How long does chutney keep?
March 9, 2007 3:32 AM   Subscribe

Would homemade mango chutney which was placed in a strawberry jam jar as soon as it was made and hasn't been opened since (as far as I know) still be OK to eat after one year in a pantry cupboard at room temperature?
posted by Effigy2000 to Food & Drink (25 answers total)
It should be absolutely fine, assuming it was bottled properly into a disinfected jar in the first place.
posted by minifig at 3:40 AM on March 9, 2007

I assume you sterilised the jar beforehand. If so, when you open it you will know, there will be neither mould nor a bad smell. Chances are, your pickling juices will have killed off anything harmful if you were a bit lax on the sterilisation. I have a friend that makes mango (and tomato) chutney and I have eaten it over a year after it was given to me with no ill effects (it was refrigerated after opening though). Whack a bit on a Sao with cheese and enjoy!
posted by tellurian at 4:09 AM on March 9, 2007

was this just put into a clean jar? - throw away if the answer is yes.
or, was this canned properly with into a boiled jar and lid? - in which case it should be fine
posted by caddis at 4:29 AM on March 9, 2007

If it was canned properly, then it's fine if the seal on the lid is still intact. That is, the dimple in the middle of the lid should still be depressed. If it's bulging, then it's gone bad and you should throw it out.
posted by cabingirl at 5:07 AM on March 9, 2007

I hear nothing about canning here. I hear potential botulism. It's not a joke, it can kill you. That's why proper canning techniques are important. Tellurian's friend knows what she is doing. Tellurian does not.
posted by miss tea at 5:22 AM on March 9, 2007

miss tea is very correct. By "strawberry jam jar" do you mean a home canning or or a reused jar of store-bought jam? If you reused a store-bought jar, those lids cannot be properly resealed. If it's not already mouldy, it still could be deadly. Throw it out.
posted by GuyZero at 5:34 AM on March 9, 2007

Actually, I don't hear potential botulism at all. Botulism hates acid foods. And when I say 'hates', I mean 'dies in'.

Your real problem with botulism is in low-acid foods such as meats or law acid fruits like banana. Botulism also survives 212F, so water baths do nothing.

Chutney is not in this category at all. Please be more thorough about understanding what goes on waving the botulism flag.

The real issues are molds and yeasts, both of which die at water bath temperatures.

I've canned close to a thousand 8 ounce jars of jams, jellies, chutneys, fruit spreads and so on, and I've lost precisely two jars to mold. A half dozen to sheer age.

I agree with the earlier posters. If you started with a sterile jar and boiling chutney, I'd certainly think a year is possible. Where I'd get suspicious is in the quality of the seal. If you just reused the lid, I would have far less confidence as jar seals are made to be used once. That's not to say they're dead after that, just that they aren't designed for it.

Home canned food is way better than almost all store-bought equivalents, but not so good that it's worth a weekend on the crapper. Fortunately, it's easy to figure out if it's OK.

In general, you want to approach home-canned food with some skepticism and as many senses as you can. Start with your fingers. Push on the lid to see if there's give. Yes? Chuck it. Use your eyes - look for discoloration working from top to bottom. Discolored? Chuck it. Use your ears. Open it. Hear a good pop? No? Chuck it. Use youy eyes again. See mold on the top? Yes? Chuck it. Use your nose. Smells off? Chuck it. In doubt? Chuck it.
posted by plinth at 5:55 AM on March 9, 2007

(goes on before waving...)
posted by plinth at 5:56 AM on March 9, 2007

It doesn't sound like the OP did any "home canning". It sounds like he just dumped it in a pre-used washed-out jam jar. If that is the case, then it's not properly sealed to last a year at room temperature. I also do not think that botulism would be the issue here, but the fact that it doesn't seem like it was properly canned tells me that it's not worth trying.

The only way I see reusing jam jars as an ok idea is if you are using it to store items in the refrigerator for a few weeks, not to leave food sitting on a shelf at room temperature for a year.

Is one jar of chutney really worth getting sick over? Just make some fresh, and learn how to can properly, so you don't have to worry about it in the future.
posted by tastybrains at 7:40 AM on March 9, 2007

If it wasn't canned, it's a throwaway. You'll know if you canned it or not, it's a somewhat involved process.
posted by cschneid at 8:47 AM on March 9, 2007

Plinth, if you read my post, you'd see that I specifically noted that the poster isn't doing home canning, as far as his post goes. I'm very happy for you that you're good at it, though.

Additionally, although some chutneys are low pH (e.g mango), many are not (onion & cilantro are very alkaline), and since the OP didn't specify which type he had, I wanted to make sure he was careful.

Please be more thorough about understanding about what goes into chutney.
posted by miss tea at 8:51 AM on March 9, 2007

When in doubt throw it out.
posted by spakto at 9:03 AM on March 9, 2007

Um, miss tea..."Would homemade mango chutney..."
posted by solotoro at 9:04 AM on March 9, 2007

No need to get snippy miss tea. It is entirely unclear whether this was canned or not as the poster was not specific. Also, the chutney was specified as being mango.
posted by caddis at 9:09 AM on March 9, 2007

caddis, i wasn't snippy, I was quoting plinth actually. "Please be more thorough about understanding..." comes straight from her/him.

And you're right, mango chutney. still doesn't mean the pH was low enough (in the absence of any specific info) to forestall bt. with enough alkaline ingredients and not enough acids that's very much possible. Sorry I didn't make that clear.
posted by miss tea at 9:31 AM on March 9, 2007

wow, all this over chutney! (I have no clue what chuteny is btw) but I use the rule spakto said "when in doubt, throw it out."
Also, if it did not "pop" when opened, it is likely not good anymore. Too bad to throw out a nice homemade can of yummyness, but better than spending the next two days in your bathroom, or worse, in your local ER.
posted by ForeverDcember at 9:46 AM on March 9, 2007

I've seen a few posts about "how long can I leave this food out and still eat it". I believe this falls into that category because, as far as I can tell, the OP didn't can this chutney, just left it in a jar.

I would assume that chutneys were developed as a method for long term food storage, and I bet that a lot of chutneys would last longer than say, a raw mango left in a jar because of the added sugars, spices, etc.

I'd be very curious to hear some concrete info on how long various foods last when they're not refrigerated, canned etc. I know that in the US and Western Europe, people tend to treat food as 'bad' if it's been out of refrigeration for a few hours, but surely some foods last a very long time without refrigeration. I mean, lots of people live without this technology, right?
posted by serazin at 10:20 AM on March 9, 2007

I mean, lots of people live without this technology, right?

Such people tend to cook their food fresh every day and/or use proper preservation techniques. Putting food into a leftover, used jam jar is not a proper preservation technique.

Prior to all that, people got sick and died a lot.
posted by GuyZero at 11:14 AM on March 9, 2007

GuyZero, come now! Cheese, salami, jerky, and jam too are all foods designed to allow folks to eat foods long after they are fresh.
posted by serazin at 11:30 AM on March 9, 2007

... and are also all examples of "proper preservation techniques".

You don't make cheese, salami, jerky, or jam by just leaving milk, meat, or fruit out on the counter, except only very rarely by lucky accident.
posted by Caviar at 11:43 AM on March 9, 2007

I wouldn't eat it.
posted by catseatcheese at 12:10 PM on March 9, 2007

Cheese, salami, jerky, and jam too are all foods designed to allow folks to eat foods long after they are fresh.

And if you've ever made cheese, salami, jerky, or jam, you know that it takes a lot of work to preserve foods, and it's easy to mess it up. I wouldn't eat even a commercially-produced salami, cheese, jerky, jam, or chutney that was left unsealed in a cupboard for a year, much less a home-brewed version!
posted by vorfeed at 1:25 PM on March 9, 2007

What vorfeed and Caviar said.

Let me go further by saying that if I read a warning, I assume it's there for a reason. Electrical transformers have high voltage signs all over them because there is a real danger there, even though I've never actually even gotten so much as a tingle from one.

In the cookbook I have read, there are really very few warnings. Books that cover baking never mention the possibility of dying from improperly baked bread. And the dangers of too much dessert are more long-term. Books about home canning are different. Those go into a lot of detail about why you have to be very careful when you can food and that the results of doing it wrong are very serious. Like dying painfully serious.

So, while I've never had any problems with properly canned food, I assume those warnings are there for a reason.
posted by GuyZero at 1:36 PM on March 9, 2007

So Effigy2000, are you still with us. No comment, no tick. Did the deadly chutney do you in?
miss tea: Please re-read what I wrote. 'I have eaten it over a year after it was given to me' I'm in Australia too and although Queensland can be warmer than new South Wales, there's not that much difference. [the value of AskMe in this case is that it is a personal experience, not what an anonymous manufacturer tells you is right for you]. How did you intuit that it was a woman? You're right but…
Also, GuyZero:
So, while I've never had any problems with properly canned food, I assume those warnings are there for a reason.
Yeah, nanny state and avoidance of US style litigation.
posted by tellurian at 5:48 AM on March 10, 2007

Yeah, nanny state and avoidance of US style litigation.

No, tellurian, these sorts of warnings pre-date the nanny state. Food poisoning isn't purely a modern phenomenon.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:51 AM on March 10, 2007

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