Canning foods you grew and harvested yourself is exciting and rewarding. After canning, you have rows of colorful jars lining your pantry ready to be enjoyed at any time. Just like any other food, however, home canned goods do not last forever. Use this guide to help you determine if your canned goods are safe to eat.
General Expiration Guidelines for Home Canned Foods
The USDA recommends that all home canned goods be consumed within one year of canning for maximum safety. Since inconsistencies in home canning can cause a variety of issues, the risk of mold growth and bacterial contamination are higher for home canned products. Even if the food still looks safe to eat, it is still possible that it is contaminated in some way. Always label your foods after canning with the date and use within one year. If you have too many foods to eat within a year, give some away to friends or relatives.
Identifying Spoiled Canned Goods
Just like for store-bought canned goods, the biggest risk of contamination with canned foods is botulism. Botulism can cause serious health risks, including paralysis and breathing problems. If you notice any signs of spoilage in your home canned goods, dispose of them right away.
- Look for signs of contamination in your cans. Common signs include:
- A popped top (the can lid is bulging or you can depress the top of the can)
- Broken seals
- Mushy textures (not present when you canned the items)
- Bubbles in the liquid
- Strange odor
- Exploding contents after opening the can
- Rusted lids
- Leaking fluids
Preventing Spoilage in Home Canned Goods
Without proper preparation, your canned goods may not make it the full year. Use these tips to stop that from occurring.
- Always store your cans in a cool (72 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal), dry area. Store the cans out of direct sunlight. A room with no sun exposure at all is best (such as a cellar or dark pantry).
- Before canning, wash and trim all foods. Improperly trimmed or washed vegetables increase the microbial load of the foods, which can lead to early spoiling.
- Pack food loosely to ensure the entire contents of the can reach the required temperature for safety and sealing.
- Make sure you process the cans for long enough before removing from the heat. The USDA recommends canning in a pressure canner at 244 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes at full steam or canning in a boiling water bath for at least 10 minutes. Follow the USDA guidelines for the specific food you are canning.
Ensuring Canned Goods Safety
Canning at home is a wonderful way to preserve an overflow of garden fruits and vegetables for the coming year. Just make sure you follow recommended canning guidelines and consume the goods within a year to prevent health risks.
How long do you store your home canned foods?