Canning 101: How Long do Home Canned Foods Really Last?

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You hear a lot of differing advice from people on the subject of how long it’s okay to keep your preserved food once you’ve canned it. Some people say that it’s a year to the date that it went into the jars. Others will tell you that they recently ate the last of the tomatoes their grandmother canned in the summer of ’99 (1999, that is). I’m here to tell you that it’s somewhere in between.

If you talk to one of the Master Food Preservers out there or folks from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the answer goes something like this: “For highest quality, properly stored preserved foods are best eaten within a year of canning.” (Here’s exactly what the NCHFP says.)

Some people might read that statement and think that it means that they have exactly a year to eat through every last jar. The real answer is a bit more nuanced. You will get the very best flavor and quality from a jar that is in its first year, but there’s no internal self destruct devise inside the jar that goes off on day 366 or 367. Preserves older than a year are still safe for consumption.

Home preserved foods remain safe for eating far longer than their first year, but their quality does decline the longer the jars remain on the shelf (or in my case, under the couch). This means that the jam you made two or three years ago is probably still just fine to eat but it may not taste quite as good as did on that summer afternoon when you first put it in the jars. Chances are good, though, that it will still be more delicious than anything you’re able to buy at the grocery store.

If you have some elderly high acid preserves that you’d like to eat up but are making you nervous, here’s what to do. Pull one off the shelf and take a good look at it. In the case of jams, jellies, butters, and other spreads, look to see if it changed colors radically (a little surface discoloration is normal, but total color alternation or loss is suspect). For pickles, relishes, and whole preserved fruit, look at the quality of the brine or syrup. Has it gotten muddy or opaque? Has the liquid level dropped significantly?

If you don’t see any major change, open up the jar. Look at the surface. Has any mold or scum developed? Give it a good sniff. Does it smells funky, dirty, or boozy (do check to see if you added alcohol to the starting preserve, as then it won’t be a useful symptom of spoilage).

Once you’ve determined that all is well, give it a taste (for spreads that have darkened slightly on the surface, feel free to scrape away that top half inch). If you like how it tastes, dig in and include it in your rotation of open jars. Repeat these steps for each older jar you have in your stash.

Sometimes, long storage will rob a preserve of its flavor, particularly if it was sweetened lightly, or with honey or a sugar substitute. If it doesn’t taste like a whole lot, it may not be appropriate for spreading on toast, stirring into yogurt or serving with cheese, but you can always use up those less delicious jars in quick breads or as part of a braising liquid.

All that said, if you feel at all uncomfortable about something you canned, it is still always better to toss it than eat something that gives you pause. If you cringe every time you reach for a particular jar, it’s time to empty it out and move on.

Additionally, sometimes people try new recipes and then determine later on that they just don’t like them (not every recipe is for every person). If you made something and you just don’t like it, either give those jars away to someone who will appreciate it or dump the jars. There’s no reason to torture yourself with something you just don’t like.



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105 Responses to Canning 101: How Long do Home Canned Foods Really Last?

  1. 1
    Tammy says:

    I had a friend who helped her mother-in-law clean out her canning shelves and they found peaches from 1978! While they did ultimately throw them out they tasted them before tossing!!!

    I keep careful records of what I can each year and aim to make a year’s worth of each item. I overshot on tomatoes two years in a row so we’re using up tomatoes from 2013 still. I was just looking at my canning shelf though, and realized that I should be able to use up all the tomatoes this year!

    • 1.1
      Paul says:

      Hi Tammy, I have two large jars of commercial cherries from 1978 that originally came in a syrup which is now largely crystallised. Hasn’t been opened since 1978. I’m thinking of boiling them up in a flavoured syrup (sugar, star anise, orange rind, port). Have you had any microbiologists comment to you on your 1978 peaches?

  2. 2
    Eric says:

    What does the asterisk in the fourth paragraph mean?

  3. 3
    mlaiuppa says:

    I date my jars. Nothing lasts more than a year because I don’t can that much and I do consume it so I’m usually out by the time season for that item rolls around again.

    I do have some Thomcord grape jelly I put up 18 months ago and I’m still using it. Tastes just fine and perfectly safe.

    Good to know as I put up some jams and jellies I want to use this coming 4th of July for my retirement party and that fruit will not be in season before my party to do again.

  4. 4
    vimala says:

    I was wondering if there is anything like a botulism test strip kit?

    • 4.1
      Marisa says:

      There is no such thing. However, botulism can only develop in low acid products, so it is not a risk for most of what people can at home.

      • Ron Randolph says:

        botulism will grow in just about any meat or vegetable. lots of people can vegetables at home. it is colorless, odorless and tasteless so if your product looks bad it’s not from botulism. don’t taste something to see if it has botulism. if you’re concerned that it has botulism, throw it out or boil in an open container for ten minutes to make it safe.

        • Faith says:

          I’m a vegetrarian germphobic …when I can jams, or any vegetables, I follow all the sterlization standards set. I even drop a couple drops of collodial silver in my canned goods the name of the one i use is Argentyn 23 silver I bought at my doctors office. It has no flavor and I think it keeps things safe.

          I thought that it is not recommended to ever can meat at home, but have a professional cannery do it. Plus now hunters, are having the meat tested for Lyme before even bothering taking it home. YIKES!

          • Brent York says:

            No, hunters are not having meat tested for lyme. They’re having meat tested for chronic wasting disease, which is no where near the same thing, and as far as science is aware isn’t transmissable to humans. The reason it’s tested for this is because it’s a prion, so discarded meat, or even bone can continue the spread of CWD in ungulates.

            On the other side of the coin, the bacteria that causes lyme (Borrelia Burgdorferi) is a weak spirochete that doesn’t withstand even lower levels of heat (cooking) very well and is long since dead by the time you reach an internal temperature of “rare”. It doesn’t spread through the meat or bones of the animal and is generally transmitted via a tick bite from a tick who’s first stage of life was attached to an infected field mouse. Since it’s largely spread through ticks (and not through eating animal flesh) even vegetarians can get it. Since ticks like to hide out on bushes IE, plants, of which gardens are full, it’s something vegetarians who garden have to be particularly aware of.

            By the way, you might want to watch it with the colloidal silver. It’s rare, but it can cause Argyria.

            • Kat Cimenski says:

              Very glad to ready your information here. Just having recovered from a bad case of salmonella, acquired while away from home and on vacation, and married to a hunter. About colloidal silver, Argentin 23 can be taken daily with zero risk of turning your skin blue, but other types can only be taken in like, a teaspoon maybe twice a week. My integrative care physician prescribed Argentin 23 for me as soon as it became available. I took it for 4 years with no problem. I had never heard of adding silver to home canning before. If you do chose to home can meats, you need to use a pressure cooker.

        • reina says:

          I have never canned before, and was wanting to can some homemade chicken soup, and some chicken tomato green sauce that I make. What would be the proper way to do this because I didn’t even think about botulism. And I also wanted to can homemade chilies. Thank you

  5. 5
    Warner W Johnston says:

    “Food that has been properly canned will keep indefinitely; but after a year some chemical changes do occur” Blue Book dated 1999

    I personally find sharp pickles that are over a year old to be better, sweet pickles are best in their first two years.

  6. 6
    Christopher Stogdill says:

    I have some pickled garlic from an old recipe that specifies you should try to keep it canned for up to 10 years before use. It does get better with age, but I only like eating it cold as it is too mushy for my tastes otherwise.

  7. 7
    Angela says:

    My mom and dad found some whole plums she pressure canned in the 80’s. They said they were delicious and raved on about it. They will not waste “perfectly good food”. I don’t think anything I can would ever last that long!

  8. 8
    Megan says:

    What’s the life expectancy for open jars once in the fridge? I try to keep mine in the back to keep them as cold as possible, but that often means some will sit for a long time before I unearth them again!

  9. 9
    Christine says:

    Great timing that you posted this! We made WAAAYYY too much nectarine butter in 2013 and are still consuming it and the family is getting a little tired of it. However, the last jar I pulled had separated a bit. There was liquid at the top. I did eat some since it smelled and tasted fine once we stirred all together. Your thoughts??

  10. 10
    Eileen says:

    Thanks for the excellent advice! I have some 3-year-old pickled beets that may get examined (and probably eaten) very soon. 🙂

  11. 11
    Kim says:

    A note on strawberries, peaches and apricots. After about 6 months or so, strawberries will start to loose their color and look pale and anemic (oxidation). Same with peaches and apricots. I find that strawberry jam really starts to loose it’s flavor more rapidly then most fruits. I’m not sure why or what may be happening. There could be a chemical breakdown of the fruit that causes this. Also, browning can occur. This doesn’t affect the food per say, and it’s still safe to eat, it just looks unappitizing. However, that being said always use all your senses to gauge wether a food is good or not. If it doesn’t look or smell right don’t think twice about throwing it away. Also, don’t throw potentially unsafe food in the trash or compost pile. Empty the jars into the sink and garbage disposal it or wrap it up so no person or animal can get to it. Better safe then sorry.

    • 11.1
      Marisa says:

      You only need to take extreme disposal methods with suspicious low acid foods. If a jam or pickle has gone back, it’s going to be moldy or slightly fermented. There’s no need to wrap it. Additionally, if you believe something is suspect, putting it down the garbage disposal isn’t a good option because that waste goes right to your local water treatment plant.

  12. 12
    TLK says:

    If I have a jam or jelly that is way past its prime, or I don’t like, or just didn’t turn out well (*cough* Cranberry Amaretto Jam with consistency of a car tire *cough*), I use it instead of sugar in “Woodpecker Pies”:

    2 cups crunchy peanut butter
    2 cups lard
    1/2 cup sugar or 1 cup failed jam/jelly

    Melt together over low heat. Then add 4 cups quick oats, 4 cups cornmeal, 2 cups flour, plus the tail ends of bags of raisins, poppy seeds, cereal … really anything that looks like a bird would enjoy.

    I pack this mix into quart yogurt/sour cream/cottage cheese containers that have been cut to a few inches tall, with three holes punched near the rim for hanging. Store in the freezer. To feed the woodpeckers and other birds, I hang a “pie” against a tree trunk using string and a picture hook. It may take the birds a few weeks to find the food, but once they do they love it.

  13. 13

    […] How long can those home canned goods live on your shelf? […]

    • 13.1
      Thomas Wells says:

      My Mom gave me some can goods dated 2009, are they still good to eat? How long dose caning goods last after caning them?

      • Marisa says:

        As long as the seals are good, they’re probably not unsafe. The true problem is that they probably won’t taste particularly good after seven years in the year.

  14. 14
    Rebecca Miller says:

    I have a sort of related question. My mom recently bought me a large box of quart canning jars at Goodwill. Most are Kerr, Mason or Ball, but some are plain unmarked jars. Are these jars safe for waterbath canning? They seem lighter than the other jars but I’m not sure….Thanks!

    • 14.1
      Marisa says:

      You don’t want to use old mayonnaise jars for canning. You can typically tell that you’re working with them by twisting on a canning jar ring. If it keeps spinning instead tightening to a stop, you shouldn’t use the jar.

      • Sue Ann says:

        Last year I purchased some canning g jars that have no markings on them either. They are either Bernardino or Golden Harvest jars. The York just like jars from the grocery store so I’ll be using them for jams and jellies from now on just to be on the safe side a d I’ll be looking closely at new jars before I buy them.

  15. 15

    Just as a point of reference, here is a blog post I wrote in 2012 about eating a jar of tomato sauce that we had originally canned in 2008. Just sayin’…..

  16. 16

    thank you for such a common-sense post! Some of my canned goods stick around for a few years for various reasons, and I never have a problem. I’ve noticed that dill pickles get too mushy for our liking after a year, so I pay attention to those jars and only can what we can eat in a year.

    • 16.1
      Marisa says:

      You are so welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it! And I hear you on the mushy dill pickles. They are hard to keep crispy!

      • Sherene Burdick says:

        Ball make a product called pickle crisp, it is amazing ! It keeps pickles very crisp. I don’t keep the jars of pickles in the hot water bath for too long either. 10 to 15 minutes, the longer they are in the water the softer they get,

    • 16.2
      Joey says:

      I to will eat certain things like tomatoes that are many years past the expiration date if they were canned right. I use the if it smells like & tastes like it should, then it must be. I just made chilli with canned tomatoes & sauce from some store that were 3 years past the exp date and it turned out incredible. I smelled & tasted them first though. Common sense can sometimes go a long way.

      • Debbi says:

        My Dad passed away in 2012 and we have pressure canned tomatoes from 2010 – 2012. Do you think they are still OK to use?

    • 16.3
      Jim S says:

      Try fermenting your pickles instead of canning them. Too easy to do, and you will like them more.

  17. 17
    Angela says:

    I think if you can them right, you won’t have a problem. Items that aren’t canned properly will spoil pretty quickly – and you will see it in the jar (as long as the jar isn’t on a back shelf!). It also depends on what the item is. For example, I had some zucchini pickles that didn’t stay crisp. They got a little mushy and that is just YUCK to me. But the recipe didn’t have alum (I think that’s the one for crisping). Anyway, I wasn’t sure the longevity of it, but found out it’s a year. Most other items seem to last.

    Thanks for the post!

  18. 18
    Jennifer says:

    What about chutneys? My understanding is that chutney may improve with age?

  19. 19
    Jay Lough says:

    Doesn’t matter how long it lasts … just give away the excess each year as you can more.

    I grow six or seven jalapeno plants every year on the back deck. My wife turns them into the most wonderful jalapeno jelly I ever tasted. If there’s any jars of it left come time to can more on the following year we just take it to the church & let people in the congregation have it. During the year it makes great little gifts … and it tastes good with bagels and cream cheese.

  20. 20
    Linda goltry says:

    I have canned pie filling that I canned in 2010. Is this still safe to use?

    • 20.1
      Marisa says:

      As long as the jar is still tightly sealed, the color of the pie filling hasn’t changed, and the look and smell is fine, then it’s fine.

  21. 21
    Jessica says:

    I canned plain red beets in a water bath canner in July of 2014. I way over shot what I needed for a year and have a ton left over. I know that a water bath canner isn’t recommended but my grandmother swears its safe and she only ever used a water bath canner. That being said every time I eat my red beets it makes me very nervous. I am buying a pressure canner this year. My question is how long are my red beets really good for. I’d hate to throw 20 jars of red beets if they are still good to eat.

    • 21.1
      Marisa says:

      Those beets are totally unsafe and have been so from the start. You should throw them all away. You are asking for a botulism outbreak.

  22. 22
    Chyrol says:

    I am canning hot packed pickled beets again this year, and water bathing for the required 30 minutes for my elevation for a long shelf life, but nowhere can I find if it is safe to leave the spices in. Most recipes suggest removing spices prior to jarring/canning. I have made 3 different canned pickled beets recipes (hot & cold packing), and have left the spices in one of the recipes. I really enjoyed the taste of the spices left in, more so than removing the spices prior to packing the jars. I have found a few recipes that states specifically to put the spices in the jars prior to either hot or cold packing. I know leaving the spices in affects the taste, which is what I am going for. Does leaving the spices in affect the shelf life? How much of a difference is it to use a 7% or 5% acidity white vinegar (most recommendations are 5% white vinegar) for the pickling liquid? Does cold packing and water bathing for 30 minute elevation affect the shelf life for pickled beets? as opposed to hot packing and water bathing for 30 minutes? Thanks for any info you can give me.

    • 22.1
      Marisa says:

      You can leave the spices in. They don’t make it unsafe or impact the shelf life. You should stick with the 5% vinegar. 7% is designed for cleaning, not culinary applications. And a hot pack is probably better in your case.

  23. 23
    Chyrol says:

    Hi, I am about to do some tomatoe canning again. But this year, I want to attempt to can Italian stewed tomatoes. I am using Roma tomatoes. (have done basic tomatoe and crushed tomatoe canning, but want to broaden my horizons). The thing is I can’t find a decent recipe (checked at least 15) that hasn’t raised the hairs on my neck wondering if I (plus other consumers) would survive the potential sickness it may bring on from the receipes’ processings and/or ingredients, or potential problems with the shelf life. I only surfaced looked at your collection of recipes, but is there a recipe you can recommend? I use a water bathing method of processing and know the minimum time is 40 minutes using the hot packing method (longer if needed). What would the shelf life be?

    By the way, I canned apricots this year and used the hot packing methodology instead of cold (the cold I had used in previous years). Fiasco is a polite way of describing how that whole canning process went. Blanching apricots is an art unto itself (the apricots were perfect for canning too). Thanks for any help you can give.

    • 23.1
      Marisa says:

      The only approved Italian stewed tomato recipes I can find require a pressure canner rather than a boiling water bath canner. There’s a good one in the Ball Blue Book.

  24. 24
    Jean says:

    I have pork meat I canned several years ago. Will it be OK to eat?

    • 24.1
      Marisa says:

      Did you follow proper canning procedure? If so, your pork is probably okay. Just give it a good, close visual check before digging in.

  25. 25
    Chyrol says:

    Hello, I took your suggestion above regarding canning Italian stewed tomatoes and bought a very highly rated dual purpose canner/cooker from Pr…. All went well with all 4 different tomatoe canning recipes I used and only lost 1 jar out of 50.
    I just finished pressure canning hot packed peaches, ensuring I followed every procedure to a T (air bubbles out, pints headed to 1/2 inch, packed hot in hot jars, etc, correct water level for canner, correct pressure, time, pressure down time etc.) . For whatever reason, there was leakage of fluids from some peach jars. (I made 3 batches and all 3 batches had fluid leakagefrom a jar(s))? Cleaned the canner inbetween each batch as well. All of the lids show a concaved (sealed) center. The seals were new and heated/sterilized prior to putting on jars. I will be calling Pr…. about this, but do you maybe have an answer as to why this happened? I never had this problem prior when I used the boiling water method! Any help will be great.

    • 25.1
      Marisa says:

      Having some loss of liquid from the jars of peaches is entirely normal and happens in a boiling water bath as well as in a pressure canner. There may have been some air bubbles trapped between the peach slices that pushed their way to the top of the jars that pushed some liquid out of the jars as the air vented during. There’s no reason to call the company for this.

      • Chyrol says:

        Hi Marisa, thanks for answering all of my questions. Picked up some of your book suggestions on canning and pickling. Great teaching information. Great recipes.

  26. 26
    Chyrol says:

    Hello Marisa. Does it matter if I use brown sugar (packed down to make equivalent to white sugar measurement) or white sugar in a recipe for canning? I’ve only used granulated white and honey combinations so far. So uncertain about the brown sugar usage. Going for a hot packing beet canning recipe with a dry red wine and red wine vinegar, but would prefer to use brown sugar as opposed to white. Can I leave the dehydrated spices in the jars or will the wines affect the tastes of the spices more than white vinegar? What would the shelf life be if I am using the standard water bath and/or pressure canner for canning beets with red vinegar and red wine.

    • 26.1
      Joanie says:

      Yes, there is a difference in the ‘makeup’ of them. Brown sugar is brown because of Molasses. Plus, there is more than one type of white sugar… The kind from a sugar cane, and the kind from a sugar beet.

      Always follow your recipe’s directions to ensure best product and safe canning method.

  27. 27
    Dianne says:

    I recently canned tomatoes in my pressure canner. Some of the tomatoes sunk from the top of the jar, while some stayed at the top of the jar. The seal is good. Why does this happen and is it still safe if the seal is secure, no color discoloration?

  28. 28
    jane says:

    I canned zucchini 25 yrs ago and found some jars in the basement pantry. Safe to eat????

    • 28.1
      Marisa says:

      Possibly safe, but probably not very delicious.

      • Sheila says:

        Pickled? I’m not sure about a recipe from that long ago. If it was not pickled, then definitely dispose of it as if it potentially contains botulism toxins. There used to be a pressure canning process for summer squash, now it is not recommended as there is a density issue. Besides pickling, zucchini may be safely PC’d in combination with tomatoes, but the ratio needs to be no more than 1 lb of squash to 3 lbs of tomatoes.

        • WSHiram says:

          Was cleaning out an old house a few years ago, and in the basement root cellar, there were approximately 100 old blue ball jars, various sizes, mostly all still full/sealed. The labels on some indicated they were canned in the late 1940s. Green beans, cherries mostly.

          I decided to empty them and clean the jars for a display, and as the jars mostly smelled alright, curiosity got the best of me. Amazingly, they still tasted alright! A bit bland, but decent enough, and no illness was suffered!

          I am not saying I would make a habit of eating things that old, but given the right storage environment, it is possible to keep indefinitely.

  29. 29
    rocky says:

    marisa,i have a question,not about preserves. if i make a big pot of cream of asparagus or potaroe soup,and can in glass mason jars,how long should it last? how about cream of chicken soup? does the cream shorten shelf life?

    • 29.1
      Marisa says:

      This is nothing something you can preserve. Dairy products cannot be canned, even with a pressure canner.

      • lorinda case says:

        How do brands can evaporated and condensed milk, and even whole milk? I have pressure canned milk before, butter too. So far, no problems. There’s a lot of info on it on youtube by other experienced canners.

        • Marisa says:

          Commercial producers have access to machinery that is able to achieve higher temperatures and pressures than is possible at home. Just because you see someone doing something on YouTube doesn’t mean that it’s a safe procedure.

  30. 30
    Elizabeth says:

    My neighbor just gave me a jar of beetroot preserve, dated March 2011. It is now October 2015. Is it safe to eat??

  31. 31
    Mike g says:

    The date is November 8th 2015, looking at my canned beets from 2011 they are awefully grey and would not eat them myself. the colour has lightened up quite a bit and the syrop now looks a lot more transparent. I would only give beets a shelf life of 3 years maximum and 2 years for optimal taste and nutrition!

  32. 32
    Sandra says:

    Hi there, I have recently preserved some of my tomatoes using a vacola (a week ago). These tomatoes were washed and chopped up, so they’re in pieces. Now I would like to make them into a passata. Can I re preserve them in a vacola? Thank you, I look forward to your response.

  33. 33
    Cindy says:

    I want to know what is the beat storage for bean and ham soup? I don’t have a pressure cooker/canner I can rely upon. So what I’ve done is sterling my jars and fill them hot with hot soup. I have water bath them for 30. Wminutes. What is the best way to store them? Freeze or refrigerator? I don’t have a lot of room in the fridge, but I don’t know what’s the safest. How long can I trust them in the fridge?

  34. 34

    When I was fighting in Vietnam, the us government were still giving us canned mre’s that they had stockpiled from the end of ww2

    • 34.1
      Joanie says:

      While I’m not sure how your comment is relevant to the conversation, you left out some pertinent information to make your statement imormative or droll.

      First, for those who don’t know history, the Vietnam war (November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975) and WW2 (September 1, 1939 – September 2, 1945) were 10 years apart. Given the long shelf life of MRE’s (Meal Ready to Eat), it would be entirely plausible that some could still be in rotation during the onset of the conflict; therefore I find it highly probable you’d be eating WW2 produced rations. C-Rations last a long time. It’s a bit of a stretch to think they’d be giving them to you and them 30 years old. Now… The question of your age. Assuming you were draft age and serving, at the start of the war, you’d be about 80 now.

      So… When did this allegedly take place? What year were the rations to expire when you consumed them? Did they make you, or anyone in your unit, sick? Not that a MRE is a pinnacle of culinary excellence, but did they taste okay (given what they would ‘normally’ taste like)?

      And since your post contained no real canning information, I’m not sure of your objective in posting it. Perhaps you could clear up some of the mystery…


      • Rhonda says:

        It seems to me that Ray’s comment is relevant to the topic being that the topic is how long properly canned food lasts. C-Rations were given to my father, also a Vietnam Veteran, and he says they tasted fine although the cigarettes were a bit stale. Additionally I’m not sure about the purpose to your little rant but you should get a life and show some respect.

      • Sherry says:

        Assuming your disrespectful attitude, it’s a bit of a stretch to believe you’re an adult. Your are about 15, right? Shame on you! I completely agree with Rhonda’s post below…”Get a life and show some respect.”

  35. 35
    Bonnie Campbell says:

    I cannned some blueberry sauce just over a year ago. All of the jars are still tightly sealed, but the sauce has seperated and all of the jars now consist of a congealed lump in the center surrounded by liquid yhw consistency of water. I’m sure it would get back to its original consistency if I reheat it, but I’m wondering if this change in the jar is a bad sign.

    • 35.1
      Marisa says:

      That loss of texture often happens in low sugar preserves. When you shake it, does it come back together? It’s probably not unsafe, but it might not be as delicious as it once was.

  36. 36
    Kathy says:

    I just would like to ask a question.. Can I leave my already sliced pears in water and in the frig overnight till I am ready to start my pear purserves the next morning??

  37. 37
    Linda K says:

    I was wanting to know about some canned pickles, salsa, and butters. My son was cleaning out a house for someone and came across some canned items. Some have dates back to 2010. Some of the jars are a little opaque and some have some darkening on the surface. Are they safe? We opened and cleaned out the discolored food and tasted it. It tasted fine and did not have afunky smell. There are several jars and I would hate to through them out if they are not bad.

    • 37.1
      Marisa says:

      If the seals are good and the product hasn’t changed color radically, they are probably safe. However, they may not be as good as they once were.

  38. 38
    Juan Pablo says:

    Hi Marisa! I´ve been canning my favourite sauce, Tikka Masala. My question is, Do I need to refrigerate it while canned? I ask because it contains dairy products (heavy milk cream).

    Or can I just keep on the shelf?


    • 38.1
      Marisa says:

      Anything that includes dairy products is not safe for shelf stable canning. You need to keep that sauce refrigerated.

  39. 39
    Diana says:

    I feel like I’m not getting the answer I’m looking for .i canned speghetti sauce 7months ago,I didn’t use any exta acidity ,what are the chances it’s still good ?the sauce is sealed in ball jars .

    • 39.1
      Marisa says:

      Tomato products require additional acidity for safety. The spaghetti sauce you made is not safe and should not be consumed. It doesn’t matter that the jars are still sealed. The issue is the fact that you are running a botulism risk.

  40. 40
    Jedda S says:

    Fresh vine blackberries that were jarred in ’95 and ’98. Liquid level is still the same as day 1, all seals are secure no leakage, only thing besides being over 20 yrs old is that the berry’s have lost some color. They are more of a grey tone now.. Any suggestions on using or tossing?

    • 40.1
      Marisa says:

      They’re probably taste like nothing that this point. I wouldn’t try to salvage them, simply for that fact.

  41. 41
    Paige says:


    I have jars of tomatoes left from 2014 through last year, not a lot, but if they look good and smell good can’t i just make some good pasta sauce with them for use to eat up now with spaghetti? I did properly can them with a pressure cooker. We’d like to get the pantry cleaned out and re-stocked with everything from this year’s garden.

  42. 42
    Mike says:

    I’ve eaten many jars of 15+ year old fish that my Dad canned in the Yukon. Still tasted good, but definitely not fresh.

  43. 43
    Walt says:

    I think I have you all beat. We just discovered about 100 canning jars in my long-gone grandparents dug basement. These would be from about the time of the war,1940-1950. We’re talking 70 years old! I’ve opened a couple of jars and they are still vacuum-sealed. Blackberrires, apples, beans, tomatoes, even corn on the cob. Also gallon jars of molasses and vinegar.. What to do, what to do?

    • 43.1
      Marisa says:

      You probably don’t want to eat those things. Even if the seals are good, they’re not going to offer much in the way of flavor or nutrition.

  44. 44
    Kathe says:

    I canned spaghetti sauce with meat with pressure canner 4 yrs ago. Also I have salsa and jellies canned with water bath from the same year. Everything looks the same as when I set them in the pantry. Do you think they are safe to eat?

  45. 45
    charles says:

    Personally I’m fine throwing out a jar or two. I almost always eat what I can within a year of making it simply because I rotate my stuff as Im making it and I don’t can 100 cans of the same thing.
    That being said if I miss a jar and its going on over a year and a half I just toss it. At the end of the day it’s typically only a pint or two and it’s not that big of a deal for me.

  46. 46
    David grace says:

    How can I preserve tomatoes while waiting to be canned

  47. 47

    […] that the jars are sealed. Store canned items in a dark, cool, and dry environment. With regard to shelf life, items with a high acidity can last one to one and a half years. Foods with a low acidity can last […]

  48. 48
    Ann Anderson says:

    Hi, it’s 2017, just found 4 jars of my beet pickles from 2015!! I opened tasted, o.k., just little duller in color! Can these make you SICK?? There pickled!! THANKS, Ann

    • 48.1
      Marisa says:

      As long as the seals were good and you originally followed a recipe from a reliable source, you should be fine.

  49. 49
    Beth Ann fisher says:

    What about cooked / stewed tomatoes put in canning jars while boiling hot. Lids sealed. No water bath. No canner used. I just refrigerated the sealed jars. Some have Frozen in the fridge bot not solid. They are about 6 months old. Eat or not? Safe or not.


  1. The Goods - Mountain Mama Cooks - January 31, 2015

    […] How long can those home canned goods live on your shelf? […]

  2. 6 Ways to Store Food Long Term – Survival John - October 8, 2017

    […] that the jars are sealed. Store canned items in a dark, cool, and dry environment. With regard to shelf life, items with a high acidity can last one to one and a half years. Foods with a low acidity can last […]

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