How to Know if Your Canned Food is Spoiled

Canning is one of my favorite things to do. Once we started growing our own vegetables we quickly realized that we needed a better way to store and keep the produce before it went bad. We tried the giving it away thing and it just didn’t work. There is only so much that your friends and family will take. So I learned what I needed to know about canning and we ended up being able to save a ton of food. If you are not canning and you are growing your own garden then you need to take the next step in the process. You will save hundreds of dollars and you will have vegetables coming out of your ears!

One of the downfalls to canning however is the fact that your food CAN go bad. It can be hard to distinguish the spoiled food from the good food and that is why we are here to help. Storage Prepper is all about preservation and education so this is right up our alley. I recall after my grandmother passed away a few years ago that we were left with the dubious chore of cleaning out her basement. In the back corner were many, and I mean many, cans of green beans, corn, and tomatoes. There were no dates on the items and we had no idea what was good and what was bad. We didn’t even know how long it had been there.

Canned food provides a perfect environment for the production and growth of a bacterium called Clostridium Botulinum. When this occurs it will produce the toxin known as botulism. This is a highly toxic substance; in fact it is the most lethal toxin we know of. If you are canning in an improper way you could be setting up yourself and your family for a serious illness or even death. It is that serious.

Botulism spores are known to be heat resistant which means it is possible for them to survive in the foods that are incorrectly canned. It is possible to kill the bacteria with high heat cooking but it takes even higher temperatures to kill the spores. This is why a pressure cooker is used for canning low acid foods. If you are not successful in killing the spores then they could normalize and produce regular cells all over again.

  1. Always Test Your Seal

Your jars can be tested in a number of ways but you need to make sure that your seal is secure and tight. Most caning jars come with 2 piece lids. You will have a center cap and an outer ring. Once the food has been canned and cooked at high temperature the lids will typically “pop” and seal as they cool off. The contraction of the food and the air as the food cools will help create a vacuum. If the lid on your jar “pops” or if it is bulging in anyway that is not a good sign. Spoiled food will produce gas and the gas could be making the lid bulge. Never eat food from a jar that has a bulging lid.

  1. Inspect The Can/Jar

Any dents, cracks, leaks, or even rust is a bad sign. While we are used to buying dented cans in the supermarket, this is not the best case for home canned foods. Any indention or crack or rust could allow air to enter the product and thus begin the bacteria growth cycle. It is possible for your food to go bad, or spoil, without giving any signs of spoilage such as gasses.

  1. Cloudy Liquids

If you notice that your jars of canned food are cloudy you might fear the worst. Keep in mind that cloudiness can be a sign of spoilage but it is not always the case. There are some foods that will create the cloudy issue and there are some other factors as well. Food that is not all the same size, such as peas, could cause cloudiness since the smaller food will be cooked to bits during the high heat process.

It is possible for fruits to become over ripened and they too can produce a cloudiness effect. If you have caned your jars at home it is possible that you have hard water or maybe even impurities in your salt. Both of these factors can lead to cloudiness in the jars.

If you are unsure about the safety of the food in your jars then the best option is to boil it for a minimum of 10 minutes. If during the boiling process you notice a foul odor or even a sour smell then you need to discard the food.

  1. Mold

if you have ever opened a jar and noticed mold then you are not alone. It happens. It even happens to the best of canners. However there are some people that will simply scrap off the mold and eat the contents of the jar. I would not suggest this. Mold and the mold spores are killed in the boiling process. If mold has been able to grow in the jar it means that there is air getting inside the jar in some way.

If you see mold you need to discard the food. The only exception to this would be jam. Botulism cannot grow in jams and jellies because the fruit has enough acidity to kill the bacterium.

  1. Smell 

Too many people will ignore the signs of spoilage and simply smell the food anyway. If the food is molded in any way you should not smell it. The air is going to be filled with the mold spores and that could do serious damage to your lungs.

If the food looks good then give it a smell. You will be able to tell if the food has gone bad by the way it smells. It is very noticeable. You need to keep in mind that Botulinum does not have a smell.

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About Ms. Prepper

I’m Laura P, aka, Passion Prepper, aka, Storage Prepper! I’ve been homesteading nearly all my life and prepping for the last 6 years. I strongly believe our great country of America was built on self-sufficient families like mine and yours. Politics bores me, learning new stuff, getting outside and living life thrills me.

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