Food Canning & Expiration Dates

How long can home canned food be stored?

Food Canning and Expiration Dates.  This question is posed, How long can home canned food be stored?  How long will it last?  Is there an expiration date for home canned foods?  Watch this video for some answers.  

Video notes below, edited for clarity:

When food canning, how long are home canned jars of food good on the shelf? How do you determine an expiration date?

Welcome to where you can find home food preservation classes and tutorials. Come visit me and I will help you get your pantry filled.

Today we are talking about expiration dates on jars of home canned food. I get this question a lot, and I've seen this question even in other places too. Some people are wondering if jars of home canned foods are like freeze dried food, where you can keep it for 30 years.

My answer to that is: No, it's not a good idea. 

Home food canning is a cyclical process.

Home food canning is a cyclical process.  It is meant to work like this…

  • You preserve your food while it is in season,
  • consume it when it is out of season and by the time it is in season again...
  • you are eating fresh food and preserving once again for the out-of-season time. 

It is not really meant to be food that you preserve and store away for many years.  

The official recommendation for how long to store jars of food is one year, and you're recommended to eat it within 2 years. It's a quality issue. After that first year, the food is not necessarily bad, so don’t throw it away just yet. After that first year, food in the jars does start to deteriorate a little quicker so the quality will suffer. 

If it's been a year, and you know the food has been properly processed, don’t throw your food away.  Just pull it to the front of the cupboard and make a plan to use it up soon. 

Home Canning: What is the Shelf Life?

Canning Food: What Happens After a Year?

Everybody will have a little bit of a different comfort level as far as how long that they will keep their jars of food. Depending on what it is, a little bit longer than a year is probably okay. For example, these jars of green beans are two years old, and I'm totally okay using them. I'd probably be even okay if they were three years old. I know it has been processed correctly. I can check the seal and know that the seal is good. So…I’ll eat the beans. 

I try to stick to a year for most everything. But some years, you just have an abundance. We had an abundant green bean crop, so I canned a lot more than what we could use in a year. It just depends.

If it were pears, not so much. Anything that's a little more fragile, like fruit, tends to get soft and mushy in the jar. I really try to stick with a year for fruit. But again I’m not going to throw it away…I just make a point of using it up.  

There are other things that will last much longer, and I am very comfortable using it much longer.  Things like full-sugar jam and jelly. Those have so much sugar in them, and this sugar does act as a preservative. I've got jams and jellies that are five and six years old, and I'm totally okay with that. This doesn’t really apply to low- or no-sugar jam and jelly. I notice a lot of quality deterioration after a year, so I make small batches when I’m doing low sugar.  

How Long is Too Long? 

There is a limit though, and this is where I say everybody's limit is different. I have had people contact me about jars of food that are very, very old. One in particular that sticks in my mind is when someone had a jar of beets that their grandmother had canned 40 years ago. I recommended that they not eat it. I don't know what they finally did with it, but that would be pushing the extremes. 

2 Things to Check with Food Canning

  1. You do want to make sure that you know how the product was canned. Make sure that it was canned properly with the proper methods. 
  2. You do want to make sure that that seal is solid. If that seal is broken, then you don't want to eat it. That actually goes for anything, even during that first year. 

Home Food Canning & Rotating Your Jars

Rotating your food is important. Make sure you put the newly canned jars at the back. And use the older stuff first. 

Make sure you put dates on it, even just the year. 

For example, this jar just has a year on it. I usually put the month and the year, but at least get that year on there because you don't want to rely on your memory. You won't remember. Things get shuffled around in a pantry. Even if you don't do a lot of food canning like I do, still put a date on your jars. 

The one year use is ideal. A little bit longer is okay. Rotate your jars, so you will be good to go.

I hope that was helpful. Again, this is Sharon Peterson. I'm with You guys have a wonderful afternoon. We'll talk to you later.

How Long are Jars of Home Canned Food Good For?

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Canning Safety
Guide to Home Canning Equipment

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Page last updated: 2/19/2020.

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