What is your favorite jam? Strawberry jam? Guava? Raspberry? Orange marmalade? Apple butter? Cranberry pear? They are all indeed perfect with your bread, cakes, desserts, and more! (also read: blueberry chia jam bars)
Jam is a kind of preserve mainly made from any type of fruit pulps cooked in sugar and water for an extended period.
What gives these yummy jams the thick, chunky, and smooth texture? That’s the substance called pectin. Pectin is found in all fruits. It is a natural fiber that is embedded in the cell walls of the fruit. Pectin is water-soluble in nature, which readily binds with the fruit acid and sugar to form a gel.
Pectin can also be bought in stores as “modified pectin,” which is usually used to commercialize jams and jellies. These substances shorten the cooking time and, at the same time, give the jams a fresher fruity flavor.
What are the best things about jams? It does not raise your cholesterol levels, unlike margarine, chocolate spreads, cheese, and butter! Instead, jams are rich in fiber and sugar.
However, you still need to be mindful because jam products use High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), which is associated with increasing your risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. This is why you should use it sparingly if you have these conditions. Jams can be a part of your healthy food list as long as you follow the recommended serving sizes.
Generally, fruits do not have a good shelf life. Making jams out from fruits can, however, extend the shelf life. But, how long can you keep it once you open the jar? What should you do to keep it from spoiling? Does it even spoil, though? How to tell if it is still suitable for consumption after you have it seated in your pantry or refrigerator for an extended period? And, how do you know if it is always safe to use it?
You will get the answers right here!
How to store jams?
To get the maximum lifespan on your jams, you’ll learn it here. Note that it is the sugar that extends the shelf life of jams.
Jams are usually shelf-stable if unopened and sealed. If you have an unopened jar of jam, either homemade or store-bought, keep it in a cool dark place between 50 °F – 70 °F.
Make sure to keep your jam away from any heat source sunlight. Your pantry, kitchen cabinet, or maybe your basement is usually the best place to store it.
If you are in the tropical areas, or a hot summer season, it’s okay to store it in your fridge to retain its quality for a more extended period.
Light and heat exposure will only spoil the jam sooner than expected, negatively altering its consistency, flavor, and appearance.
Food hygiene is a must. Always use a clean spoon and never double-dip when getting some jam out of the jar.
Then, keep the jar of jam in the fridge once you have already opened it. After you scooped out some jam out of the jar, make sure to never forget to seal it properly before refrigerating it so that you can minimize the possibilities of any kind of contamination and, at the same time, retain its freshness for a longer time. You do not want to see it spoiled already in the next few weeks, right?
Can it go bad? How long does it last?
Yes, jams can spoil. There’s an expiration for them.
Typically, jams are shelf-life stable. It has a low pH acidity ranging from 3 – 3.5 to inhibit spoilage bacteria’s growth. Jams undergo prolonged heat processing reaching a temperature of 105 °C (220 °F), which can kill nearly all spoilage-causing microbes in the process.
Jam bottles are sterilized before filling it with the cooked jams. That ensures that any spoilage bacteria is eliminated before sealing the jam. Hence, the risk of spoilage is reduced further.
Aside from providing sweetness, sugar is one of the main ingredients of jams, and it acts as a preservative. It also helps thicken the jam by attracting water out from the fruits during the cooking process. And, sugar provides an environment where pathogens cannot easily thrive. In jam making, you can use other kinds of sweeteners as alternatives to sugar. However, anything made with less to no sugar will not last long in the pantry or the refrigerator.
Homemade jams. The homemade jam uses sugar, and it is sealed through a hot water bath canning method so that it can stay up to two years in a cool, dry place. Once opened, you have to keep your homemade jam in the fridge, and it can stay up to a month or more.
Non-sugar homemade jams that use other sugar alternatives and sealed through a hot water bath canning method can last up to a year when kept in a cool, dry place and away from sunlight. Once opened, these will most likely last up to six weeks only.
Regardless of the amount of sugar you put in your jam or whether it is processed in a hot water bath canning method, you should always store open jars of jam in the refrigerator once you have already opened it. Dispose of any suspicious-looking fruit jam after three months max to avoid potential food-borne illness.
Some people use a special wax disc and have it placed on the surface of the jam. They do this to help reduce air exposure. Interestingly, other homemakers put a thin layer of an alcoholic spirit, like whisky, for example. They pour it on the surface of the jam to minimize the possibilities for the jam from spoilage.
Store-bought jams. Commercially-produced jams are found in groceries. These store-bought jams always come with a “best-by” date or “expiration date” on the food label. These kinds of jams can usually last between one to two years, depending on how the manufacturers processed, based on the type of fruit used, sugar content, and preservatives.
Deterioration speeds up once you open these jams, which can last from 6 to 12 months. However, you might only enjoy the peaks of its quality from 1 to 3 months only, depending on the kind of jam and its sugar content, and the way you store it.
Can I freeze fruit jams?
Yes, you can put your jam in the freezer. Actually, freezing it can extend the shelf life of an opened can or jar of jam. Frozen jams are edible and safe for consumption up to a year past its “sell-by” date. You can put it inside a zip lock freezer bag and press out any extra air before closing it. If you keep it in the jar, leave at least 1/2 inch free headspace inside the jar because the contents tend to expand during freezing.
How to tell if it has gone bad?
First of all, do not worry if you notice that your jam turned darker over time even when you haven’t opened it; that is still okay. That naturally happens to jams processed with less sugar and no preservatives. However, it may not look appealing anymore, and the taste may slightly change, giving you a more tarty taste, but not as bad as spoiled, though.
These are the signs that you should look for in a jam that has already gone bad or spoiled.
- If the jams smell off with molds or yeast growth, never think twice and just throw it away!
- If the jam has a distinct smell of alcohol or fermentation, discard it.
- Give it a taste if it looks okay in appearance, but when you just want to make sure it’s not bad yet. If its taste seems off, don’t eat it.
All in all, once you have opened a jar of fruit jam, you will need to refrigerate it. And consume it within a few months. Air and moisture can quickly get into the jar, giving the microbes more opportunity to get it in. Once moisture has concentrated into the jar, it will eventually spoil sooner.