Storing Bacon Jam

From the recent conversation about bacon jam, we understood that the prepared product was stored at room temperature. Please do not store bacon jam at room temperature. Storing bacon jam at room temperature poses the risk of botulism, a serious foodborne illness caused by the nerve toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum, a spore forming bacteria. How could this happen?

Our search identified several bacon jam recipes. For example, see:

All bacon jam recipes included bacon, onions, garlic, sugar and an acid source (cider or sherry vinegar). Some recipes contained spices.

  • Bacon contains salt and sodium nitrite; these preservatives in combination with refrigeration are at levels designed to prevent growth of Clostridium botulinum.
  • Onions and garlic are grown in the soil where Clostridium botulinum spores are found and are low acid foods. Garlic-in-oil stored at room temperature has caused outbreaks of foodborne botulism.
  • Although acid is added, the pH of the final product is unknown. A pH below 4.6 is necessary to limit growth of Clostridium botulinum and formation of the botulism-causing toxin.
  • Although the bacon jam is cooked during preparation, there is no final heat process to destroy contaminating yeasts and molds after the jam is added to jars. Growth of molds and yeasts in acid products can raise the pH (reduce the acidity) and make a favorable environment for Clostridium botulinum to germinate, grow and produce toxin.

Some bacon jam recipes indicate that the prepared jam is to be refrigerated or frozen. Some give no directions for storage. For safety, we strongly recommend that bacon jam be refrigerated for times suggested by the recipe (2-4 weeks) or that it be frozen for longer storage.

Why is botulism such a big deal? Botulism is as serious as food poisoning gets. It can result in respiratory failure and death.  Even when patients survive, they may be hospitalized, they may be on a ventilator for months, and they may suffer permanent nerve damage.