Is this mold on my jam?
July 19, 2013 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Is this cream-colored crystallization on top of a jar of strawberry jam mold or something else? And either way, is it still safe to eat if I spoon the stuff off? (pic)
posted by shivohum to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Sure looks like mold to me. And stuff that has visible mold on top probably also has little tendrils of mold running all through it. I'd toss it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:42 AM on July 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sorry, you've gotta toss that. Looks like mold and showbiz_liz has it right - in soft stuff like jam, the mold probably has tendrils in the rest of the jam.
posted by hungrybruno at 7:43 AM on July 19, 2013


Mold. Toss it.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:46 AM on July 19, 2013


Fourthing "mold," fourthing "throw away."
posted by Etrigan at 7:46 AM on July 19, 2013


Very sad, since this was a crazy expensive jar of Little Scarlet. Sigh. Thanks. I'll do the necessary.
posted by shivohum at 7:49 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jams and preserves generally don't get moldy. The mold got there probably because of what was on the spoon last time you dug some out.

So, no, there are no tendrils. And mold isn't generally dangerous unless you are eating lots of it. We usually spoon off the mold on top and eat the rest.
posted by vacapinta at 7:51 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is just a guess, but when you're making toast do you use the same knife to butter the bread and then get jam? I've had my jam/jelly look like that because of butter residue.
posted by Flamingo at 8:01 AM on July 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jam absolutely can get mouldy in the middle even if you don't touch it. It depends on how much sugar is in there preserving it. Factory made jam from your normal supermarket isle, you can scrape it off and you're fine. But fancy preserve with high fruit content and less sugar, it's difficult to know. I can't find an ingredient list for this stuff, does it contain preservatives or more than 50% sugar?

Sometimes jam gets sugar crystals or butter or whatever on the top but that is pretty clearly mould by the way. Whether you take the risk to eat it further depends on your personal tolerance. I'd take a good look at the rest then probably ditch it anyway, but then I've had mouldy (homemade) jam before and blech.
posted by shelleycat at 8:05 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, no, there are no tendrils. And mold isn't generally dangerous unless you are eating lots of it. We usually spoon off the mold on top and eat the rest.

Huh. Yeah now that I'm googling I'm seeing some conflicting opinions on this.

I've had my jam/jelly look like that because of butter residue.

That's interesting. I think I sometimes do. Do you just eat your jam that looks like this?
posted by shivohum at 8:06 AM on July 19, 2013


I can't find an ingredient list for this stuff, does it contain preservatives or more than 50% sugar?

It does -- 13g of sugar for every 20g (1 tbsp) serving.

Ingredients: sugar, little scarlet strawberries, (pectin & citric acid added when required)
posted by shivohum at 8:13 AM on July 19, 2013


I don't know if it's mold or not, but I've occasionally eaten jam that looks like that (I've always assumed it was either butter residue or sugar crystallization) and never had any ill effects.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:16 AM on July 19, 2013


I would err on the side of not-mold. My mom makes homemade jam and it often gets things like that on top. It's usually just crystallization of the sugar. We scrape it off and eat it. No ill effects.

Disclaimer: I will eat almost anything (including chicken that's been sitting out all day and fruit that has been thrown in the trash). My opinion may be less safe than others.
posted by mrfuga0 at 8:23 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looks like crystallisation to me. What does it smell like? I'd scrape it off to be safe but keep the rest of the jar.
posted by missmagenta at 8:28 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's interesting. I think I sometimes do. Do you just eat your jam that looks like this?

Yes and with no ill effects.
posted by Flamingo at 8:37 AM on July 19, 2013


Tiptree jam is the best! I'm particularly fond of their Lemon Curd.

Never had the Little Scarlet before, but I've had Tiptree Strawberry and Black Currant both mold over on me when I lived in the UK. Methinks your pictures looks like the beginning stages of moldy jam. Sorry, love!
posted by horizonseeker at 8:51 AM on July 19, 2013


It's hard to tell from that pic (everything looks so slimy!) but my first guess was crystalized sugar as well.
posted by grog at 9:35 AM on July 19, 2013


it looks like congealed pectin to me.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 9:51 AM on July 19, 2013


My first thought was butter from your buttering knife. ALL my jams look like that. Loves me my butter.
posted by Max Power at 10:01 AM on July 19, 2013


That looks to me like sugar crystallization or congealed pectin, or butter.

If I were in your place I would probably scrape/spoon it off, or taste it and test it for texture (between your fingers) and then probably just eat it anyway.

My sweetie who is a professional chef says that these tests can be totally valid but she usually uses this kind of thing as a sign of age of product if not spoilage and if it's one jar would as likely compost it as test it and eat it (if not mold).
posted by kalessin at 10:11 AM on July 19, 2013


I think it is mold; and I think you can safely spoon it away. Generally the white and blue molds and food are not dangerous; it's the red/orange ones you need to worry about.

This article backs me up on spooning mold off jam, see last paragraph.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:17 AM on July 19, 2013


Based on the ingredient list I'd say your chances of it being bad all the way through are tiny. Sugar is a really good preservative. Take a good look in the middle I guess to make sure there's no extra grey sludge, but I doubt there will be.

I'd cut the top layer off with a clean spoon (because that grey lump bottom left is totally not sugar crystals or butter, it is absolutely mould) then taste the stuff underneath. If the jar has been warm enough long enough for it to go off then the fruit will be fermenting, so will taste like sour dough or alcoholic (in which case it's unlikely to hurt you but won't taste good). But with that much sugar the chances of even that happening are small, so if it tastes good then go for it.

I'm really strict about food safety and throw most things away for what it's worth.
posted by shelleycat at 10:30 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd cut the top layer off with a clean spoon (because that grey lump bottom left is totally not sugar crystals or butter, it is absolutely mould) then taste the stuff underneath.

Ok so I did this and it looks fine and tastes fine. I think I'm going to go with that... I will report tomorrow if I have acquired botulism or other fun problems.
posted by shivohum at 11:40 AM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Any chance you could grab a crumb of it and rub it between your fingers? Sugar will feel grainy, mold won't. I have exactly the same stuff in my Tiptree ginger jam and I'm positive it's sugar (I actually just pulled a little out and looked at it under low magnification). The stuff in my jam jar basically has the same feel as crystallized honey or maple syrup on the edges of the jar. I think you don't see it as often in US jams because they use corn syrup instead of sugar, which doesn't crystallize the same way. Happens on my homemade stuff too.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:11 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Any chance you could grab a crumb of it and rub it between your fingers?

Interesting. Unfortunately, I threw the sliced-off part away too quickly to do this test. I will say it didn't seem to be as fuzzy, at least at a glance, as I think mold usually is. But it's hard to say for sure...
posted by shivohum at 12:29 PM on July 19, 2013


It's almost always valid, if a little nasty, to touch, smell and even taste* food that you suspect has spoiled. With tasting, be prepared to spit and rinse. Felt texture can be very indicative and molds in general won't infect or kill you if you touch them.

Just follow common sense if you explore this way, don't touch suspected spoiled food with a digit that has an open wound (ew anyway!). Don't cross-contaminate. Be careful and methodical.

* This doesn't hold for foods that could be outright poisonous, like mushrooms or some kinds of suspected spoilage like botulism which can't be tasted anyway, and so on.
posted by kalessin at 12:48 PM on July 19, 2013


When I was a kid (just up the road from Tiptree, coincidentally) my mum used to make a cupboard's worth of jam to last the year and every time we got a new one out we started by scraping the mould off the top before proceeding. YJMV.
posted by penguin pie at 2:42 PM on July 19, 2013


It looks like crystallized sugar to me, too. If you hadn't discarded it already, I would suggest sniffing the suspect portion of the jam. If it doesn't smell moldy, then I doubt it is moldy. The touch test for a grainy texture (indicating crystallized sugar) is good, too.

I am pretty sure you were just joking about botulism, but just in case anyone was wondering, botulism is a) a very serious and potentially fatal paralytic condition not akin to common "food poisoning" and b) not associated with acidic foods such as strawberry jam. The usual culprits in US cases are preserved meats (especially aquatic mammals), improperly canned vegetables, and (in the case of infant botulism) honey.
posted by Orinda at 10:47 PM on July 19, 2013


> Jam absolutely can get mouldy in the middle even if you don't touch it. It depends on how much sugar is in there preserving it. Factory made jam from your normal supermarket isle, you can scrape it off and you're fine. But fancy preserve with high fruit content and less sugar, it's difficult to know. I can't find an ingredient list for this stuff, does it contain preservatives or more than 50% sugar?

I don't know what you mean by "high fruit content" for jam? But it doesn't need to be 50% sugar for preservation reasons -- sugar is certainly acting as a preservative, but the 1:1 ratio of typical recipes is to activate the gelling properties of commercial pectin. High acidity and sterile practices are more important for preserving.

And I would sure as hell not trust mass-marketed foodstuff brand owned by corporate conglomerate as safer than smaller companies, given the rash of contaminated packaged foods.
posted by desuetude at 12:23 AM on July 20, 2013


My home made jam is often something like 75-85% fruit which means there is not enough sugar to preserve it and it needs to be handled as such (refrigerated immediately etc). Some boutique places here in Europe sell similar products, I wasn't sure if the Tiptree stuff is the same. Turns out it's not.

Sugar content really does matter along with the other stuff because it really is a preservative (sterile practises stop it being contaminated at the start, preservatives stop it becoming contaminated over time), we can assume commercially sold jam uses appropriate acidity and sterility anyway so that's not relevant, and the 1:1 ratio is a general rule of thumb to give me a ball park rather than some hard and fast line. But since it's a different type of product anyway and since there haven't been any worldwide outbreaks of contaminated jam that I've heard of (Tiptree is made in the UK), it's all good.
posted by shelleycat at 12:38 AM on July 20, 2013


I am pretty sure you were just joking about botulism

I was mostly joking about it, but there are some links that talk about some molds in jams producing mycotoxins which cause botulism - but it looks like this is for homemade jams in particular.

My home made jam is often something like 75-85% fruit which means there is not enough sugar to preserve it and it needs to be handled as such (refrigerated immediately etc).

So it makes sense that homemade jam is more vulnerable then.

So far no issues after having had a couple tablespoons of the jam yesterday.
posted by shivohum at 5:35 AM on July 20, 2013


That looks like sugar crystals to me, and I'd eat it. If there's enough sugar to crystallize, it should be enough to be a good preservative. In the US, to be labeled jelly, there's a sugar minimum. Also, mold will taste bad.
posted by theora55 at 9:29 AM on July 20, 2013


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