Vickie offers info on storing canned goods, fresh tomatoes

Published 8:50 am Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Question: How long can you store home canned goods?
Answer: We always advise people to date home canned goods, and to try to use it within a year. That one year after canning date is your “best before” date. It does not mean, and is not intended to mean, you should throw it out. That recommendation is to help you manage inventory more than for food safety. If you have canned food that is over the one year date, move it to the front of the shelf and use it before this year’s canning produce.
The long and short of it is, in theory the seal on your home canned goods should be good forever, and as long as your seal is good the contents are safe. Quality and nutritive value may start to deteriorate after about the one year mark on some items (later on others), so the experts say in general to try to use stuff up before a year, and anything that has just gone over the year mark, prioritize using them up.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation says, “We cannot give you an exact date for expiration. Theoretically, if the food was processed safely and stored properly and shows no sign of spoilage, until that vacuum seal is broken, there should be no way that it becomes further contaminated or becomes unsafe. The one issue with keeping foods too long is you will get quality deterioration — some foods darken with light exposure, or you might get some cloudiness that occurs as starches settle out of the foods.
I certainly wouldn’t want to use really old food and just assume it’s safe. Use your common sense — if it’s over a year old, try to use it as quickly as you can. If you find a few jars that have been on the shelf for 1-4 years, don’t panic, don’t throw it out, it’s still good. Just make sure it migrates to the front of the shelf to be used before new stuff — the same as any sensible person would do with packaged goods from a store.
On the other hand, if it’s been in Grandma’s pantry since Noah and the flood… I would throw it out.
Question: What’s the best way to store fresh tomatoes? Refrigerator or counter? Shoulders up or down?
Answer: Don’t give tomatoes the cold shoulder. Store them at room temperature (above 55 degrees F) until they have fully ripened. This will allow them to ripen properly and develop good flavor and aroma. A ripe tomato is red or reddish orange, depending on variety, and yields to slight pressure.
The Florida Tomato Committee recommends storing tomatoes with their stem end up. According to the Tomato Committee, “The shoulders are the softest part of the tomato; leaving them stem-side down will almost always result in bruising of the product.”
“Try to store tomatoes out of direct sunlight, because sunlight will cause them to ripen unevenly,” advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “If you must store them for a longer period of time, place them after they are fully ripened in the refrigerator. Serve tomatoes at room temperature.”
Vickie Clark is the Director of the Carter County UT Extension Office and also serves as the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent. If you have questions or need any information related to Family and Consumer Science contact her at the UT Extension Carter County, 824 East Elk Ave., Elizabethton, call 542-1818 or email at

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