These Are The Signs Your Homemade Preserves Have Gone Bad

Making homemade preserves is a time-honored tradition that provides a delicious way to enjoy seasonal fruits all year long. Generally, properly stored canned jams and jellies can be stored for up to a year, so labeling your home-canned goods is necessary. The appearance of canned goods can also change over time, which may be alarming if you're new to canning.

Signs of spoilage in homemade preserves are often obvious but can sometimes be subtle. First, inspect the lid for bulging, leakage, or a broken seal, as these are clear signs that the preserves are no longer safe to consume. If the lid looks okay, next, examine the contents — check for dried food, rising air bubbles, or off colors. Though the appearance of canned goods can change, discoloration and cloudiness can be indicators of spoilage. You'll also want to look for mold both before you open the jar and after.

When you open the jar, listen for a hissing sound, then be aware of strong, unpleasant odors. Check the bottom of the lid and the surface of the preserves for mold. Finally, the texture of the preserves can indicate possible spoilage. If they have an unusual texture, are slimy or mushy, or if the contents have separated, it's possible that the preserves have gone bad. Always trust your intuition and toss anything that you suspect has spoiled. 

How to properly store homemade preserves

To keep your homemade preserves fresh and flavorful, proper preparation and storage are required. The first step is to follow the recipe exactly to maintain the correct balance of ingredients and cooking times. Your homemade preserves should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place. This is because higher temperatures increase the chance of spoilage, light can impact the quality, and dampness can cause rust. Once opened, homemade preserves should be promptly stored in the refrigerator. Typically, opened jars should be used within a month for optimal taste and safety. However, lower sugar preserves may have a shorter shelf life, and opening the jar frequently can also shorten its shelf life.

Freezer jams have similar guidelines: Use the preserves within a year of preparation and, once opened, use within three to four weeks. Always inspect all jars of homemade jams, jellies, and preserves for signs of spoilage before consumption.