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How Long Will My Jam Keep For?

One of those questions that we seem to get asked a lot is ‘How long will my jam (or chutney etc.) keep for?” Now that’s actually a difficult question to answer. There are all sorts of things that will affect storage life.

Jams & Chutney

Victoria Plum, September 2016 – Sweet Orange & Cognac Marmalade, June 2012 – Green Tomato Chutney, October 2016

Temperature makes a huge difference. A warm kitchen cupboard isn’t ideal. Neither is being proudly displayed on a shelf in full sunlight. What were the conditions when it was made? Was the cook scrupulous about sterilising and hygiene? Is the seal on the jar intact?

The other thing we have to consider when answering how long a jam will keep for is our legal position. Especially with a book that was being sold in the USA. A land of hungry lawyers looking for business!

So our official position is, unless we say less, one year. One email exchange that sticks in my memory was a quite sharp note from someone whose jam had gone mouldy and tasted funny after just a few months. It turned out she’d decided sugar was bad for you and halved the amount in the recipe. The sugar isn’t there just for sweetness – it’s a preservative.

Easy Jams, Chutneys & Preserves

Easy Jams, Chutneys & Preserves

As Good as New!

What’s brought this to mind is this. Back in June 2012, Val came across some oranges reduced to silly money in the supermarket. So she made a batch of sweet orange marmalade with added cognac. It was delicious, totally moreish.

Well somehow a large jar of this marmalade had managed to hide at the back of the cupboard. The cupboard is in a cool stone building. It doesn’t freeze in winter although it gets very cold but neither does it get too warm in summer.

I brought it inside and opened it. It looked good, tasted good and by golly it does you good! Just like a Mackeson stout 50 years ago. Nearly seven years old and still perfect! But, our official line is still one year. It’s in the fridge now it’s opened – just to stop any mould growth appearing – next to the 3 year old chutney. I guess rules are made to be broken occasionally.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
9 comments on “How Long Will My Jam Keep For?
  1. Amanda Hutchinson says:

    As long as there is an unbroken seal the jam or marmalade will keep indefinitely. Because there is only one season for Seville oranges I always make enough for a year and more if I can. As long as no air gets in the preserve will survive without any problems. I have preserved chutney for at least three years and there has been no deterioration in taste. I also make a heap of Ratatoille to add to pasta; sauces and meats; and seal in kilner jars. T will happily sit for as long as you can resist. Put in fridge after opening of course and eat within a couple of weeks.

  2. Amanda Hutchinson says:

    Jam and preserves will keep indefinitely if the jars are sterilised; hot and the contents hot when potted. I make Seville orange marmalade once a year (as the season is so short in the spring) to last over a year without problem. I have had plum jams; Rattatoille and chutneys all in kilner jars for well over 12 months and going into the ‘years’. As long as the seal is tight (only the ingress of air will damage the contents) it will be fine.

  3. Rowland Wells says:

    Hi John as we freeze quite a lot of our fruit we pick in the season can we make jam from fruit that’s been in the freezer?

    • John Harrison says:

      Yes Rowland – Val didn’t fancy hot pans of jam when the weather was sweltering so she just popped strawberries, blackcurrants and red currants into the freezer. She was making jam in January with summer picked fruits.

  4. Rowland Wells says:

    many thanks John for that info

  5. Louise says:

    My Mum made lots of jam and stored it in a cool garage. We were still eating her jam several years after she’d died.

  6. Michele says:

    Hi, I’ve been successfully making jams and chutneys for a few years and have never had a storage problem until recently. My jars are stored in the boxes the empty jars arrived in and then put inside polystyrene boxes. They are stored in a cold dark garage with a stone floor.
    The other day I found several batches of chutney have had something happen to them. There were lots of air bubbles and liquid and some had leaked out of the jar. I’m absolutely scrupulous about sterilising and preparation and am doing nothing different than I’ve ever done. The only difference is that it’s been incredibly hot . Could just the heat alone cause this to happen? Or is there possibly something else causing this that I need to rectify?

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