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Jul 25, 2006 12:49 AM

How dangerous is skipping this step...?

I've been making jars of pickled green beans as the beans ripen in my garden (in other words, a jar at a time.) I just realized that for my last jar, I forgot to process in a water bath. I boiled the pickling solution, put it into its jar and waited for the lid to seal with a pop. It sealed without the bath, but now I don't know if it's safe. It has been in my cupboard for approximately four days now. Why is it that some canning recipes have you "process" the beans and other so not?

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  1. It isn't dangerous at all, if you are storing the beans in vinegar that is at least 5% acidity. Just keep this jar in the fridge and eat within a couple of months. Give it a month to pickle and then eat within another month. You'll know if it is bad.

    Processing essentially kills bacteria and creates an air-tight seal. This allows you to store the jar, unopened and unrefrigerated, for a very long time.

    Processing isn't necessary to do, though, if you aren't going to keep the food that long. Plus, since these beans won't be heated, they will likely have a different texture (more crunchy) than your other beans.

    Finally, when you first open the jar, you'll know if they are bad from the smell.

    1. I get real paranoid about home canning; so much so, that I will never do it, since most famous media stories about near-fatal cases of botulism involve people who were doing home canning. Your beans might be OK, but why risk it? Just toss it. I guess you could try to re-process it, by re-boiling the beans and putting it through the hot water bath. If you had thought of it right away, you could just stick 'em into the frig and leave them there forever.

      1. Eat them this week or toss.

        It won't be botulism but the beans also won't be crispy or preserved correctly.

        The whole idea of canning is to preserve the foods to last through a winter when no fresh fruits or veggies are available. That was how county fairs starteed...the local farmers got together after growing seaosn was over, to show the fruits of their labor...and to rest until the next growing season was to start...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cathy

          I don't think she has to throw them out. The idea of "processing" is not the same thing as "pickling". You can do both, or you can just pickle vegetables. Pickling vegetables simply means letting them steep in vinegar, with herbs and other flavors. Pickled foods will not last more than 1-2 months, just as "processed" or "canned" goods will not last more than 1-2 months once opened.

        2. You still need to do a hot water bath for pickled vegetables. Else it will ferment.

          Prssure canning is the only true recomendation for vegetables.

          Canning non-acid foods incorrectly can lead to Clostriduim botulinum. No odor or color change will indicate its presence.

          Governtment standards indicated all non-acid vegetables be boiled in an open pan for 15 minutes before tasting or serving and should be stirred frequently during cooking/reheating. 1 quart jars should be proceessed at 10 lbs pressure at 240oF for hot or raw pack.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Cathy

            Cathy, Pickling is done in vinegar. There is plenty of acid.

            I've made pickled cucumbers (pickles, that is) for a long time. They rest in the fridge for a month in the vinegar, and then they are pickled and ready to eat. I am not claiming they last forever. They last a few months. If one were to process them in a water bath, then they would last a very long time. But that is not what I'm talking about.

            Let me quote you from a recipe in "The Good Cook: Preserving," step 6 in the recipe that appears on page 62 and 63, "Pour vinegar -- in this instance, red wine vinegar - over the cucumbers, covering them completely. Cover the jars with their clamp tops [i.e. air tight seals], but do not process the jars described on pages 30-31: The heat would rob the pickes of their crispness. Instead, store the pickles in the refrigerator; they will be pickled and ready to eat in three to four weeks and will keep in excellent condition for six months".

            Also see "overnight pickles" in this article:

            So, I am not claiming one should never process pickled vegetables. I am claiming that one does not have to process them. If you process them, you can put them in your pantry and they will last years. If you do not process them, you must keep them in the fridge, and they will only last a few months.

            Canning and pickling are not the same thing. I'm not sure if you realize that. I am talking about pickling but not canning/processing.

            If you could provide a citation or link for your information, that would be helpful in figuring out where our differences are coming from. I have a strong feeling we are talking about different things.

          2. I made bread and butter pickles a several weeks ago using a pickling solution heavy on the 5% vinegar. I did NOT bother with the hot water bath sterilization. I've been eating the pickles and at this writing I'm still alive. This is not the first time that I've gone thru this process.