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

January 28, 2015(updated on October 3, 2018)

122 | 365

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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171 thoughts on "Canning 101: How Long do Home Canned Foods Really Last?"

  • 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. 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?

  • 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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!

          1. 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.

            1. 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.

            2. Argyria is largely nonsense. The people who developed that made their own using home made contraptions, and not store bought or made at home using a professionally made device. And they took a lot.

        2. 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

  • “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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

    1. As long as they aren’t moldy or smell of fermentation, they’re fine. There’s no blanket guideline, because it depends on the amount of sugar in the preserve. Here’s a blog post I wrote about how to extend the lifespan of your open jars.

      1. Hi, I do not can much but I made watermelon rind preserves about ten or more years ago. Although the seal was good, the insides had turned very dark. I tasted a wee bit and it tasted all right, but I am afraid to ear more. What do you think……….

  • 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??

    1. Butters are definitely prone to separation. If the seal was good and it didn’t seem different beyond the separation, I’m sure it was fine.

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

  • 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.

    1. 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  • 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.

    1. 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!

      1. 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,

    2. 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.

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

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

  • 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!

  • 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.

    1. 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.

  • 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.

    1. 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.

  • 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.

    1. 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.

  • 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.

    1. 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.

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

  • 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  • 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.

    1. 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.

  • 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?

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

  • 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?

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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

    1. 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…


      1. 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.

      2. 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.”

  • 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.

    1. 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.

  • 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??

  • 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.

    1. 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.

  • 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?


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

  • 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 .

    1. 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.

  • 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?

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

  • Marissa,

    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.

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

  • 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?

    1. 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • We have home canned tomatoes from 2011 some look fine some are dark. Going to throw the dark ones away. The comment was made that tomatoes needed additional acid added I don’t remember adding any additional acid and my mom won’t remember are they still good? Should I use or toss.

    1. The additional acid is what prevents any possible botulism spores from germinating into a dangerous toxin. If you can’t remember whether you added acid, you should probably throw them away.

      1. I’m surprised at the fuss being made about adding lemon or some acid to canning tomatoes. I’ve been canning tomatoes for 30 years and never had a problem. That’s many hundreds of bottles tomatoes consumed by me and friends. My mom did the same for 60 or 70 years and not a problem. Ditto my many Italian aunts. No lemon – no acid has to be added to tomatoes as far as my experience and those of my Italian relatives here in Canada.
        Any thoughts?

        1. Tomatoes have been bred to be lower in acid than they used to be. Modern tomatoes have a higher pH and so have a higher risk of developing botulism without added acid. You and your family have been lucky.

  • Hi, New to Canning. Can you can an entire meal? It seems everything I’m coming across is just singular items. Thank you.

    1. You CAN can many things, but the question is whether they would be enticing later. You COULD can lettuce, for example, but YUCK! Who would want to eat that? Noodles? No. Nor things that are extremely dense, or things with milk products.

      Be sure to get a good canning book and follow the directions EXACTLY. When canning low acid foods and meat, you MUST use a pressure canner. This is basically anything not pickled or jellied.

      My county has a public cannery where people can go and use industrial-grade equipment for low cost. Many people can most anything they have a lot of, including meat they hunt. I know the three counties nearest us also have these canneries, sponsored by the school system and the Co-op Extension Service.

    1. It depends on how much vinegar is in the brine, how you processed them, and how you’re storing them. Typically about a year if they’ve been processed correctly.

      1. I recently ate my grandmas jar of pickled beans from August 2008. They taste exactly the same as newer batches, just a little mushier. I feel fine lol

  • I would add when opening a jar that is older, pay attention to HOW the lids comes off. If it seems to ‘fly’ off or seems to have pressure behind the lid, then throw it out. Botulism can NOT be detected by taste/smell or color – which is one reason it is hard to detect. However, the gas by product of botulism increases the pressure in the jar so the lid “POPS” off with force. If there is any doubt – throw it out.

  • I just opened a jar of mulberry syurp, ( was supposed to be jelly but wouldn’t set so it turned into great syurp). Made said syurp in 2010. No mold, tasted just as good as the day it was canned. Not sure I would try other canned goods that old,but it was my last jar and dont have access to mulberrys anymore. Everyone thought it was ths best syurp they ever had.

  • I have a question I was hoping someone could help me with…. I make chili with meat and I also make a pot of different type beans with meat as well. The beans I use come from cans. I just bought a pressure canner cooker and want to jar the beans and chili to eat later. Does anyone have any info that would be helpful on how to go about it… I’m not sure of the settings on the pressure cooker for the chili and beans and also unsure of the shelf life after. Thank you in advance

    1. There are no electric multi cookers that are safe to use as pressure canners, no matter what the box tells you.

        1. Unfortunately, they do not. The have an electric water bath canner and an electric canner that uses a small amount of pressure. However, it is not an electric pressure canner like what the previous commenter was asking about.

  • I have a store bought jar of vine leaves in brine. It has been kept in the fridge & the safety button hasn’t popped.
    It is now nearly 6 years old. I wanted to make dolmas so they will be cooked.
    What do you advise?

    1. They’re probably okay, but that long in the jar means that they might have experienced some decline in quality. It’s really a call that only you can make.

  • I canned antipasto 3 years ago. I tasted it. It tasted ok – maybe a little dry. Do you think it is still safe to eat ?

  • What about plums in very light syrup (used a ball recipe) water bath canned 3 years old? Does water bath vs pressure canning make a difference in the longevity/safety of canned fruit?

    1. Pressure canning won’t make a difference in longevity. In fact, using a pressure canner on fragile fruit can break down the flesh more than a boiling water bath canner would, and so can shorten the quality of the product’s shelf life.

  • would it be okay to store pickled cucumbers and peppers on the kitchen counter if they have been canned using a water bath? They look pretty on the counter and would love some thoughts on leaving them out. About 25 jars.

    1. It’s really best to store them in a dark place. Light degrades preserves and so they won’t keep as well if you store them like that.

    1. As long as it was initially processed in a pressure canner, it’s probably okay. It may have declined in flavor, though.

  • Thank you. I took the lid off an on the inside of the lid there is black circles on it so I’ve just been feeding it to my dog’s better safe than sorry

  • Good afternoon from Augusta, GA, Marisa. I have a large Fig tree in my yard that I air-layered some years back; and it has the most delicious figs on it. Last year I made Fig preserves like my Mom and I made about 20 years ago. I canned them (using a water bath) and gave most away as jarred gifts to friends and family. However, I ha saved about three jars; and am making more preserves today with Figs I just picked from the tree. I am wondering since it has been about one-year since I canned those three—will they be safe and tasty if (1) I ate a jar now; and (2) would they be nice enough to give to someone? Thanks so much. I am so happy that I came upon this site. Pat

    1. They should be just fine after a year in the jar. I have no qualms about giving someone a year old jar.

  • Hi, I bought canned cherries in Door County one summer about 4-5 years ago. They are in jars and the liquid looks good the cherries don’t look red but I think after canning they look a little brown. The seal is good. Are they safe to eat? One is cherry pie filling. Thank you in advance

    1. They are probably safe to eat, but they may have lost some of their flavor. They will probably be best used in a baking project.

  • I recently found my old vacola set . Inside we’re some jars of preserved fruit c1978! Will they still be edible?

    1. I wouldn’t eat them. Chances are high that they will have absolutely no flavor. They won’t kill you, but they won’t taste good.

  • When canning besns on 8/1/22, had 1 jar that did not seal. I put it in the fridge that day. How long is it good for refrigerated?

  • I have some bottled apricots I canned several years ago. When I looked at a jar the other day the syrup(sugar water) has gone to a jelly texture. They are still sealed. What caused that and are they bad now?

    1. If you used a heavy syrup, it’s possible it got to the gel stage during the cooking process and caused the current texture. They should still be safe to eat.

  • My Father in the late 70s gave me some fruit and applesauce that my Great-Aunt had canned sometime in the late 50s to early 60s. The applesauce, pear, and apricots had a mild sweet taste that is hard to describe but I wish I still had some of them. I ate the last of the applesauce in the early 90s. According to what my Dad said back then that fruit never really goes bad but if it did it would turn to vinegar. Now the vegetables he tossed because you couldn’t always tell if they had turned.

  • We canned fruits and veggs last august and have them on sheves in a closet ar temps of 70-80 degrees how long will they last?

    1. I can’t tell you precisely, but those aren’t super extreme temps. You should be good for the regular 18-24 month period.

  • I have found a woman selling her vegetable soup she says was canned in jars in 2020? According to your article it will be safe for human consumption.
    I just don’t know this person. So I’m apprehensive to buy her can goods. Thanks for your information. I’m going to pass on her goods.

  • I caned turkey figs preserves in 2015
    They were under my bed and cool.
    I didn’t think I had any more, but I have a case plus two jars. Now I want to know if they are too old to eat ? They look good but I don’t want to get food poisoning. Can you please tell me if they are eatable.
    Thanks Martha

    1. As long as you properly acidified them and the seals are still good, those fig preserves are not going to give you food poisoning. It is just that quality declines over time, so they may not be as good as they once were.

  • We have canned turkey breast that is about 2 and 1/2 to 3 years old Just wondered if it would be still safe to eat it looks good in the jars just I’ve not had the opportunity to use it at this point

    1. As long as it was processed properly, the jars are still well-sealed, and it hasn’t changed consistency or color, it should be fine. However, the quality may have declined slightly over the last few years. I’d suggest opening on and giving it a try.

  • My Mom made her last batch of cranberry jelly maybe in 1988. My Dad passed in 1990. My Mom moved in with her middle son out of 5 in 1995+/-. In December 2000, she went into a nursing home. My brother asked if I wanted her cranberry jelly and my response was ‘definitely’. Back when my Mom did jelly, it got put into any kind of jars, melted wax was then poured over it for a seal and the lid was put on. That jelly was some of the best she and my Dad ever made. There were only a couple jars that were emptied into the trash ‘just because’. Enjoy your home canned goods, they are the best.

  • I made some honey oranges slices and water bath canned them. Then I made some and placed in sealed jar. Do I refrigerate those after opening or can they stay on the counter?
    I use them in my tea.

  • Thank you so much for elaborating on this. I’m new to canning and have so many questions. Speaking of which, I understand that once the jar is sealed up, the food can last over a year or even longer, according to what you wrote. But how long does it last once opened? Is there a list somewhere that says how long different homemade canned foods last once opened? Or do you have some examples?

    1. It basically just depends on the product. High sugar jams and pickles last months in the fridge. The lower the sugar content of the jam, the less keeping quality it has.