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How To Safely Store Canning Jars – How To Keep Your Stored Food Safe!

When it comes to storing your filled canning jars safely, a few simple common sense tips can go a long way to keep you and your family’s food supplies safe and secure for the long haul.

Canning is certainly becoming popular again. With more people than ever tending to home vegetable gardens, preserving some of the harvest to use throughout the year just makes sense. Throw in the ever-rising cost of groceries, and having your own home-grown stash can also save big on the family budget.

But once all of that food is in jars, how long can it last? And where is the best location to store it all? Those questions and more about safely storing canned good are exactly what today’s article is all about!

canning safely - storing jars
There is nothing quite like the feeling of looking on your counter and seeing your garden being put into jars! But how you store those jars can have a big impact on the taste and safety when you go to use them.

It All Starts With A Safe Canning Process

Safe canning all starts of course with using only tried and true canning recipes. Recipes that have been tested and approved for safe storage and consumption. After all, if you don’t start off with a safe product in the jar, it doesn’t matter how you store it!

Unfortunately, modifying canning recipes, or creating your own from scratch can have serious consequences. If there is not enough acid in tomato recipes, it can lead to unhealthy and dangerous food. Same goes for canning corn, green beans and many other vegetables.

But by simply following tried and true recipes, canning can be perfectly safe. And, of course, delicious and healthy too! Once you have your food safely into jars, the next step is storing it properly to keep it that way. With that in mind, here is a look at how to best store your canned goods, and how long they can safely be kept.

How To Safely Store Canning Jars – The Simple Secrets To Success!

Always Date Your Jars

One of the first things you should always do when finishing up a batch of canning is date your jars. For us, the easiest way to do this is with a sharpie marker right on the lid.

In just a few seconds, the day and year is on the lid forever for you to know exactly when the jar was processed. Although you can use labels and fancy stickers, they often fade or strip off the jars, leaving you wondering just exactly how old the contents inside are. That of course is never a good thing!

pressure canning
As soon as our jars come out of the canner (above), we take a magic marker and write the date onto the lids. It is the easiest and most effective way to always know exactly when a jar was first created.

As for how long can a canning jar be safely stored, there are a lot of thoughts and opinions. We practice the widely common 12 month rule in our house. We know that when properly processed and stored, our canning jars will stay good for that time period. Beyond that, we err on the side of safety and stop using them.

Remove Those Lids

One of the most popular questions we receive every year is about the rings on canning jars. More specifically, should they be left on, or should they be removed when storing. The answer? Take them off!

A few years back, we had just finished our latest DIY canning jar cabinet plans for the blog. It was right during canning season, and we filled it with just-finished jars for a few photos for the blog. When we published the article, we got bombarded with emails asking about the rings still on the jars! See : Canning Jar Cabinet Plans

Needless to say, we had a long day of answering emails to folks letting them know we were only using the new jars for the photos – and that we always take the rings off when storing. Lesson learned – and we still talk about that photo mistake today!

canning jar without rings
When storing, always remove the ring around the lid at the top of the jar. Leaving it in place can actually harm the seal more than help it.
Storing Without Lids

When placing your jars into their permanent storage area, you always want to remove the rings. The rings are designed to help hold the lids in place for the initial pop and seal. And they do a great job of that for sure. But once your jars have cooled and are ready for storing, it is important to unscrew the rings and take them off.

This is important for several reasons, both of which relate to safety. First, if there is a problem with spoilage in your jar’s contents, the seal will almost always pop off.

With no ring in place to hold it down, it is a great way to always know when you go to use a jar if it has held its seal. Without the ring, if it is bad, it will be loose.

But with the rings down tight, it can prevent the seal from breaking when there is a problem. Furthermore, it can also hold the lid down tight while in storage, allowing the lid to even reseal. The issue of course is you may think your jar is fine, when it is not.

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Finally, leaving your rings on can also in some cases help to break a seal. As they loosen or tighten over time, they can disturb the seal and even break it. The bottom line – remove those rings before storing!

Cool & Dark Storage

When storing jars, always select the coolest, darkest and driest location you can find in your home. All three of these conditions are equally important and can affect how long your canned goods will stay viable.

Not everyone has a dry, cool, dark room in their basement to store their canning jars. If you happen to, it is by far the best choice of all. But if you don’t, no need to worry, you can still safely store your jars in other places throughout your home.

It might be a cooler room in the house that receives little or no light. Or perhaps a closet or pantry that does not get excessively hot. Both work more than fine for storing canning jars for later use.

Avoid The Extremes

The real key is to avoid the extremes. You never want to place your canning jars near a furnace, heater, or hot air vents. Likewise, never store in a garage where it might freeze or get extremely hot. Even in cupboards, be sure that there is not a heating vent running behind that could make the space get too warm.

long term storing - canning jars
A cool, dry and dark spot of your home is the best location for storing. For many, the basement is the best option. But even if you don’t have a basement, you can still store jars safely.

Always keep your jars out of an area that receives direct sunlight. The light can break down the product inside over time, or lead to excessive heating of the jars.

On the topics of basements, be sure that you are not storing in an area with excessive moisture. When an area is too wet, it can actually rust the metal lids, which can lead to them unsealing. If you have a damp basement, use a dehumidifier to help get the moisture out.

A Few Final Thought For Safe Storing

Finally, there are a few other things to always avoid or do when storing your jars. Here is a look at some of the most important:

  • Never stack canning jars on top of one another
  • Always store canning jars upright, never on their side or upside down
  • Check your jars periodically, making sure lids are in place
  • Always check jar rims when opening for glass breaks or chips
  • Do not shake jars when storing

Here is to storing your canning jars safely, and to getting the most from your harvest! Happy canning and gardening – Jim and Mary

As always, feel free to email us at thefarm@owgarden.com with comments, questions, or to simply say hello! To receive our 3 Home, Garden, Recipe and Simple Life articles each week, sign up for our free email list that is located in the middle of this article. This article may contain affiliate links.