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How Old is Too Old?

Posted by jenswrens z6 NJ (My Page) on
Thu, Feb 20, 14 at 15:41


I am the queen of taking expiration dates with a grain of salt, and have been known to eat commercially produced things that have expired a loooong time ago (like 2 years sometimes). I know, I know....

I have about 16 jars of tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salsa that my mother and I canned in ... wait for it ... 2001. Yes, you read that right.

I was getting ready today to open them all and dump them, but each jar that I open smells wonderful and seems so perfectly okay.

I am sooo tempted. But you know, I don't want to die really. :-/
But if they've kept their seals, what could be wrong with them? Must I toss them?

What say you?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: How Old is Too Old?

  • Posted by digdirt 6b-7a North AR (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 20, 14 at 17:20

That old would really be pushing my personal comfort zone of 5-6 years but that is up to each individual.

Technically, as long as the seals are in clearly tact and assuming they were properly canned in the first place then they are supposed to be safe to use and only the quality will have declined.

Smell of course isn't relevant as there is no odor to c. botulinum so additional cooking (boil for 10 mins min. ) is required to insure the destruction of any toxins they may have developed.

The choice is yours.


RE: How Old is Too Old?

that would be at the end of my length also, mainly because I would have replaced anything with 'newer' jars. Or it would have been something that I found that I didn't like.

I know my grandmother and mother both have had jars longer than that, opened boiled for the 10 minutes and it was fine.

RE: How Old is Too Old?

Oh wow. Great news! Not at all the response I was expecting to get. They were in a box in the basement that I had forgotten about. Otherwise, yes, they would've been used up.

Good to know. So boiling will destroy any toxins?

RE: How Old is Too Old?

I understand that time would affect the quality of the food. However, I don't understand why longer storage time would raise more concern about botulism. Or is the "boil 10 minutes" suggestion one that would be given even with short storage times? To me, it seems like an old seal that might possibly be failing would let oxygen in and destroy the conditions needed for toxin production, not create a botulism problem in a previously okay product.

...Just trying to understand the whys behind the thinking.

RE: How Old is Too Old?

I don't believe it is a case of worry about botulism, due to the longer storage, but more of quality. After a time, quality starts to diminish.

The boil 10 minutes has been around forever (in my life) especially for low acid items. I still follow it.

RE: How Old is Too Old?

  • Posted by digdirt 6b-7a North AR (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 21, 14 at 10:44

Please note there are two separate paragraphs in my original post.

One addresses the age of the jars, the decline in quality that happens, and the underlined assumption of proper processing done in the first place (we have no way of knowing if it was or not).

The second paragraph address the issue of the OP's comment of smell and "I don't want to die". Since only c. botulinum can cause death and since it has no odor I addressed that issue separately. I also attached the decades-old standard home canning guideline of 10 min. boiling whenever there is ANY concern about the safety of the food.

I did NOT say that longer storage time leads to increased incidence of botulism in the jars.

As marla said the 10 min. boiling time for foods after opening any questionable jars has been known and used for forever. It is well documented that boiling the food for 10 min. will kill any c. botulinum toxins (not the spores themselves) however modern NCHFP guidelines recommend you throw away, unopened, jar and all, any questionable jars.

The choice of which method to use when dealing with questionable jars, regardless of why they question them, is up to the individual. All we can tell them is what we would do.

Personally, I would dump the sauce and wash and reuse the jars simply because they are so old and the quality will have declined substantially. But others would use it. So that is jens choice to make.


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