If you’re like me, you love making jams, jellies, marmalades, and preserves.
You love the process of preserving food for later use, but you also worry about what happens to your precious creations after they have been made.
Does jam go bad?
Does jam go bad?
The short answer is “yes, sometimes.”
Jam does not stay fresh indefinitely, just like any other food.
This means that at some point, your jam will start to lose its flavor and texture.
The longer you keep your jam, the more likely it is that this will happen, but there are ways to slow down or even stop this from happening.
Here are several things to know about jam going bad.
Jam goes bad because of temperature changes
Temperature changes are one of the biggest enemies of preserved foods.
If you make jam in the summertime, then store it in the refrigerator, it will probably be fine for months on end.
But if you make your jam in the wintertime, then store it in a cool place (like a basement), it will probably spoil faster than it would if you kept it in a warmer location.
This is why we often recommend storing our jams in the refrigerator rather than in the freezer.
It is best to avoid freezing jam altogether.
Freezing destroys the structure of the ingredients, which causes them to become mushy.
When you thaw a frozen jam, it will almost always taste terrible.
Jam goes bad because of bacteria
Bacteria is another enemy of jam.
Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments, so your jam is most vulnerable when it is stored in the same conditions as the food it is meant to preserve.
For example, if you make jam with strawberries, then store it in the refrigerator, it will probably be fine for weeks on end.
But if you make strawberry jam with strawberries grown in an area where there was a recent outbreak of salmonella, then you should probably throw out all of the jars containing that jam.
It is important to note that jam is not necessarily safe to eat if it has gone bad.
Some brands of jam contain preservatives that prevent mold growth and help to extend their shelf life.
However, these preservatives do not protect against bacteria.
So if you find that your jam has spoiled, don’t consume it! Instead, discard it immediately.
Jam goes bad because of oxygen exposure
Oxygen is the enemy of everything in the world.
It turns living organisms into dead ones, and it is responsible for destroying nearly every food item on Earth.
As we mentioned above, jam is especially susceptible to oxygen exposure because it is stored in close proximity to other food items.
If you leave your jar of jam sitting on the countertop, it will quickly turn rancid.
But if you put it in the fridge, it will remain edible for much longer.
In fact, jam can stay good for up to two years in the refrigerator.
That said, it is still best to keep jams in the fridge until you are ready to use them.
Once you open a jar of jam, you cannot return it to the fridge without risk of spoiling it.
Jam goes bad because of light exposure
Light exposure is another enemy of jam.
If you have jam sitting on top of a sunny windowsill, it will slowly turn brown.
This is due to the way sunlight interacts with the food inside the jar.
Sunlight breaks down the chemicals present in jam, causing them to change color.
While this might not sound like such a big deal, it is actually very harmful to your jam.
The darker your jam gets, the less appealing it will be to consumers.
If you think that your jam is turning brown, then you should definitely discard it.
And please, never attempt to cover up discoloration by adding food coloring to your jam.
Jam goes bad because of moisture exposure
Moisture is another enemy of jam, but this time it is the humidity that is doing the damage.
Moisture is the culprit behind the dreaded “bloom.”
Blooms are small pieces of mold that grow on the surface of jam.
They usually appear as tiny white spots, but they can also take on different colors.
Blooms do not pose a health threat to humans, but they do ruin the appearance of jam.
If you see blossom-like spots appearing on your jam, you should toss it out immediately.
Blooms are harmless, but they look awful.
Jam goes bad because of oxygen exposure
Finally, let us address the issue of jam going bad because of oxygen exposure.
This is similar to the previous section, but it pertains specifically to the presence of air bubbles within your jam.
These air bubbles give jam a cloudy appearance, which makes it difficult to see the actual contents of the jar.
This is not a problem for jams that are stored in the refrigerator.
In fact, it is recommended that you refrigerate jam that contains air bubbles.
But if your jam is exposed to the air, then the air bubbles will cause the jam to get cloudy.
As a result, you won’t be able to tell whether or not your jam has gone bad.
To ensure that your jam remains clear, you should remove air bubbles before you seal your jam.
How long does jam last?
Jam lasts as long as it is preserved.
If you make jam with fresh fruits or vegetables, then it should last about six months in the fridge.
The longer you keep it, the more likely it is that it will become moldy or stale, so be sure to check on it every now and again.
However, if you make jam with canned fruit, then this time period is much shorter.
Canned fruits tend to have a very short shelf life, which means that most people throw out their jam within a few weeks of opening the jar.
It’s best to avoid wasting any leftovers by eating them right away.
The only exception to this rule is if you are using a high-acid or low-acid product.
High-acid products include pineapple, lemon, lime, and orange juice.
Low-acid products include applesauce, figs, apricots, peaches, pears, and plums.
These types of jams will last up to one year in the fridge or even longer if you store them in a cool dark place.
If you want to preserve your homemade jam for an extended amount of time, try putting it into jars when it is still hot.
This method keeps the jam from cooling down too quickly, which helps prolong its lifespan.
After all, why would you want to waste your hard work?
How do you know when jam is bad?
Jam goes bad when it begins to ferment.
The fermentation process starts as soon as the jam is heated above 120F (49C).
If you add an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar to the jam before heating, then you can slow down this process somewhat.
Otherwise, the longer the jam sits at room temperature, the more likely it is to become sour and moldy.
You can also prevent jam from going bad by adding pectin to the mix.
Pectin is a natural substance found in fruits and vegetables.
It helps jams set up properly.
As long as you add enough pectin to make sure that the jam sets up properly, there should be no problem with spoilage.
However, even if you add plenty of pectin, some jams still go bad.
A common culprit is overripe fruit.
If you buy too much of one kind of fruit, and don’t use all of it within a short period of time, then it is very possible that some of the fruit will get over ripe.
You can avoid this problem by buying smaller quantities of each fruit every week.
This way, you won’t run out of any particular fruit.
What are the signs of bad jam?
Jam is a mixture of fruits or vegetables with added sugar and sometimes vinegar.
The sugar helps preserve the jam by preventing bacteria from growing in the jar, while the acidity prevents mold growth.
If the jam doesn’t contain enough sugar, then it won’t be able to keep long enough to make it through the winter months.
If the jam contains too much sugar, then it will start to ferment, which adds an unpleasant flavor to the jam and makes it unsafe to consume.
There are different types of jams, depending on the fruit used.
Some jams are made with apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, cherries, and blueberries.
Other jams are made with citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, tangerines, and kumquats.
Still other jams are made with berries, such as raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and cranberries.
The amount of sugar needed depends on the type of fruit used and on the desired consistency of the jam.
For example, if you want to make a thick jam, then you need more sugar than if you want to make a thin jam.
The type of fruit also affects the amount of sugar needed.
For instance, apples and pears require less sugar than grapes because their natural sugars are already present in them.
Citrus fruits, however, require more sugar because they don’t naturally contain any.
The acidity of the jam also plays a role in determining how much sugar should be added.
Vinegar can help to lower the pH level of the jam, so the jam requires less sugar.
Some jams take longer to set up than others.
When making a thick jam, it takes more time to thicken up.
So, if you’ve spent all day making a batch of jam and it still isn’t ready to serve, it might be because the jam needs more time to set up.
In addition to the amount of sugar and the setting time, there are a few other things that can affect how long jam lasts.
First, the type of fruit you use can play a part in how long your jam will last.
Fruits that are high in acid, such as lemon juice, lime juice, and vinegar, can cause your jam to spoil faster than fruits that are low in acid, such as bananas and tomatoes.
Next, the temperature at which the jam is stored can have an effect on how long it lasts.
If the jam is kept in a warm area, then it could spoil faster.
On the other hand, if the jam is kept in a refrigerator, then it will last longer.
Also, keeping the jam in the fridge for too long can lead to the formation of ice crystals.
Ice crystals can damage the texture of the jam, which can result in the jam spoiling faster.
Finally, the type of container you use can make a difference in how long your jam lasts.
Glass jars are the best containers to use when making jams because they keep the jam from absorbing moisture from the air.
However, glass jars are expensive, so plastic and metal containers are usually cheaper and easier to find.
Now let’s look at some ways to tell whether a jam is good or bad.
What causes jam to go bad?
Jam is a mixture of fruit and sugar, usually cooked until thick enough to hold its shape.
The sugar is added to help preserve the food.
Fruit has natural sugars, but these sugars break down over time unless something is done to prevent this from happening.
Jams and other preserved foods can be stored in jars or cans, which helps keep out moisture and air.
However, if the food is not properly sealed, then oxygen can get into the jar or can and cause oxidation.
As the oxygen combines with the sugar, it creates acetic acid, which is why jam goes bad.
Acetic acid is a chemical compound that tastes sour and smells like vinegar.
It is one of the main components of vinegar, and when you eat too much of it, it can lead to headaches, upset stomachs, and even nausea.
If you make jam at home, try using a vacuum sealer or an airtight container to store your jam.
These devices create an air-free environment within the jar, preventing oxygen from getting into the jar and causing the jam to go bad.
The most common way jam goes bad is due to bacterial contamination.
Bacteria can enter the jam through cracks or holes in the glass, as well as through improper storage.
Once the bacteria gets inside, it can multiply quickly, leading to mold growth and spoilage.
Bacteria can grow on the surface of the jam, creating a film that prevents oxygen from entering.
This means that the jam is no longer safe to consume, so discard it immediately.
If you do not have access to a vacuum sealer, you should place the jam in the refrigerator so that any bacteria will die off before it spoils.
Another reason that jam can go bad is because the sugar breaks down.
Sugar is a carbohydrate, meaning that it contains carbon and hydrogen atoms.
When sugar breaks down, it releases water and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide.
The alcohol and carbon dioxide can cause the jam to become cloudy, resulting in a spoiled jam.
To prevent this, you should add lemon juice to the jam to help slow down the breakdown process.
As mentioned above, another reason that jam can go bad is due to the presence of oxygen.
Because oxygen is heavier than nitrogen, it sinks to the bottom of the jar or container.
If there isn’t enough oxygen present, then the sugar won’t fully oxidize, allowing the jam to stay fresh longer.
Finally, jam can go bad because of temperature fluctuations.
If the jam is stored in a hot room, it can easily cook and spoil.
To avoid this, place the jam in a cooler area of the house, such as a basement or garage.
How can you prevent jam from going bad?
Jam, jelly, and other types of preserves often go bad due to spoilage or mold growth.
The most common culprits are bacteria and fungi.
Bacteria are single-celled organisms that can be found on any surface, including your countertops, your cutting boards, and even your refrigerator door handles.
Fungi, on the other hand, are multicellular organisms that grow in groups called colonies.
They typically form on damp surfaces such as bread and meat left out at room temperature.
The two main types of bacteria that cause jam to go bad are aerobic and anaerobic.
Aerobic bacteria thrive in air with oxygen.
Anaerobic bacteria thrive in environments without oxygen.
If you don’t want your jam to go bad, make sure that you keep your jars tightly closed.
Also, if you accidentally open one jar while making another, close both jars immediately so that no air gets into them.
If you think that you might have spoiled jam, try opening up several jars at once and see which ones have gone bad first.
Then, dispose of those jars and start over.
It’s best not to eat any of the old jam, so make sure to label all the new jars.
If you find that your jam has already gone bad, there are ways to stop it from spoiling further.
First, check the expiration date on the lid of the jar.
If it says “Best by…,” then you need to put the jam back in the fridge right away.
If it says “Use By …,” then you should use it within three months.
Next, take a look at the ingredients list.
Some fruits contain preservatives that help keep their contents from going bad.
For example, citric acid is added to lemon juice to prevent fermentation.
Other fruits contain acids that kill off bacteria.
These include tartaric acid, malic acid, and lactic acid.
They work together to keep the pH level of your jam low enough to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Finally, you can add pectin to your jam.
Pectin is a thickening agent that prevents your jam from separating.
Just remember to follow the instructions on the package!
What are the consequences of eating bad jam?
Jam goes bad when it spoils because of bacteria or mold.
The best way to avoid this problem is to keep your jams in a cool, dark place where there is no air circulation.
If you don’t do this, then you need to know how to store jams properly so that they don’t spoil.
The most common cause of jam spoiling is improper storage.
When you buy your jars, make sure that they are clean and free from any residue.
Then, put them into a very cool, dry place (not hot) with as little light as possible.
If you live in an area that has a lot of humidity or sunlight, then you should try to avoid leaving your jam out on the countertop.
You can also prevent jam from going bad by using the right recipe.
For example, if you want to make strawberry jam, you should use strawberries that are fresh and sweet.
Also, you should be careful not to add too much sugar, which would make your jam too sweet.
And finally, you should sterilize all of your equipment before starting the cooking process.
How can you tell if jam has gone bad?
Jam is one of those foods where there is no real way to know when it has gone bad.
Sure, you could try tasting it at different stages, but that doesn’t really work very well.
Even if you taste it at regular intervals, you don’t really know what happened in between those times.
So, the best thing you can do is follow these tips on how to tell if jam goes bad.
- 1. Keep it away from light. Light can cause the color of jam to fade, so keep jars covered whenever possible. If you put them in a dark cupboard, even better!
- 2. Don’t freeze it. Freezing can be good because it helps to preserve flavor, but it can also take a toll on the texture. The texture should be firm, but not hard or rubbery.
- 3. Watch out for mold. Mold is always a sign that something went wrong, so make sure to clean off any mold as soon as you notice it forming. It might look like small specks of dirt, but mold can grow quickly. If you see any mold growing on your jam, throw it out immediately.
- 4. Pay attention to your ingredients. Sometimes, ingredients can change over time. If you notice that the jam is less sweet than it was before, or that it tastes a little sour, you probably need to toss it out. In fact, you should toss anything that doesn’t taste right. The best way to test your jam is to give some to a friend. They will let you know if it’s still good or if it needs to be thrown out.
- 5. Check the expiration date. When buying jars of jam, check the expiration dates. Make sure they are within a year of each other. That way, you know you can trust that the jam will still be good when you open it up again.
- 6. Check the label. Always read the labels before purchasing any jar of jam. Look at the ingredients list. Does it say “preserves”? Or does it say “jam”? Jam is usually more simple than preserves, which means that it won’t contain all the same ingredients. For example, jams often contain sugar, while preserves generally contain fruit, spices, and vinegar.
What should you do with bad jam?
The short answer is “it depends”.
Each recipe has its own set of instructions, and each recipe will indicate how long you can expect your jam to keep in the fridge before it goes bad.
However, there are some general guidelines you can follow when deciding whether or not to throw out your jam.
First, make sure that the recipe you used was written by someone who knows what they’re doing.
If you were given a jar of strawberry jam without any information on how long it would last, then chances are good that the jam will go bad before you get a chance to eat it.
The same holds true if the recipe was adapted from another source.
Recipes are often tweaked over time to improve upon them, so if you find yourself using a recipe that hasn’t been updated in years, it might be best to start over with a new one.
Second, don’t assume that just because a jam or jelly has turned brown that it’s spoiled.
Some recipes call for the jam to be cooked until thickened before it’s poured into jars.
If the jam has gone through this process, it could still taste great even though it looks horrible.
In fact, it probably won’t look as bad as it did before it was cooked.
It’s also possible that the jam has simply fermented and is no longer safe to consume.
Third, don’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredients.
When you first start cooking, you usually only try recipes that you know work well.
Once you get comfortable with the basics, however, you can branch out to try new things.
For example, I recently tried my hand at making mango chutney.
I had never eaten mangoes before, nor did I have any experience with chutneys.
My first attempt didn’t turn out too well, but I learned something valuable along the way.
Fourth, if you want to prolong the lifespan of your jam, you need to avoid letting it sit out.
If you put jam in the refrigerator right away, it should last several months.
If you let it sit out for a few days, however, it will likely spoil within a week.
The same rule applies to other types of preserves.
Jams and jellies that are refrigerated immediately will last much longer than those left at room temperature.
Finally, don’t throw out anything that you can’t eat.
I once had a friend who threw out all of his jam because he thought it was rotten.
He didn’t realize that he had forgotten to add pectin to it, which caused the jam to solidify.
Had he added pectin, the jam would have remained liquid and edible.
Even if you think that your jam or jelly is ruined, there’s always the chance that you can salvage it.
Just remember that the longer you wait to eat it, the more likely it is to spoil.
Is it safe to eat bad jam?
Let’s start with the basics.
Can you eat jam?
It’s just a mixture of fruit juice and sugar.
If there was no sugar, then yes, it would be safe to eat.
However, most jams contain added sugar to make them more appealing and palatable.
In fact, jams typically contain around 15 percent sugar by weight (and sometimes as much as 20 percent).
So, if you want to enjoy your homemade jam without worrying about whether or not it has gone bad, here are some tips on how to store it so that it lasts longer:
Keep it in the refrigerator. The cold temperature slows down the chemical reactions that cause jams and jellies to spoil. Keeping your jam in the fridge should extend its shelf life from several weeks to several months.
Don’t let it freeze. Freezing can also slow down the ripening process, which means that your jam won’t spoil as quickly.
Use it up within six months. Once you open a jar of jam, you should consume it within six months. If you leave it open too long, then the bacteria that causes spoilage will begin to grow, and you could end up with an unpleasant surprise when you open the jar again.
Wash the jars and lids before using. You don’t want to contaminate your jam with mold or bacteria. To prevent this, wash the jars and lids thoroughly before filling them with your jam. Then, once you’ve filled the jar, put a piece of wax paper between the lid and the rim of the jar. This prevents bacteria from growing inside the jar while keeping oxygen out to keep your jam fresh.
Keep it tightly sealed. Make sure that you use a tight-fitting lid and a seal that provides airtight protection. Don’t forget to label each container and date it.
Now that we know that you can safely eat jam, let’s talk about how to avoid spoiling it in the first place.
Strawberry Jam Recipes
- 1 bowl
- 1 kg strawberry
- 750 g jam sugar
- 1 lemon
- 1 butter optional
- Prepare the strawberries by wiping them with a piece of damp kitchen paper. (Wiping the strawberries rather than washing them ensures the fruit doesn’t absorb lots of water – too much water and the jam won’t set easily.) To hull the fruit, use a knife to cut a cone shape into the strawberry and remove the stem. Cut any large berries in half.
- Put the strawberries in a bowl and gently toss through the sugar. Leave uncovered at room temperature for 12 hrs or overnight. This process helps the sugar to dissolve, ensures the fruit doesn’t disintegrate too much and helps to keep its vibrant colour.
- Before starting the jam, put 2 saucers in the freezer. Tip the strawberry mixture into a preserving pan with the lemon juice. Set over a low heat and cook very gently. If any sugar remains on the sides of the pan, dip a pastry brush in hot water and brush the sugar away.
- When you can no longer feel any grains of sugar remaining, turn up the heat to start bubbling the jam and bringing it to the boil. (The sugar must be completely dissolved before increasing the heat, otherwise it will be difficult for the jam to set, and it may contain crystallised lumps of sugar.)
- Boil hard for 5-10 mins until the jam has reached 105C on a preserving or digital thermometer, then turn off the heat. If you don’t have a thermometer, spoon a little jam onto one of the cold saucers. Leave for 30 secs, then push with your finger; if the jam wrinkles and doesn’t flood to fill the gap, it is ready. If not, turn the heat back on and boil for 2 mins more, then turn off the heat and do the wrinkle test again. Repeat until ready.
- Use a spoon to skim any scum that has risen to the surface and discard this. Do this only once at the end, rather than constantly during the boiling stage, to reduce wastage.
- Add a knob of butter, if you like, to the finished jam, and stir in to melt. This will help to dissolve any remaining scum that you haven’t managed to spoon off the top. Leave the jam to settle for 15 mins – this will ensure that the fruit stays suspended in the mixture and doesn’t all float to the top of the jam jar. Meanwhile, sterilise your jars.
- Ladle into warm jars, filling to just below the rim. Place a wax disc on top of the jam (this prevents mildew forming), then cover with a lid or a cellophane circle and elastic band. Pop on a label (include the date), plus a pretty fabric top, if you like. The jam can be stored for up to 1 year in a cool, dry place. Refrigerate after opening.