Does Jam Go Bad?

You finally decided to clean your pantry and guess what, there are several unopened jams in there. Some of them are past the date on the label, and you’re not quite sure if you should discard them right away, or not. Does jam go bad?

Or maybe there’s a half-open jam in the fridge, and you’re wondering how long will it last in there before it goes bag. You really wouldn’t like it to go bad, but watching your sugar intake is important for you, so you eat only a little at a time. How long does an opened jam last?

If you have any questions or doubts about storage, shelf life, or going bad of jams, this article is for you. Read on.

Orange jam with a wooden spoon
Image used under Creative Commons from Marco Verch

How to Store Jam

Storing jam is quite similar to storing mustard or ketchup. While they taste nothing alike, the reason is that all of them contain quite a lot of natural preservatives. In case of jams, that preservative is sugar. So you should store an unopened jar in a cool and dark place, away from sunlight and sources of heat. Exposure to light and heat could degrade the jam quickly, which may affect its flavor, consistency, and appearance. The pantry or a cabinet in the kitchen are the best choices. That’s true for both store-bought jams and properly-canned homemade ones.

Once you open the jar, it’s time to transfer the jam to the fridge. Remember to always seal the jar tightly and put it back into refrigeration after scooping as much as you need. This ensures the jam retains good quality for the longest and minimizes the chance of microbial contamination that might make it spoil. As with other foods that we scoop, remember to always use clean spoons and never “double-dip.” In other words, practice proper food hygiene. The modus operandi for both store-bought and homemade jams is the same here as well.

Jams
Image used under Creative Commons from Stephen Fulljames

How Long Do Jams Last

Let’s start with an unopened jar of jam. If it’s a store-bought variety, it usually comes with a best-by date. Of course, that date is only an approximation, and a jar with an untouched seal can last in good quality for much longer. Many companies tried the jam they stored for over 20 years and it was still perfectly fine. So while usually, the best-by date is within 12 to 24 months of the production date, you can easily assume it should last years more.

For unopened homemade jams, the general consensus is that you can easily store them for at least a year, if not more. Of course, homemade jams usually don’t retain taste as well as store-bought ones, but that doesn’t mean that after 1.5 or 2 years the jam will taste bland. So as long as the seal remains intact, it should be perfectly safe (and tasty!) for at least a few years more.

Now let’s talk about opened jams. Many manufacturers generally suggest to eat their product within two weeks to a month for best quality. Of course, that’s for best quality only, and if you take good care of the jam, it should easily retain flavor for at least a few months.

When it comes to homemade jams, one month in the fridge is a pretty safe estimate of how long will the product retain flavor. Like with store-bought jams, if your storage practices and good and proper, this fruity treat will definitely keep for longer.

PantryFridge
Jam (store-bought, unopened)Best-by + 1+ years
Jam (store-bought, opened)2+ months
Jam (homemade, unopened)1 year
Jam (homemade, opened)1+ months

Please note that the periods above are for bets quality. Properly stored jam should easily last months longer.

How to Tell if Jam Is Bad?

First, let’s talk about a change to jam that isn’t a sign of it going bad. Some jams naturally turn a darker shade over time, even when the jar is unopened. That’s especially true for jams without preservatives or those with less sugar. So there’s no need to worry about your light-colored spreads darkening. That’s just the nature of the beast. Slight taste change over time is also expected. Now to the signs of a bad jam.

Typical signs of jam spoilage include mold or yeast growth, or any off odor. If the jam smells like yeast, alcohol, or anything fermented, get rid of it. Same thing if there are any organic growths on the surface. If everything looks and smells okay, feel free to give it a taste. If anything seems off, throw it out. Otherwise, feel free to enjoy it.