One of the most common foods in the United States is the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Whilst this is a classic, I actually spent most of my childhood eating a different PB&J – peanut butter and jam sandwich.
When I actually tried a real PB&J, the one with jelly, I realized that I preferred jam over jelly in my PB&Js. So while my childhood favorite might not have been the nationwide standard, turns out I liked it better anyway.
There are so many different types of fruit spread, including marmalade, confit, preserves, fruit butter, or even chutney. So you can make yourself a PB&M, a PB&P – or whatever one you like the best!
There are also tons of different jam varieties, from the classic strawberry jam to other favorites such as blueberry jam, apricot jam, peach jam, and others.
But what happens if you buy too much of the stuff? Does jam go bad? Unfortunately, yes it does eventually go bad. Thankfully though, there are some things you can do to make it last longer.
Read on for our ultimate guide to the shelf life of jam. I’ll also share some tips on the best ways to store it.
Does Jam Go Bad?
Despite the high amount of sugar in jam, it does still indeed go bad.
But, if it wasn’t for jam or other fruit preserves, we would be limited to enjoying fruity goodness for only as long as the fruit itself lasts, which is not very long in most cases.
Fruit preserves do a great job at saving fruit, which can go bad in a matter of a few days for some fruits after they’ve been picked.
So, while jam doesn’t last forever, it still does a great job of giving fruit an extended life.
How Long Does Jam Last?
In general, most jams will last for around one year, but it can be a bit more or less depending on a few things.
The important factors are whether you’re dealing with an opened or unopened jar, if it’s homemade or store bought jam, and how it’s stored.
Unopened Jam vs Opened Jam
Unopened jam can last between one and two years past its printed “use-by” date as long as it’s stored in a dark and cool place like your pantry.
After opening, the opened jar should be stored in the fridge and there it can last between six months to one year past its “use-by” date.
Shelf Life of Store-bought vs Homemade Jam
Homemade jam can be stored the same and for the same period of time as store bought jam if the proper canning methods are used.
If the jam hasn’t been properly canned then it should be treated as an open container of jam and used between six months and one year.
How to Tell if Jam Has Gone Bad
So we know that whilst jam can last a while, it will go bad at some point. But how do you know it’s no longer good to use?
Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to tell if it’s gone bad before spreading it over your toast or sandwich.
Here are the key signs you should be looking for:
Like many other foods that go bad, the smell is one of the best ways to tell if jam has gone bad.
If you can detect an off-putting smell, then it’s likely bad.
In most cases, the bad smell will be similar to that of something that’s fermenting. If it smells bad, chuck it out.
A change in color may or may not be a 100% accurate way to tell if the jam is bad.
If a jar has been sitting in the fridge for a few months, the color may change slightly.
It’s more common for the top layer to darken as a result of oxygen exposure. If this is the case, you can scoop out the “bad” part and eat the rest.
If you notice severe discoloration, though, or if the color changes are accompanied by other signs of spoilage, throw it away.
It’s pretty difficult for jam to get mold, but still possible nonetheless – particularly if you haven’t been properly storing it or if you’ve been dipping food or unsanitary object into the container.
If you notice any mold spores in jar or the preserve itself, throw it out.
Don’t even try to remove the moldy part. Jam is a liquid substance and if mold is present, it has most likely leached into the entire jar.
Unlike hard foods such as cheese, mold spores can pass through soft foods. So just scraping off the mold won’t fully get rid of it and it will still be present throughout the food.
What Causes Jam to Go Bad?
The most common cause of jam going bad is similar to almost any other food item – time.
The longer it sits around, no matter where, the more likely it will succumb to the effects of time and go bad.
However, there are some things that accelerate the process.
The first is dipping food directly into the jam. Food shouldn’t be dipped into the jar.
When using jam as a dip on a cheese platter, place the required amount in a separate bowl and proceed from there. The food can “contaminate” the jar with tiny foreign objects, some of which can bring along unwanted bacteria.
Similar to the first, the next cause is not using clean cutlery to take the jam out of the jar. As with other foods, using dirty cutlery can introduce a variety of unwanted insects or bacteria into the jar.
Another common foe of food is air.
If the jar isn’t properly sealed then the air can wreak havoc on it. Also, if it’s not airtight, that means that tiny bugs can find their way inside it too.
Lastly, direct sunlight can also cause jams to go bad. Direct sunlight will result in changes in flavor and the color of the jam.
It doesn’t matter if the jars are made of darker glass, long-term direct exposure to sunlight (and also heat) will have a negative impact. That’s why it’s best to keep it in a cool, dark place.
What Happens if You Eat Expired Jam?
If you eat expired jam, the chances of something bad happening to you immediately are slim. However, it still carries a number of potential risks.
Mold and organic elements may be hazardous to your health if they’re present. Though not all molds are dangerous, some do produce toxins that are harmful to your health.
Some molds are used in the production of cheese and are both delicious and safe. However, you should avoid mold that has not been added to your food on purpose by experts. Experts believe that visible mold is only a component of a larger developing organism that has made a home inside your jam.
When white fuzzy mold appears on the surface, it indicates that the mold has grown root threads deep beneath. The roots aren’t always visible, but they can contain dangerous toxic compounds that are harmful to the body’s cells.
Furthermore, jam is prone to the growth of poisonous mold agents known as mycotoxins. These agents are found in the fruit components of the preserve.
Ingestion of these molds is likely to result in gastrointestinal complications and vomiting in the short term. This can also lead to damage of your kidneys and livers in the long term.
Conversely, however, if there is no appearance of mold or other signs that it’s spoilt, that were previously mentioned (mold, odor, discoloration) then it’s very likely fine to eat if it’s gone past the expiration date. Just make sure to check the signs before you eat it.
How to Properly Store Jam
To extend the shelf-life of your jam then it’s important that you store it properly. Depending on how quickly you plan on eating it, there are different ways to ideally store the it. Storge methods include the pantry, fridge, or freezer.
Keeping jam at room temperature in the pantry is a safe way to extend its shelf life since it’s best to keep it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme heat sources.
However, a jar stored in the pantry should be used within the first twelve months of storage if you want to get the most out of it.
Furthermore, the jar should be kept sealed throughout the storage period. Once opened, it should be refrigerated and consumed within one month.
Can You Freeze Jam?
Yes, you can definitely freeze jam, and it’s quite easy too!
Freezing is perhaps the best way to ensure that it stays in its best shape for the longest time.
All you need to do is make sure that it’s in a freezer-safe container and then place it in the freezer.
If the container is made of glass, make sure there is at least one inch or more of space to allow it to expand. Otherwise, the jar will likely explode, leaving you will a big mess to clean up.