide whether it's an acceptable risk or not. It would not be considered adequate for a USDA-governed food product. Note that I am not a biologist or a professional food safety expert, I just do a lot of reading, and make condiments with garlic myself.

Your danger here is not the botulism bacteria or the toxin, which will be destroyed by your cooking process, but rather the spores. The spores can survive a wide range of harsh conditions and revitalize when conditions are right. Data on low-temperature, long-time spore elimination is not clearly available to the layman, but if the garlic wasn't completely dehydrated it's unlikely that your process is sufficient.

All of that aside, though, your garlic salt is going to be "safer" than simply adding fresh garlic to cooked food and then storing it -- something I'm sure both of us do all the time. So as a relative risk, I wouldn't personally worry about it, even if the USDA would not approve.

8
  • 2
    I think the bacterium cannot grow in pure salt. See wellscan.ca/controlling-botulism: "A concentration of about 10% salt will effectively prevent germination of Botulism spores in your canned food". Do you have different information? Apr 13 at 19:04
  • It's not going to germinate in the salt. Where it is going to germinate is if you add the garlic salt to moist food, in small concentrations, and then store that food. However, like I said in the answer, we're talking teeny tiny risks here.
    – FuzzyChef
    Apr 13 at 19:18
  • 9
    And you have the same risks from putting fresh garlic in something, as the spores are essentially guaranteed to be present.
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 13 at 19:25
  • 3
    I've downvoted; that the garlic salt could be used to make something that then eventually posed a botulism risk is not the same thing as the garlic salt posing a botulism risk in and of itself. As such, your first two paragraphs feel like much too dire a warning for the actual danger of the situation.
    – Blargant
    Apr 16 at 0:46
  • 1
    "Your danger here is [...] the spores." Wrong. Some botulism spores do not pose a health risk to people with a normal immune system. They are everywhere and you eat them all the time; that's why it's so easy for foods to get into contact with them, grow the spores, and produce the toxin.
    – Nick T
    Apr 16 at 21:30
13

A high concentration of salt inhibits germination and growth of Clostridium botulinum, as it does with almost all bacteria. If the garlic is fine-ground and embedded in salt there is no risk. Osmosis will desiccate the garlic and the salt will migrate into the small garlic pieces in sufficient quantity.

12

Absence of oxygen applies to botulism in all cases.

If the garlic salt was in air, botulism won't grow. The problem with garlic in oil (unrefrigerated) is that the oil effectively blocks air from the (presumed, generally accurately) botulism spores on the surface of the garlic. Those are always present, as they are widely distributed in soils. The trick is not to give them an anaerobic environment in a favorable temperature range.

0
0

Botulism spores are everywhere, and there is no way to avoid them on and in your food. The spores also survive cooking temperatures, so you can't get rid of them by cooking. They are, however, safe for adults to eat (but not for infants). The problem is when the spores are put in an environment that is suitable to vegetation, which requires both moisture and lack of oxygen (not air, oxygen). Once in that environment, they will vegetate (converting to active bacteria where they then replicate). These bacteria produce toxins which cannot be destroyed by normal cooking temporatures, so once the bacteria have grown, the food must be thrown away. If you have desiccated your garlic and it is exposed to the air, it is perfectly safe (even undesiccated but exposed to air they are safe from botulism, though other bacteria may grow). The main concern with confit and other treatments is that the spores are put into an environment where they can vegetate. The same thing happens when people bake potatoes in foil and then leave them out in room temperature. The botulism spores are not killed during baking and now they are in an anaerobic environment.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.