Ask the Goats is a weekly feature in which we answer your food-preservation questions. It usually appears on Mondays, but, being the day after Labor Day, we’re considering today Monday-ish. Send us your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. We have canned peaches and jam that have been in our attic for over 20 years. The seals are still intact. Is it safe to eat?—Henry.
A. This is an easy one: No.
The USDA recommends that you keep your home canned goods for no longer than 1 year. Now, in truth, many home canners keep their canned goods for longer than that, and, depending on your product, there may be some wiggle room. Even so, there comes a point where common sense prevails. I’m guessing that these items are probably quite gray and soft. Aside from the question of whether they might be “safe,” ask yourself, “Is this something I would want to eat?” Canning does not have magical powers to stop the passage of time. Throw those suckers out, and while you’re at it, toss everything older than 2 years. It’s time to sterilize your jars and start fresh.
And remember, your canned goods will last longer if you store them someplace cool and dark, like a basement. Attics are not generally recommended because they suffer from dramatic temperature fluctuations.