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I recently canned pickles using 2 cups vinegar to 8 cups water ratio but I see that most canning recipes ask for 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water. My question is: Can I get botulism from using 2 cups vinegar to 8 cups water? (I boiled 10 min in water bath after).

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    What was the acidity of the vinegar? – moscafj Aug 23 '16 at 2:34
  • While I'm sure some people here may have various opinions, the fact is that official food safety guidelines say to use "approved recipes" (such as from the national, state, and university-run food preservation groups). These recipes go through a rigorous empirical testing and verification process and any deviation from them could cause problems. Unless you can find an approved recipe that uses the proportions you list with the amount of cucumbers you used, etc., no one can guarantee your process is safe. – Athanasius Aug 23 '16 at 3:22
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    @Athanasius - That looks like an answer to me. – Debbie M. Aug 23 '16 at 4:01
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    @DebbieM. - I see your point, but I actually did no research on whether recipes exist that could validate the procedure in the question. It might indeed be safe; I don't know. Without the detailed recipe and source, I don't think an answer is possible. – Athanasius Aug 23 '16 at 4:42
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While no one will tell you if you will get botulism or not, it's the acidity in pickles that makes them safe. According to Douglas Baldwin "Food pathogens can't grow below a pH of 4.0. 5% vinegar is 25% more acidic than this." He goes on to talk about the pasteurization step. You'll have to scroll a bit to read the section. We don't know your vinegar's starting acidity, and you diluted it significantly....So, you would have to calculate the total acidity of your brine, beginning with the acidity of your vinegar, to determine if you are within the correct safety parameters.

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Out of sheer curiosity, I recently tested my pickle recipe with an digital PH meter and used buffer solution to calibrate the meter.

Bacteria can't grow below 4.6ph.

My recipe uses Apple Cider Vinegar with 5% acidity at 1 cup vinegar to 4 cups water or 2 cups / 8 cups. I also used tap water and boiled the brine for a long time (Note: Both tap water and boiling reduce the acidity of the mixture.)

After testing my brine and a puree of pickles and brine, the acidity of the mix across two batches measured an average of 3.80ph.

  • Straight brine: 3.23ph

The range (PINT jars):

  • Pickle juice: 3.70ph to 3.80ph
  • Pickle juice and solid puree: 3.79ph to 3.83ph

It takes a whole lot of water to dilute the acidity. So this range falls well below and well within the range of "safety".

*** Please note that I am not a chemist and these numbers are only applicable to my recipe and my kitchen methods. However, what is clear is that 1 cup vinegar to 4 cups water is safe, according to my experiment.

A 1 cup to 1 cup ratio would result in an extremely sour pickle.

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    Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. This is a great answer, except I'd love to know where your "bacteria can't grow below 4.6ph" statement came from. Perhaps you could supply a link to a source? – Daniel Griscom Sep 11 '16 at 23:40
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    This is a very good data point, although I'm afraid that people will read into it more than a data point. The question answered by guidelines "is it possible to make a safe batch with this technique", but "will somebody who attempts to use the technique always get a safe batch". +1 for your effort and sharing, I'd still suggest people who try the ratio should also measure the pH (cheap paper strips should be sufficient, most of us don't keep an electronic pH meter). – rumtscho Sep 12 '16 at 7:50
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    Ph of 4.6 comes from the CDC and the World Health Organization and a professional chemist who happens to love my pickles. cdc.gov/botulism/pdf/bot-manual.pdf – Paul Sep 13 '16 at 0:55
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    Yes, my experiments are simply a data point. And, as I clearly stated, only applicable to my recipe and my kitchen preparation. My purpose was to offset the outright scare tactics so frequently found among recipe blogs and online recipe sources that provide zero evidence about proper recipe ratios beyond unscientific opinion. – Paul Sep 13 '16 at 1:11
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    I like what you've done, and have up-voted your response...and I appreciate your further clarification. I don't think you were specifically calling my citation out, but just to clarify I will point out, that Douglas Baldwin (who I cited above) has a significant amount of expertise, and is not peddling scare tactics (See: douglasbaldwin.com). I would also point out that ChefSteps (with whom Baldwin is now associated) is not a recipe blog, but a company founded by former collaborators on the ground breaking book "Modernist Cuisine". So, these are trustworthy sources. – moscafj Sep 13 '16 at 1:26

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