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Guacamole - Why am I still alive?

Almost a month ago I posted this thread:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/839330

I put the stuff away in the fridge - tightly closed container but certainly not hermetic.

I was going thru the fridge yesterday and spotted it - I opened and sniffed etc. - all looked and smelled OK - I took a small taste - OK - even the bitterness seemed to have diminished significantly.

I then ate a significant amount with tortilla chips - and am here today to tell about it.

?

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  1. I'll bite with the obvious. Why would you take the chance?

    3 Replies
    1. re: MrsJonesey

      There wasn't the SLIGHTEST bit of off-odor - nothing at ALL visual - and only took the tiniest taste. Took a bit more - and some hours later ate the more significant amount.

      1. re: jounipesonen

        Many food borne illnesses are odorless, colorless and tasteless. The salt and acid probably kept the bugs at bay.

        But...when in doubt, throw it out

      2. re: MrsJonesey

        I'm with jounipesonen, this is exactly the kind of thing I do when I find a container lingering in the back of the fridge - open, look, sniff, and cautiously sample. Why throw something out if it's fine to eat? I agree that folks with compromised immune systems or sensitive guts may need to be more cautious. But so far, I haven't suffered noticeable ill effects, so so far, so good.

        As to the OP's question, stuff going bad is a complex equation, not easily boiled down to a simple "use by" or "sell by" date that some folks like to believe is some type of a magic cutoff. If your guac was put in a container soon after making, well sealed, and kept in the lower back section of the fridge (the coldest), and the container not opened, used, and closed repeatedly, that would last much longer than something kept open on the counter for an hour before being put away, kept in the front of the fridge, and opened repeatedly.

        It's a matter of giving bacteria an opportunity to colonize, and then to grow. If your goods are put in a container soon after making, and kept cold and sealed, they'll last much much longer than the same good opened to the environment (opportunity to colonize) and kept warmer - even if in the fridge (opportunity to grow).

        Personally, I find "use by" dates pretty much useless, and ignore them on a regular basis, because the longevity of a product has more to do with how you handle it than it's age.

      3. Looks like the acidic ingredients did a good job of holding off the bacterial growth. But I'd still say you're lucky not to have suffered the ill effects of some food borne illness and would not recommend keeping guacamole that long, refrigerated or not.

        1. Why wouldn't you still be alive?

          Most food expiration rules are intended to include not only you and me, but the lowest common denominator in society -- i.e., those with compromised immune systems, the young, the feeble, etc.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Well - I kinda wanted to suggest a bit of this - but these other folks had given the 'proper' response.

            I do feel that a lot of the 'cautions' are very much on the conservative side - but maybe why not.

          2. The salt and the acid (lime juice, usually) in guacamole slow down the rate of spoilage and limits the potential for food poisoning (which is not the same thing as spoilage). Refrigeration helps as does keeping the container closed. All that said, I wouldn't recommend making this kind of thing a habit. Trying something once and getting away with it does not make that practice safe.

            BTW - not trying to scare you, but... many forms of food poisoning have an incubation period longer than a single day. Many can take several days for symptoms to show up. Some can take over a week.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cowboyardee

              <many forms of food poisoning have an incubation period longer than a single day. Many can take several days for symptoms to show up. Some can take over a week.>

              That is true.

            2. I am surprised it wasn't brown.

              1. I hate having stomach-related illnesses and I would never have taken the chance. I am also, as others stated, amazed that it was not brown. Very strange.

                3 Replies
                1. re: IndyGirl

                  (BTW, I'm aware that no one likes to have food poisoning... but I have a particular hatred worse than most people I know, and I'm very careful to use things up quickly as a result!)

                  1. re: IndyGirl

                    I got it. Personally I would rather have minor stomach issues over sore throat or nausea.

                  2. re: IndyGirl

                    I'm also wondering about the quality of month old guacamole. Definitely not worth the risk for bad guac.

                  3. I posted this thread exactly because of how surprised I was that everything seemed OK - a bit darker than originally - but in no way 'brown' - also the bitterness indeed seemed to mostly go away.

                    If truth be told I hold a PhD in Public Health from a very respected School of PH together with a ChemEng background. Thus I was more than interested.

                    The guac was put away quickly - an IKEA plastic snap container - and in the back of fridge - and left unopened.

                    I realize very well it was a bit risky but I did try with all sensory tests even though I appreciate the incubation period might have been a few days - I did also chuck the remainder.
                    the next day

                    My thought is - however - that we probably do incorrectly respect use by/sell by dates too much. Even cooks such as Bittman and Kasper - who I respect very much - surprise me greatly telling how various condiments and sauces will keep for 4-5 days in fridge. I also appreciate that many foods will lose good taste and/or texture - and I wonder why there is not some differentiation with health issues.

                    Of course there is much to be said about erring in caution.

                    Mind you I am the first to toss anything - the whole jar, loaf, etc. - with the slightest indication of mold, odor etc. (I see some people are still skimming mold off maple syrup! That is a DEFINITE VERIFIED NO-NO!).

                    Btw - one trick - confirmed to me by Mr. McGee - is to pop various items you're holding in fridge - BACK into a microwave for 2-3 mins - and quickly sealed up and into fridge as soon as cooled. You can keep one of those pasta sauces that you got 'just right' much longer.

                    1. that is indeed strange that it didn't show more signs of aging...Sometimes the hardiness or durability of food can surprise us, other times it can be surprisingly fragile.

                      I don't have an extensive scientific/medical background, but I was raised among those who did and so I had food safety rules drilled into me from a very young age. I've always been a firm believer in listening to the body when determining the safety of food- "the nose knows" as they say. My philosophy is, if I can take several deep sniffs and a few thoughtful tastes without any alarm bells, however distant, then it's probably fine.

                      1. a PS to the hint about rehabilitating food you've already had in fridge -

                        You'll be taking them out of the micro piping hot - put the cover on right away - it will prolong the cooling down (not good to put hot items in fridge).a bit but no matter

                        But by putting the cover on right away you will not only be keeping air-borne gizmos out - but you will also be creating a slight vacuum as the hot air at top has greater volume. This will be even more effective if using screw type jars (but you may need a hatchet to open them)

                        And if you still haven't eaten it after a week or so - you can repeat.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: jounipesonen

                          My parents were from Lithuania so, of course, I grew up on Lithuanian food. Every month or so during the cool weather, my mother would make a huge batch of koseliena, kind of like headcheese/aspic. Each week, she would re-boil what was left and place it back in the fridge repeating until all was eaten and a new batch could be made.

                          I'm sorry, but no matter how many times she made that stuff, in my opinion, there was no "rehabilitating" it. It was bad to the bone!

                          1. re: Vidute

                            The 'rehabilitation' is really only relevant to health concerns - some foods just don't taste good on 'keeping' - for example. stored cooked meat almost always gets a weird taste in my experience - textures change - vegetables lose 'bite' - and there is the absorption of other foods in the fridge etc. etc.

                            My suggestion only relates to foods that are known to 'keep well re taste.' Soups, pasta sauces, chili and such usually do well.

                            1. re: jounipesonen

                              That's what surprised me about your experiment. Day old guacamole, when I make it, turns brown and slimy, even in tupperware. I can't imagine a month long.

                              1. re: chowser

                                Maybe it was the splash of Worcestershire Sauce everyone said didn't belong :-)

                                Seriously - it was still very green - though on the darker side.

                                1. re: jounipesonen

                                  Maybe they need to start using Worcestershire sauce instead of formadelhyde to preserve things! It would sure smell better.;-)

                                  I guess if they found perfectly preserved guacamole from 1967, a month old in a refrigerator isn't that unusual. I must just have bad luck with keeping guac.

                                  http://www.nytimes.com/1992/08/13/nyr...

                                  1. re: jounipesonen

                                    The browning is due to oxidation (at least as far as I understand). A traditional way to slow the oxidation if making the guac ahead of time is to put plastic wrap on the surface, sealing well, immediately after making and putting into the container, in order to prevent oxygen from coming into contact with the surface.

                                    I wonder if when the OP put the guac into the container, if the volume was such that it came up to the very top and was in contact with the lid, resulting in very little air volume, and thus little oxygen, to contribute to browning. Interesting stuff.

                                    1. re: foreverhungry

                                      OP here - the container was quite full - but there was still about 1 cm of 'air' - the container was a snap-lid IKEA plastic container - not really air tight as I know these IKEAs can leak if there is a liquid and they are tilted.

                                      1. re: jounipesonen

                                        Thanks OP. I'm not sure how 1 cm of air space would affect guac. It's not much, and I guess it depends on the surface area - tall skinny container, long broad container, all different amounts of air volume, and this affecting the guac differently.

                                        Doesn't have to be "air tight" as far as leaks are concerned if it's tilted and juice leaks out, just enough to not let air exchange in. Any crappy container can do that.

                                        I'm guessing that the "sealed immediately" and stored in the back of the fridge have a lot to do with it.

                                    2. re: jounipesonen

                                      There had to be some acidic ingredient in there, maybe citric acid or a vitamin C derivative, or it never would have passed the test. It would be brown or blackened.

                            2. Well, because people are pretty tough for the most part?

                              IMO, many food safety guidelines are over the top cautious but, as ipse points out, they are aimed at the most vulnerable amongst us. The digestive system and all those enzymes do a pretty thorough job of breaking down whatever you've put down your gullet.

                              That said, I'm pretty amazed by your story. Guacamole in my fridge quickly turns brown and while it might be safe to eat, it looks so yucky that it gets tossed.

                              1. Because our bodies have the potential to handle pretty tough stuffs -- not that you are advised to test your limit. Don't forget that our ancestors did not have filtered water, pasteurized milk...etc. They consumed from dirty water, raw rotten meat...etc. Some died, but most survived.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  My now dead aunt used to refuse to throw anything out no matter how much 'fuzz' it had on it. She was a dreadful cook and she hated to cook. She used to regularly feed stuff to her family that caused food poisoning. It got so bad that none of the relatives would eat at her house. After years of making every excuse imaginable to her the family, including ours just told her that her food was horrible. That seemed to suit her just fine.

                                  1. re: Puffin3

                                    Am wondering how that relates to the first four words of your post. :-(

                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                      I am not super clean or anything, but this sounds bad.