I like to mince a whole head of garlic and then store it in a jar with olive oil in my fridge for convenience. But i recently read that it is not safe to keep this way. Does anyone know more about this?
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Garlic oil can breed botulism spores if stored incorrectly. There was a case of a large Canadian chain killing a few people in the mid-80s because their garlic oil was unrefrigerated.
Your garlic oil won't keep indefinitely but you can continue the practice, just make small amounts and of course store in the fridge. Never try to preserve it and never keep it at room temp.
I just peel my garlic and store it in a container in the fridge I only chop or use my garlic press when I'm ready to use it. I would skip covering it in oil just as a safety measure.
The oil creates an anaerobic (airless) environment, perfect for growing botulism spores. Storing raw garlic this way is NOT safe, even when it is refrigerated.
Better to roast the garlic heads first then either store whole or as a paste in oil. No botulism problems and tastes much more mellow then raw.
This question, and the somewhat competing answers, caused me to do a bit of research. According to the Univ of Colorado Extension Service (a trustworthy source -- see http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09305.html/ ) there are several different types of botulism, a few of which can be present in improperly preserved food. Also according to the same site (and they specifically talk about garlic in oil) botulism should not be a concern in a refrigerated environment where the temp is 38F or lower. I don't know why you would get a different answer if the garlic was a paste (even if roasted first) but am curious what others might think. Presumably the roasting would be an initial kill step, but also presumably the garlic would be cooled before made into a paste, allowing for the reintroduction of spores -- thoughts?
Bottom line, looks like you could store in oil in the fridge, BUT ONLY if you know that your fridge is 38F or lower. Most home refrigerators are callibrated to operate at 40F or lower and that small temp difference could be enormously important.
So, ask yourself: how confident am I that my fridge is 38F or lower? How important is the potential time saving versus the potential risk?