It’s time for another Dayton Comestibles Corn Whiskey Mustard update!
As we say goodbye to summer, we’re still waiting for our recipe analysis from the food scientist with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. He’s testing a sample of the mustard, and analyzing our recipe and cooking process. When he’s done, we’ll get an official “process authority letter” from him that will tell us whether our mustard is “low acid,” “high acid” or “acidified,” and how we have to process it to be shelf stable and safe without refrigeration.
Acidity is measured on the pH scale. Confusingly, “High acid” foods are products with a pH below 4.6, and “low acid” foods have a pH above 4.6. The food scientist’s analysis of the pH and other factors determines whether we have to meet just Ohio’s food safety standards, or both Ohio’s and the federal Food and Drug Administration standards (which are much more stringent–and from our perspective, more time-consuming to meet).
Why is pH important? Because a food’s acid content makes it either a harsh or cozy environment for the kinds of molds, yeasts, bacteria and other microorganisms that are floating around in the air, and are likely to end up in every batch of food products. Even products that are made under sanitary conditions have some wee beasties in the raw product.
Cooking a food product to 212 degrees F kills most of the germs that can make you sick, but one–a nasty bugger called Clostridium botulinum–laughs at temperatures up to and beyond the mere boiling point of water. If you’re going to be sealing your food product in an airtight container, and storing it at room temperature, it takes high-temperature processing and an acidic environment with a pH below 4.6 to slow down Clostridium botulinum’s growth. The bacterium itself won’t kill you–it creates a deadly paralyzing toxin that can paralyze your face in small doses (AKA Botox®) or paralyze your diaphragm and suffocate you in large doses.
Naturally, the health of our customers is our #1 concern, so all of our products will be created to the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s (and possibly the FDA’s) exacting food safety standards. This step in the process is so important that most everything else is on hold until this step is completed. We hope to get our Process Authority letter next week (fingers crossed!)