Self-Sufficiency Series

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How long will home-canned food last?

I was cleaning out my pantry a couple days ago when I came across some home-canned jars of meat: beef and ham, as well as lentil soup.


Now this is nothing unusual, except for the dates: 1999.


"Eewww, yuck!" pronounced Younger Daughter. "Who'd want to eat meat that's almost as old as I am?" (She was born in 1998.)


While she has a valid point, here's the thing: we could have eaten it. The seals were perfectly fine. The texture was fine. It smelled positively delicious (especially the nice rich spicy lentil soup). In short, this thirteen-year-old meat looked and smelled like it was canned yesterday. I'm confident I could have made meals out of it without a problem.


Nonetheless I threw it away. After all, who wants to eat meat that's nearly as old as Younger Daughter?

32 comments:

  1. Would have been interesting to have a lab do a full analysis of the contents! :)

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    1. That would have been very interesting to know

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  2. Would have been interesting to have a lab do a full analysis of the contents! :)

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  3. I know you performed this feat of bravery out of curiosity and to have another point of reference about canning and shelf life...

    ...but I cannot imagine that I could have brought myself to open, much less take a whiff, of the contents. Have you considered that if the contents had spoiled, you could have spent the rest of your life trying to get the smell out of your nose?

    :)

    Jeff - Tucson

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  4. It probably was just fine but the thought of eating food as old as your daughter makes me cringe. Could you have used it as food for the animals (i.e. dog)?

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  5. I totally agree with your point of not wanting to eat meat as old or older than your children. I also have been canning for almost 30 years and I have opened pickles that were 7 or 8 years old that were as good as the day I canned them. Also an elderly lady at my church quit canning she gave me several hundred jars most of them still had food in them from the 70's thru the 90's. a couple were from the 60's. Unless the seal was broken they smelled and looked fine. Of course it all went to the chickens because I could not bring my self to eat 30 year old food (it is older than my oldest who is 28). But I bet it would have still been good. The stewed tomatoes were red, nice smelling and still as firm as they should be.

    On our farm we can everything vegetables, soup, meat, milk, you name it. If there is left over roast it goes into a jar and the pressure canner. I make our cheese, butter,cream etc. It all comes from our goats.

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    1. Christine I would love to chat and get some info on your production of cheese and butter from goats milk.
      Thanks Cindy

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  6. I think all you'd have to do would be heat past 140 degrees for a few minutes? I believe that would make it safe.

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    1. Try 240!!!!!! 140 is not even boiling, You need a pressure caner to get up to 240 also. Just boiling you can get up to 220 but that STILL is not hot enough to kill the botulism bacteria that can kill you, you need 20 more degrees to reach a safe level of 240F.

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    2. 180 degrees or better is meat canning level. I don't know where you heard 240 degrees from but that is incorrect.

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    3. I disagree. If you're CANNING -- not reheating, but canning -- then bringing meat to 240F at 10 lbs pressure (adjusted for altitude) for 75 minutes (pints) or 90 minutes (quarts) is essential to avoid the possibility of botulism.

      See this link:
      http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/general/food_pres_temps.html

      As I said, this is for CANNING, not reheating.

      - Patrice

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    4. Agreed. Though 140 degrees is not sufficient to destroy the bacterium that causes botulism (Clostridium botulinum) 220 degrees is sufficient to destroy the botulism toxin, which is what kills. So reheating the already canned tomatoes to 220 for 10-15 minutes should render it safe from a botulism standpoint. and with that said THERE IS NO WAY IN THIS WORLD I WOULD'VE EATEN IT!!! The downside risk for saving a jar of food (or many jars) just isn't worth it. Cheers.

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  7. I think you should have made it into a meal and fed it to your family, then told them what it was - I'm sure the cringing would have been much worse!
    But you are nice to your family so I'm sure you wouldn't do that.

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  8. In 1972 the US Navy fed me C-Rations that were dated 1947 (I was borne in 1948), age of preserved food has little to do with safety. Right now we can afford to be picky, but there may come a time when we will not so picky about dinner.
    JW M

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  9. That's PRECISELY my thought.

    The oldest canned food we've eaten was some ten-year-old meat (from this same batch, in fact). Tasted fine!

    - Patrice

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  10. My grandmother had canned food that was 40+ years old and still edible. In 1983 I ate a can of spaghetti from a (C-ration? military surplus stuff) that was dated 1951, and while not all that good(bland), wasn't spoiled. I suppose as long as the seal stays intact, it's OK.

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  11. At the very least, you've validated your method of home-canning. This provides you bona-fides for your posts on improper practices!

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  12. oh my goodness...i just spent the last three days rotating all the home canned stuff and lucky me i came across some peach jam and some fig preserves that just hit the nine yr mark...you bet they got moved to the front of the line....our peach trees died last year and this year the birds beat me to the fresh figs. i am going to enjoy the peach jam on buttered toast and the fig preserves with homemade biscuits..but not right now. i am gonna enjoy them when it is nasty and cold outside - which is the best time to eat anything "out of season" in my opinion.

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  14. You should have at least tried it. It would be useful to hear a taste test review and know you did not get sick from it. Seriously. One day some of us may be faced with that same choice to eat food that was canned over a decade ago or not.

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  15. We just opened a can of grape juice that we inherited from a relative that passed - canned in 1996. We checked for signs of spoilage, opened it(still a great seal), smelled it, and finally, mixed it with water and drank it. Tasted the same as our own canned last year...delicious! Though you might not want to keep your canned foods that long, it's definitely nice to know that they are still good! :)

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  16. I have recently opened a can of cheese from 1931, I received 8 cans in total. To tell you all i was amazed with the taste and i immediately made another portion with eggs and bacon + that 82 year old cheese!

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  17. People spend big bucks on decades-old wine! Vintage canned food might be the next big thing. ;)

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  18. If it survives the first 3 months then it will survive forever. And I mean forever. No bacteria means just that. NO bacteria.

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  19. That 82 year old canned cheese would have been worth a fortune to the survivors of the 9th season of the Walking Dead.

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  20. How do you can milk? I am intrigued!
    Sharon

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    1. Sharon, canning milk or other dairy is not recommended. To quote my ebook on canning: "Dairy products are low-acid and support an environment which fosters botulism growth at room temperature. The fat in dairy products can protect botulism spores and toxins from heat during the canning process. When milk is over-heated, the milk proteins drop out of suspension and separate. The amount of heat that would need to be used to kill botulism is so extreme that the food would be rendered inedible. For this reason, canning milk or canning butter is not recommended as a safe procedure for home canners."

      - Patrice

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    2. So adding butter when canning pears would not be recommended?

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  21. How long does salsa last after u jar them and sealed?

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    1. Assuming the salsa has been properly canned in a PRESSURE CANNER, it should last for many years.

      - Patrice

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  22. I have canned real butter for 3 years now because A I don't have room in my freezer and B If the power goes out or no power available, I have butter, We have been eating butter I canned in early 2012 with no problem.. Follow KatzCradul's instructions to the last detail and you will not have a problem. You must be very clean and careful just like she says.

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  23. I have canned butter for 3 years now. Not enough room in my freezer and if we lose power I have butter on the shelf. Use only KatzCradul's method on You Tube. Follow it precisely! We are eating butter right now I canned in early 2012 with NO problems.

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