One of the most asked questions I receive is "how long will it last?" I think home made produce will last longer than people have been led to believe, but shorter (in general) than store bought things.
The length of time things last really depends on the cooking method, the ingredients you use and how you treat them.
Treat it? Yup that's right. For example, if you keep your opened jar of sauce in the pantry it's not going to last as long as in the fridge. Or, if you use a dirty spoon and/or leave it on the bench so it alternates, warm/cold, it is not going to last long. Finally, a cooked product will last longer than a raw one (eg: mayo).
Making your produce last.
Step One, the produce
This bit is simple. Make sure your produce is fresh, not bruised and well washed but dry before starting.
Step Two - the containers….
- Wash your hands well before starting and keep them clean!
- Use good jars. Make sure they are smooth, and not chipped along the rims so they will make a good seal.
- My best, biggest and foremost bit of advice… use SMALL jars. (then you are more likely to use within the "good to eat" period)
- Recycled jars are fine - in fact most of mine are - but use glass jars/bottles with metal lids
- You can sterilize your jars by putting them into a large saucepan half filled with water, and boiling the jars, lids, spatulas etc, for at least 10 minutes. (leave water in the saucepan to vacuum the jars afterwards)
- Make sure you sterilize your other equipment too! Eg: cloths, spatulas, tongs
- If you are putting warm/hot liquid into them, boil the jars not long before you need them and leave them in the water until you are ready to use them so they are still warm and will not shatter. Obviously if it is a cold product (ie: mayo) boil them and let them cool before using.
- When you bottle your jams, sauces etc - make sure they go into STERILIZED jars, with sterilized lids, using sterilized tongs and spatulas.
- Make sure you have nothing spilt on the jar lid or edge of the jar/bottle. This will affect the seal. If you have, wipe off with a sterilized cloth
- Fill the jars/bottles close to the lid and seal the jars while the produce is hot.
This is where you stop if you are doing things that don't boil in the cooking process, like un cooked or cooked mayo, lemon curd, choc/hazelnut spread etc. Keep these jars in the fridge. They will last much longer sealed (up to 2 or 3 times longer) but once opened, use as quick as you can.
But, For stuff you boil to cook – eg: jams, sauces etc, keep going
10. Pop the filled, sealed jars back in the water in the saucepan – there should be enough water for the water not to boil dry but not enough for the jars to float or tip over. They should NOT be tipped on the side in the water. Boil for 10-15 minutes and then, if possible, leave jar in the water until both are cool. If not, take out but leave undisturbed and upright until cool.
11. One of the cookbooks (can’t remember which one – sorry) recommends steaming in your Varoma for 20 minutes. I think that’s a great idea, but the problems with this method are the number of jars you can steam/seal while they are upright and whether they’ll fit with the lid closed.
12. Vacuum sealed jars/bottles should last in a cool dark place (I keep mine in a cupboard) for at least a year!
13. Make sure you label your bottles clearly, Make sure you rotate your jars/bottles to ensure you use the older ones first.
Step Three, Once you start using your jar/bottle
- Once you open a jar/bottle, keep it in the fridge
- Use a CLEAN spoon, knife or spatula to scoop out some produce.
- To reduce the possibility of contaminating your produce, it is a good idea to scoop some of your produce into a small bowl for use. Eg, jam and scones? Scoop some of your jam into a bowl for people to use – stick your jam jar back in the fridge.
So…. You have done all the right things and you have opened your vacuum sealed jar and it is in the fridge – how long now?
I have found a rough guide for how long my produce lasts once opened, if it is treated right…..
- Thermomix stock concentrate (with salt) - 6 months
- Raw mayo – 1-2 weeks
- Cooked mayo – 6 weeks
- Jams / Chutneys – 6-8 weeks
- Cordials/syrups – 1-2 weeks
- Tomato Ketchup – 2-4 weeks
- Tomato paste – 1 week
- Pizza sauce – 1 week
- Asian type sauce – 4-8 weeks
- Curd (eg: lemon, lime curd or butter) - 2 weeks
- Choc/Hazelnut spread – 2 weeks (I make a lot of this [and the raspberry version] for demos. I put into small plastic containers and freeze them until needed)
Some other things
- Butter – this will last for months, make sure you have all the buttermilk washed out (the cold water step in the cookbook, do it twice and squeeze that butter well!) – It is the buttermilk that goes off
- Bread – I keep the cooled bread in a plastic bag and it stays fresh for a couple of days with it being good for toast for another couple of days after that. Even with bread, how you treat it will affect how long it lasts. If you can bear to wait for 15 minutes after taking out of the oven before cutting…. It will last longer than if you cut it straight away (you let out all the steam which keeps it moist)
- Peanut butter – this is another thing that seems to last and last, even in the pantry
- Spice Mixes – they don’t go “off” as such, but they will loose their potentcy. Keep in the pantry in a airtight container and try to use in 3-6 months (depending on how many times you opened the container)
- Salt scrubs - 6 months to a year
- fruit/nut scrubs - use within a few days and keep in the fridge
Please remember….. This is a post from someone who has made some "stuff" over the past couple of years and have been checking how long things last. I am not an expert. Use your own judgment. For goodness sakes do NOT eat mouldy tomato sauce because I said it should last a month in the fridge and yours is only 2 weeks old. Check your produce before you use it! Any signs of mould or an alcoholic type smell – don’t use it!