Can Pickles Go Bad? Know Their Shelf Life & Storage Methods

Do Pickles Go Bad
Credit: Wikipedia

Pickles add a zing to sandwiches, burgers, or any salads. Vegetables have a short shelf life. Pickling them ensures that the vegetables can be enjoyed for a longer duration. But do pickles go bad?

Yes, they can! No food in the world can last for ages and pickles are no exception.

Do Pickles Actually Go Bad?

The answer to the query do pickles go bad depends on a number of factors including the way they are stored, the best by date, and the preparation method. To make pickles, the vegetables are immersed in boiled brine water and vinegar.

Then they are transferred to a jar and sealed tightly. The fermentation process in the acidic solution increases the good bacteria. If pickles go through a proper fermentation process, there is a lesser chance of the pickles spoiling early.

How long do pickles last unrefrigerated?

Pickles can last for a longer duration, post the expiration date if stored properly. Unopened jars of pickles can last as long as one to two years when stored at room temperature.

If opened and refrigerated they can last for the same duration, past the printed date. But do homemade pickles need to be refrigerated? Yes, you would definitely not want your pickling efforts to go in vain. If you want to increase the shelf life of homemade pickles it is better to refrigerate them.

How Do You Know If Pickles Have Gone Bad?

Pickles lose their crunch with time post the best by date, but they may be still edible. So, how to tell if pickles have gone bad? A few signs that indicate a perished pickle include dome shaped lid of the jar, molds, or black or brown growth on the pickle.

1. Check the Jar containing Pickle:

If the lid of the jar containing the pickle isn’t flat but dome shaped, the pickle may have gone bad. It may be due to improper sealing of the jar. Also, check for any brown or black growth in the jar; it could be fungus.

2. By Simply Looking at the Pickle:

You can use your senses to determine spoiled pickle. If you see a slimy, discolored liquid or if the pickle feels soft, then it has gone bad. Spoiled pickles don’t look bright and turn soggy. There may be molds or fungus grown in the pickle.

3. By Odor & Taste of the Pickle:

Pickles smell sour, but if they emit a foul odor, it’s time to discard the jar. If looking at the pickle and smelling it doesn’t help, you can taste it a bit.

If it tastes spoiled, then you should immediately throw it away. If your pickle is homemade, then consider labeling it. This will help you decide if it has gone bad.

How to Store Pickles for Longer Shelf Life?

The vegetables used for pickling should be immersed in brine. Exposing them to air will lead to the development of molds.

1. By Storing them in Sterilized Containers:

To store homemade pickle, half fill a jar with water. Place it in the oven and heat for two to three minutes or until the water boils. Empty the jar and let the remaining water drain on a kitchen towel.

While it is still warm, but not wet, fill it with the pickle.It is important that you sterilize the caps, too. Pour hot boiling water on the cap of the jar to sterilize it and leave it to dry on the rack. Seal the jar tightly.

2. Storing in Plastic Can

If using a plastic can, opt for a food-quality plastic that is both odor and OVC free. Avoid using aluminum, copper, or brass containers. Leave the jar over the counter to speed up the pickling process. The hotter the temperature the better the microorganisms will work.

Also ensure that you use clean spoon to remove the pickles. A wet spoon may be contaminated with bacteria and may spoil the pickle.

So, do pickles go bad? Now that you know the answer, you can prevent it by storing it in hygienic conditions, with appropriate refrigeration, and handling it carefully.


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