El Ducko asked,
So.... whataya think? Is parboiling an answer?
I'm sorry Mr. Duck. Ooops, I thought I had made the point clear but I actually did not. Let me say this... parboiling and blanching won't destroy some of the most resistant bacteria (and there are a ton of them out there). However, there are several less resistant species that are vulnerable to just a short exposure to cooking temperatures. So... blanching and parboiling is better than nothing at all.
When I was just a kid, we rode through the sagebrush, willows, and lots of bushes where ticks often climbed aboard for the ride. Each night, back at the ranch house, we had to strip down and be "closely examined" for the feared ectoparasitic arachnid
of the Ixodida
order - the common hard-shelled tick
. Lyme disease or "Colorado tick fever" (Coltivirus genera
), is nothing to fool with. We also had to have hypodermic injections (shots) with boosters. Before needles were disposable, we had to boil them to make them sterile. Now, it wasn't just a simple matter of bringing them to a rolling boil. They were "hard" boiled for ten or fifteen minutes, handled with forceps and sterile gloves, and then screwed onto the hypo before they went into the arm. Simple boiling will not eradicate some microorganisms, just as simply freezing will not do the job either.
I hate to "nag" and open another dispute with those who doubt my credentials, but the fact remains, the only 100% surefire way to destroy most of the food-borne microorganisms these days, is to completely cook the product. Even then, boiling-cooking does not always destroy the toxins of some spores once they have developed, and the spore toxins of the clostridium botulinum
bacterium are some of the worst. Allow me to further illustrate my point.
In Sweden during the 1970's, a single case of food-borne bolulism completely baffled medical authorites for more than a week. A father had been out with his 7-year old son hunting roe deer and since they lacked a freezer, they made meatballs and preserved them in jars. Experienced as they were, they followed all safety rules with sterilization of the jars etc. After a couple of months, the son opened a jar to have a taste and ate ONE meatball. He fell sick with botulism and was admitted to the emergency room at a hospital. With quick diagnosis and treatment, the boy recovered following several weeks in a hospital, as authorities investigated every possible clue for answers. (In Sweden, the law requires an investigation regulated by their bureau for Infectious Disease Control). The contents of all the jars were examined by specialists, though only one jar in particular seemed to be the only one infected! Investigators were completely puzzled! What had caused the infection of merely one jar? Following further investigation, it eventually turned out that when the deer was shot, the bullet had slightly grazed against the trunk of a tree
before killing the game. A few spores from the tree had obviously followed the bullet into the wound
to eventually end up in the preserved meat. Boiling
the jars killed LIVING
bacteria, but not the spores
that found ideal growth conditions during the subsequent storage.
Do you know how the rod-shaped bacterium was first isolated? It has only been a little over a hundred years ago. Yup, some crazy home-sausage makin`, cow biscuit kickin`, dude with a bad comb-over just like mine... made a "bad" ham. (Meaning no curing agent was used). That was in 1896. Several people consumed the bad ham and it was later discovered that due to the enzyme superoxide dismutase
, the bacterium actually tolerated very small traces of oxygen. All fell victim of the bad ham as scientists finally identified and named clostridium botulinum
Now, get this! Botulinum spores are extremely persistent and will survive heating up to 250°F. (121°C), freezing, smoking, and drying. Insidiously, they lie in wait for the right conditions to occur and give no foul smell or taste, making it even more treacherous. In non-cooked fermented sausages, the microorganism must be destroyed using a combination of salt, a drop beyond 5.0 pH, and a minimum drop in Aw water activity to 0.97 or less. So, the answer is... placing fresh vegetables or un-sterilized (garden fresh) spices into sausage is not recommended, as botulinum spores are not uncommon on leafy herbs, peppers, beans, chilies, and corn. Cut off from oxygen by being stuffed into casings and placed in a smoker, the smoking temperatures are ideal for bacteria growth. The risk using fresh garlic is less, but cases of botulism poisoning have been reported after people have eaten home-canned garlic cloves in oil - the ideal environment for anaerobic bacterial growth!
has been identified as a common obligate anaerobic
(cannot grow in the presence of oxygen) bacterium microorganism found in soil and sea sediments. Although it can only reproduce in an oxygen-free environment, when it does reproduce, it produces the deadliest poison known to man - botulinum toxin
. One millionth of a gram ingested means certain death - about 500,000 times more toxic than cyanide.
Onset of symptoms can occur quickly and include nausea, stomach pain, double vision, and spreading paralysis, ultimately reaching the heart or respiratory organs. If treatment is given and the dose is low, half of those affected may survive, but recovery may take months or years. Although fatalities occur yearly, especially in countries where home canning is popular, the risk of acquiring botulism is very, very low. However, the lethal consequences of poisoning may make you wish to reconsider the proper addition of sodium nitrate/nitrite in your products to almost eliminate the risk. Worldwide, there are about 1000 cases of botulism each year.