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?
I learned canning from my grandmother. She always put a glug of something alcoholic in batches just before canning. Our jams and butters taste better after three years in storage. And yes we eat the fresh canned results also.
I love to know more ive started learning storing and home remedies and interested in ideas
I made an awesome cough syrup using raw organic honey and berries. Put honey and berries in jar (used blueberries to start)…it will bubble and toil then turn to a liquid all on its own. Just before its full of probiotics, I added in a piece of ginger, garlic, turmeric. It was amazing and my doctor said that this combination is admirable and to take one vitamin c caplet because I wasn’t getting enough of that. Tip: After about 4-5 days remove the berries then add in fresh berries. Fermented my batch for 3 months before using it.
Ann Weas says
Can or is it safe to eat food that have rusted lids
if i remember correctly, no.
Sharon Brooks says
about 3 yrs. ago. I canned in small ball jelly jars Pablano peppers in oilve oil and lemons in honey in the same size jar, put them in the refrigerator and forgot them , took them out today and they look fine ,still sealed . The honey w/ the lemon has thinned out but otherwise looks good. Did not open them yet . suppose they are still good?
I can a lot of food. Both hot bath and pressure canning. I can green and yellow beans and I use them over a three year period. Yes, I definitely check them for spoilage before heating and serving. I do the same with tomatoes. At least three years old. But, my peaches have browned inside the jars at the top a little and this makes me have doubts. Pears look and taste just fine after three years. Not trying to mis-lead anyone, but I carefully examine each jar before it is opened. I recommend everyone examine their jars.
I agree with more than 1 year is safe, using common sense of course. So much good food is wasted in believing some magic timer on the food ticks down to zero at 1 year.
Tami Baker says
Better than getting sick on tainted food.
Mary Mullon says
If the lid is rusted or discolored on the INSIDE do not use. If the rust is on the ring or a scratch on the outside it should be good. Do not leave the rings on for storage as the will rust and can rust through the lid. The lid is treated on the inside if that treatment got scratched, dump it.
ALWAYS bring your canned but not pickled food to a boil and slow boil it for 20 min. Before eating it whether it was canned last week or last year or 2 years ago. If it smells or looks off do not eat it.
Dawn morgan says
What about canned goods ten years plus? Jelly fruit pickled stuff? They are a lilies discolored but lis intact.
Sharon Jack says
I opened a jar of canned tomatoes dated 2012. The tomatoes smelled fine, and have good color. I boiled them for over 30 minutes as I plan to make spaghetti sauce with them. Am I right in feeling that they are safe to eat?
Kathy Osborne says
I canned plum and raspberry juice 3yrs ago and I want to make jelly ,will it be ok
If I have 20 jars of canned relish ready for the water bath, but only room for 6 jars; what can I do?
Can I process 6 jars, then let bath water bath cool a bit before adding 6 more jars (that may have cooled a bit).
Or can I put the remaining 20 jars in a sink of hot water while the first six sit in water bath.
Just trying to figure out how to make a big recipe without the water bath capability to handle the large volume.
Any ideas would be appreciated
Nancy DeMeerleer says
My mom canned prunes many years ago. I just found some jars still in the back of the cupboard. These are at least 10 years old. I opened one and it was definitely sealed tight! Smelled great, no mold, nothing to indicate it would be bad. I just can’t bring myself to eat them. Could they still be bad?
dewey gauldin says
I’m 67yo man, I live where I was born, just my dog & me, I have canned in jars by using a pressure cooker, green beans under this house that were there when I was a kid, before 16yo I know. I have 40+ jars of preserves & jams that old also, squash & I would eat them today, I watched my Mama can them & learned from her, all the tops look great with a little surface rust on some beans, of course I’ll check them but the tops are all depressed in! So they last this long for me!
What I find odd; During my tenure in the Military, Vietnam, We ate “C” Rations, most were left over from WW II, Korea. This was long before MRE’s, Cans of Ham and Eggs, Baked Muffins, Chopped Meat, Chicken, a myriad of stuff. Chewing Gum, Cigarettes, like Green Lucky Strike Packages and Phillip Morris and Pall Malls. No one ever got sick..
I was in Vietnam in 1965, 20 years after WW II was over and 13 years after Korea’s Cease Fire.
Now, if we ate those meals, why not Canned Goods over 3 years old. More importantly, one must check on the Integrity of the Container, Jar/Lids, looking for Precocities in the metal area that may be rusted. Cans Bulging, Dented or Open in any way.
What is the difference between those cans and the cans we buy at the store?
Americans need to know, should a severe weather or other crisis his our country, we need to know the food we are eating is Safe.
I have a couple questions I make salsa how long does it last if I do a water bath 20 min ? On line they give different months and years ? I have kept the rings on my salsa is this not a good idea ? I have done this because weekly I have friends or neighbors dropping by to get salsa .
I left some canned tomatoes and green beans in my car for many days it has gotten very hot. Is the food bad or am I fine to eat it?