Typical n00b botulism question... with a twist

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Typical n00b botulism question... with a twist

Postby quark on Sat Apr 25, 2020 10:09 pm

After getting excited about how fun and easy it was to slice up, salt, spice, squeeze and jar cabbage - and then watch it bubble away under the airlock - I decided to use up my red onions by fermenting them.

I weighed up the onions and added a little over 2% salt, sliced them up and squeezed them and put them in another jar under an airlock, using a ziplock bag full of tap water as a weight.

Nothing happened. No bubbles, no smell, no expansion. After reading a bit online, I thought that perhaps the minute amount of bleach in the tap water (of which there would have been a film around the ziplock bag) had killed off the bacteria needed for the ferment. So I ditched it.

By throwing it in the Bokashi bin.

... and then, after reading some more, I started to get worried about having created the toxins for botulism. There was no fermenting happening in the jar, so the good bacteria would not have killed off any developing bad bacteria, and then, when I put it in the Bokashi (another anaerobic environment) and it mixed in with the rest of the rotting food, the salt percentage would have become negligible, and whatever process was going on there might have contributed to the creation of the toxins...

Which would mean that, since I scooped the onions out into the bin (spilling some, getting it on my hands etc) and had since added to / interacted with the bokashi scraps, significant parts of my kitchen are potentially infected... Online information about botulism toxins seems to indicate that it is essentially toxic waste, and even being in the vicinity of it is a bad idea. Also, that even after toxins are killed off (via boiling water or alcohol or the passage of time or whatever) that the spores would remain on surfaces, liable to leap into deadly action when the conditions were right...

So basically. Do I need to sterilise / throw away everything in my kitchen / fermenting space? Am I going to die a horrifying death? Many thanks in advance :-)
quark
 
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Re: Typical n00b botulism question... with a twist

Postby Christopher Weeks on Sun Apr 26, 2020 5:37 pm

I mean, I'm not a hazmat or medical professional, so you have to make decisions for your own interest and safety. But, I'd have tasted the onion to see if it was souring before deciding anything went wrong.I routinely get no visible bubbling during a vegetable fermentation. Sometimes it happens, and I like it, but it's no biggie when it doesn't happen -- my produce ends up sour. Also, I prefer to ferment in spring water when I have it on hand, but when I don't, I ferment in tap water with chlorine and chloramines and it always works.
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Re: Typical n00b botulism question... with a twist

Postby quark on Sun Apr 26, 2020 11:57 pm

Thanks so much for the quick reply, Christopher!

Being very new to this, I had just assumed that my ferment was dead and thought it better to ditch it without tasting, but it is definitely comforting to know that an experienced fermenter would be willing to taste it, and also that air bubbling is not a necessary part of the process and that chlorinated water does not tend to have a detrimental effect on the process.

What I am most concerned with now is the possible effects that putting the onions through the Bokashi may have had. If they spent five days fermenting (without bubbling) then I suppose they most likely killed off any botulism spores, which would minimise the possibility of generating toxins. But I have no idea, really.

I have just realised that perhaps my question is more suited for a different section - perhaps a thread in Miscellaneous called Bokashi. After all, the Bokashi process is fermentation, so it seems an appropriate topic of discussion on its own - and a quick search reveals that it has been barely mentioned so far on these forums. Please let me know if I should split this off!
quark
 
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Re: Typical n00b botulism question... with a twist

Postby Christopher Weeks on Mon Apr 27, 2020 6:11 am

I don't know. I'm not sure how much Bokashi experience the regulars here have and whether you'll get more hits that way. However, since I doubt there was much presence of botulism in the onions, I can't see how it would hurt your Bokashi bin. If it's been going well, it *does* have a strong microculture that would outcompete any pathogens that happen to land in it.
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