Would You Eat Preserves After 40 Years? 150 Years?

Would You Eat Preserves After 40 Years? 150 Years?


Yesterday I saw a photo by Mark Gilliam on Facebook who lives south of the border in Tennessee.

“My parents old root cellar. My mom canned these almost 40 yrs ago– and now she’s gone now, abandoned world!”

My assumption would be that by the looks of those rusted lids, I would not be sharing it with anyone.  Even if they are somehow miraculously properly sealed and free of bacteria, there is still a possibility that the metal of those lids has likely contaminated the contents by now.

My Father was doing a cleanup of my Grandparents home in Cowansville, Quebec before it was torn down and I remember he found some old preserves that hadn’t been touched in years, perhaps even decades knowing Mary Louise Deller Knight.

From the looks of the art on the front of the boxes that stored them, it could have even come from the late 50’s or early 60’s. However, no matter how the “spicy apple”…”cinnamon pear”…”wild strawberry” looked tempting we passed. After all forbidden fruit has caused a few to be “in a bad jam”!

Some people say not to use anything after a year to the date that it went into the jars. Others will tell you that they recently ate the last of the tomatoes their grandmother canned in the summer of ’99.

Since prehistoric times, humans have found ways to make food last longer through a variety of methods ranging from fermentation and pickling to salting, smoking and drying, but a method for preserving food in a nearly-fresh state had remained elusive until the tin can. These jars seen above I won’t even enter in the equation– but they were most certainly set up for a ‘hardy time”.


With the lack of air to spoil them, thousands of artifacts were recovered intact, including jars of preserved food that are still edible, tested by one of the excavators themselves, who ate a pickle from the Arabia finding it to be still perfectly fresh. From-What was Found (and still edible) inside a 150 year-old Sunken Steamboat

If I was Mark I think I might have opened at least one of his mother’s jars. I imagine aome might have been the equivalent of “fruit-roll in a jar” if it has fermented— or you’ve got some kind of novel 30 years-in-the-making alcoholic fruity spirit. You know moonshine:)

Or, if your canner was good, maybe might have some really good 30 year-old preserves. In all honesty maybe they never should have named them preserves.  I think I would only eat that stuff if if I had been hiking through the Sierras in the snow in 1846 with the Donner party. Imagine the stories these jars could have told if they could talk. Could have been a great alternative to cannibalism.


Wendy LeBlanc- OMG, looks like my mother’s cold room before I cleared it out – er, I mean had someone clean it out for me. Oldest jar with a date on it was only 1993 but I figured a fair few of them were older. Oldest item in freezer was applesauce dated 1978. Can anyone beat that?!

If you have a garden, dig a trench about 18-24 inches deep and 6 inches wide. Fill to no more than 4-6 inches with the food out of the jars and recover. We canned a lot and when we would find crates of old lady “grand Ma passed just get the stuff out of the house some is like 10 years old” that’s what we did. Had a beautiful garden. Made the peppers very hot if you did the trench with all the acid/pickling stuff where the peppers were gonna be the next year. After the trench was filled in we would rinse the jars in the garden area and rake in the residue.


About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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