When Preserved Foods Go Bad?


Of course, food preservation is not perfect; even with the most careful preparations preserved foods can still go bad.

Dried or Dehydrated Foods

Dried foods, if exposed to any type of moisture, can mold. With foods that have been completely dried or dehydrated, moisture has been completely removed, preventing the food (for the most part) from spoiling. However, if just a little moisture is in some way introduced into the bag or container that the dry food is being stored in the once dried food can now mold if not refrigerated and used quickly. Even so little as a few drops of any type of moisture can ruin an entire bag or container of dried foods, if it is not caught in time. If you believe moisture has been introduced into your stock of dried food, either refrigerate the food; or, if it is an item that freezes well, you can freeze the dried food.

Canned Food

Seasoning raw meat with salt and herbs for preservation

As discussed in Chapter 4, if the lid pops on a jar of canned food the contents must be discarded; the food has lost the seal which had acted like a vacuum and protected the contents.

But why would a jar, if it was firmly sealed when it went onto the shelf, all of a sudden have a popped lid? This could be a result of a few things. There could have been a small chip in the rim of the jar, tiny enough to allow initial sealing but big enough to prevent the seal from staying intact for long. Sometimes you can get faulty lids, and unfortunately you will not know whether this is the case until it is too late. Another possibility is that you may not have left the jars in the hot water bath long enough to create the seal. There can be many reasons for lids popping, but these are a few of the most common.

Frozen Foods

Jar of canned red peppers on a pantry shelf

Frozen foods go bad in two main ways. First is freezer burn, which is when the foods actually dry out in the freezer. This can happen if the food has been in the freezer for too long, or if the food has not been packaged correctly, such as not using bags or containers suitable for freezing. Putting meats in the freezer in the packages they came in (plastic wrap and foam tray) or not properly resealing an open bag before returning it to the freezer can also run you the risk of freezer burn.

The second way that frozen food can go bad in the freezer is due to a power failure. Now, this may seem like a rather obvious problem; however, you can help to stave off the loss of foods by doing just a few things. Don’t keep opening the freezer or leave the freezer door standing open. The less you go into your freezer during a power outage the more cold air remains inside. If the shelf is packed tight, try to leave it alone during the outage if possible. Tight packaging of frozen foods will keep the foods frozen longer.

If you have a winter outage, with temperatures outdoors that are consistently below freezing, and if you have frozen food in the freezer, pack it up and move it outside into a garage or shed where it will stay cold and out of the reach of animals. If it is cold enough, the food may even remain frozen. (This option should only be considered if you have food thawing, and are at risk of losing the food, with outdoor temperatures that are extremely cold/below freezing.) Lern more about when preserved foods go bad.

Oils and Vinegars

Infused oils, like any other oil, may go rancid, which you will be able to identify by its having a different smell or appearance than it should. Any time your infused oil doesn’t look or smell right discard it. I have never had vinegar go bad.

Cured and Smoked

Cured or smoked foods can go bad if the process is not done properly or if the end results are not stored correctly.

These are only a few examples of preserved foods going bad. Sometimes this can be prevented through common-sense handling. Other times there is little you can do to prevent spoilage, as it can be dependent on conditions outside of your control. That is all a part of preserving foods. But, the more you do it the more you learn about the process and the better able you are to lessen your losses during an emergency.

Remember, when you have losses or spoilage it may be a bit disheartening. But as I said, it does come with the territory. Don’t let it stop your enthusiasm! Learn also about food safety basics.

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