Top 12 Reasons to Toss Home Canned Goods


As home canners, we are proud of what we preserve.  A pantry full of home canned goods makes us feel as though we have done our job by providing for our family.  Rows of jams, pickles, tomatoes,  salsas, sauces, chutneys sparkle on the shelves, enticing us to open them up for special dinners.  We carefully select firm, ripe produce.  Check out jars for any nicks or chips.  And we check the processing charts to make sure that regardless of water bath or pressure canning, items are preserved for the correct length of time given our elevation.

But as we thumb through cook books for the perfect recipe or do our research for proper techniques, how much information is out there regarding when it is time to toss our canned goods?  Even in the most organization kitchen, sometimes a jar gets pushed to the back where it is forgotten.   It doesn’t matter if you have a modern kitchen with state of the art appliances or in a humble homestead kitchen or somewhere in between… some preserved goods can fall through the cracks and we end up finding them when they are well past their prime.

One document that is available online is by the National Center for Home Food Preservation and is listed under their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.  This document goes on to say, “…it is recommended that all home-canned foods be used within a year”.  That is pretty sound advice although some of us may have a few items that are a little older… pushing three years or perhaps even five.  NOTE: this is does not mean that you cannot eat canned goods that are older than one year old.  Though the flavor and nutritional value will be diminished compared to just-canned food.

very old canned food

very old canned food

There are some common sense clues when it comes to tossing out canned goods.  The following list gives you an overview of what to keep in mind.

Top 12 Reasons to Toss Canned Goods

  1.  a newly opened jar has mold on the inside
  2.  a newly opened jar has an odd aroma
  3.  a jar spurts contents when opened
  4.  the seal of the jar is broken and no longer airtight
  5.  there is a crack in the jar
  6.  the lid is bulged
  7.  the lid is rusty
  8.  the jar is leaking
  9.  the contents have shriveled into a small mass at the bottom of the jar
  10. the contents of a jar look abnormal
  11. if you suspect the contents are contaminated with the botulinum toxin
  12. if the contents of the jar are dried and there should be a liquid or sauce in the jar

Please, do not taste the contents of a jar if you are uncertain if they are safe to eat.  This could unnecessarily put your health at risk.

shriveled canned food

shriveled canned food

While most online resources agree on consuming canned goods within a year of when they were made, there is no hard and fast rule for how old canned goods must be before they are thrown out.  In cases like this, remember the adage, “If in doubt, toss it out”.

As a home canner, I confess to having a few jars of canned goods that I missed on the bottom shelf.  But even though I am confident in my canning, the very old canned contents will be disposed of rather than eaten.

Enjoy your canned goods in a timely fashion.  With all the work that you put into canning, you should enjoy them on your table.  Before you open a jar, refer to the list of reasons to toss out canned goods.  Your health is far more important than eating something suspicious looking.



14 responses »

  1. Pingback: Simple Saturdays Blog Hop #45 - Lil' Suburban Homestead

  2. Pingback: Simple Saturdays Blog Hop 10/18

  3. Congratulations from Simple Saturdays Blog Hop…you were selected as our featured link-up from last week!! Hop on over and grab your button to display proudly in your sidebar, and we really hope to see you this week!! Great post and very timely as I will be scooting off to check my canned goods that are looking “tossable”!!

  4. Use the old jars of canned goods to your advantage! If they have been there way past their usefulness, then it’s probably a recipe or fruit or vegetable that the family just didn’t like, and make a note to yourself not to bother canning that recipe again! I had a friend who used to can green beans all the time but never used them! Every year she had the best intentions and would can a dozen or so pints, but then they always got pushed to the wayside. What a waste of food and energy!

    • After college when I had my own place, I was canning, but mostly the same things that my mom canned. Over the years, I realized it was fine if I did not can the same things as she did. (We do lots of pasta sauce, ketchup, jams…) I like the idea of jotting down what family members don’t care for. Canning does take a lot of time, effort, and money (for items you purchase) and so when canned goods go to waste… it is truly a waste.

  5. I must admit, I’m one of those who hangs on to older canned goods until they’re used. I’ve come across some suspicious ones in the past and have thrown them out- but until they reach that point, they’re fair game 😉

    Thanks so much for sharing your useful tips!

    Visiting from the Simple Saturdays hop- have a great weekend!


    • I will use some older ones, but when I came across the 1998 jar… those contents were pitched. We try to use everything within a year, but sometimes it is two or three years. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  6. With our large family, our canned foods are eaten up quickly! I remember an older relative’s pantry filled with beautiful home canned goodies… she always went through and winnowed out the unused jars at the next canning season. 🙂 *visiting from Simple Saturday – nice to meet you!*

    • Thank you for stopping by. I grew up in a large family and we always ate everything that was canned that year. (My mom had a great pantry of homemade canned food). I can’t believe that I had missed the two jars shown in the post… they just got pushed behind others. 🙂

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