Does Jam Go Bad?

Does jam go bad or not? How long does jam last and how should you store jam? Is it safe to consume jam after the expiry date? Here's a simple guide.

With its sweet, fruity taste, jam is the perfect condiment for crepes, donuts, desserts, or a humble slice of toast.

Kept in glass jars and often forgotten about in cupboards, you might be wondering how long jam lasts for and whether it’s safe to eat.

The good news? If it looks fine, smells pleasant and tastes sweet, it is perfectly edible!

How Do I Know If My Jam Has Gone Off?

Jam is made by heating fruit with water and sugar until it reaches a “setting” point, which is how it gets its jellylike texture. Because jam is made of fruit, and seeing as all fruits eventually go rotten if uneaten, it is subject to decay. The best way to tell if your jam has gone bad is to check for any signs of mold or yeast growth.

If there’s also an unpleasant smell, it’s definitely time to discard it.

Don’t be disheartened if your jam has darkened in color; this is not a sign it’s been spoiled as light-colored jams tend to change their tint over time.

How Long Does Jam Last?

If you’ve recently bought some jam in an airtight jar from the store, check the best-by date. If it’s unopened and the lid isn’t popped, it’s safe to say your jam will keep for a while. How long, you ask? The shelf life is often between 1-2 years depending on the type of fruit used, the amount of sugar, and the presence or lack of preservatives.

As long as the jar is sealed, it should remain edible for months or even years past the best-by date, although you won’t want to leave it for too long as the taste gradually degrades. For example, 3-year-old jam might not be as appetizing as 2-year-old jam.

Leaving your jam jar unsealed will speed up the deterioration process, meaning it will last around 6-12 months. Depending on the fruit and sugar content, you can expect the taste quality to reduce after 1 to 3 months.

Homemade jam has a shorter life expectancy than store-bought jam. Unopened, it can last up to 12 months. After it is opened, eat within a month.

Of course, these are estimates, so don’t forget to keep an eye on your jam for any signs of mold or strange smells!

How To Store Jam

Jam is pretty easy to put away neatly when not in use since it is often kept in glass jars. Want to know the best way to store jam?

If it is unopened, the key is finding a cool, dry, dark spot in your pantry or kitchen cupboard. Avoid heat as this will speed up deterioration!

Once opened, over time the gel will change into a more liquid texture, and be able to decay. To slow down this process, keep it in the fridge with the lid closed tight.

If you want to prolong the life of your jam, here are some handy tips you can put to practice!

  • When using, dish out only what you need onto a little plate or container.
  • Don’t keep it out on the table throughout your entire meal.
  • Always use clean cutlery so the jam is not contaminated with bacteria.

If you have homemade jam, a great way to ensure no bacteria gets in straight after cooking is to store in a sterilized jar. You can wash the jar in your dishwasher on a hot cycle, or follow the steps below:

  1. Preheat your oven to 275°F (or 140°C)
  2. Wash jars in soapy water then rinse through.
  3. Place upside down in the oven for a minimum of 20 minutes.

After you have ladled your jam into the sterilized jar, don’t forget to seal it tight! If it can’t be sealed, place it in the fridge and try to consume it within a few weeks.

Although homemade jam doesn’t last as long as jam bought from your local store, you can store it in the freezer. It gets better! Not only is decay slowed down in freezer jam, but it also tastes more like fresh fruit. There is little time involved in making and storing freezer jam: simply cook the fruit with water and sugar for less than five minutes then store frozen!

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Alisa Shimoyama

Alisa eats her way around the world on her travels and likes to have good food ready and waiting for her when she gets back.