I agree. If canned properly they can last at least 3 years. That's the oldest I've eaten. Canning doesn't usually last long here. Mind you, I only do hot water bath canning, not pressure cooker canning. Meaning there's more sugar in my canning to act as a preservative.
Canning (water bath or pressure) is a form of food preservation that depletes nutrients pretty heavily. Freezing food tends to retain nutrients (vitamins) while dehydrating tends to deplete nutrients the most. Canning is somewhere in between. If you think about it, with canning you're cooking the food two or three times by the time you eat it and each time depletes vitamins further.
Because of this, canned food is edible and will give you calories even if you eat it two or three (or more) years later. However, you won't get much in the way of vitamins because they continue to degrade as time goes on. You can also experience texture and quality of taste changes, too. So concord grape jelly you canned last summer will still taste bright, full and intense eaten at Christmas but next Christmas and the Christmas after might be a bit of a disappointment.
In the end, it is best to can what you are able to eat in a year.
I haven't noticed any degradation of texture, color or flavor in my home canned goods. My peaches and nectarines, 3 years later, look just like they did when I first canned them. If I compare them to the current year's jars, you can't tell the difference. Same with other fruits and veggies.
I HAVE noticed it in some family members canned goods because they don't process correctly. For instance DH's aunt never makes any adjustments for altitude in her canning. She processes applesauce 5 lbs for 5 minutes in a pressure canner but at her altitude it should be 10 lbs for 10 minutes. Her applesauce and other fruits turn an unappetizing brown color within a year.
I don't worry too much about the water soluble vitamins being lost in canning because I eat plenty of fresh foods high in those vitamins. The fat-soluble vitamins generally don't degrade during canning. Also the minerals, fiber, carbs, protein and fat levels pretty much stay the same. Also some antioxidants are actually higher in canned as compared to fresh. Lycopene in tomatoes for example.
I think it pays to be prudent with home canning. If you have any suspicions at all, toss it. I have a friend who is bringing me back some canned crabapples from about four years ago that got lost at the back of her fridge, unopened. I'm tossing them because the crabapples will have exploded and gone a bit mealy after that amount of time.
Always, always, check to make sure the seal is tight on older canned goods. If you open it up and smell or see anything unusual, not only on the food product, but also on the lid (sometimes they grow black stuff), then toss! But remember one cannot see, smell, or taste botulism.
While I have eaten jams and jellies and pickles up to 3 years old, I generally try to eat everything, or give away to family and friends, within a year.
I never eat home-canned vegetables unless I know the person who canned them has done them correctly. I am scared to death of botulism. The toxin only grows in a sealed, air-free environment such as a sealed jar. But you can boil the vegetable for 15 minutes (at our altitude) in an open kettle and destroy the toxins.
As for is it worth it to do canning? YES! The taste, to me at least, is far superior to storebought canned goods. And the cost savings is very good. I simply cannot buy my low sugar jams and jellies for what it cost to make them. I figure I get them for 1/3 to 1/4 the price of storebought ones. Each package of Pomona pectin makes 2-3 batches of jam. Sometimes 4 batches, depending what fruit you're putting in the jam. That's about 30 cups of jam.
I have friends I gift canning to return any canning jars for the next year's canning session. I also just put out the word I'm interested in canning jars. Somehow they find their way to my door. So much so that DH insisted I get rid of some this past summer! I did. I gave away several dozen larger jars I wasn't using. But I kept 11 dozen pint size and smaller jars. I used about 9 dozen this Fall. The rest will be used throughout the winter season. I can year round really. I use frozen fruit if I can't get a hold of fresh.
A forum community dedicated to the frugal lifestyle and the enthusiasts. Come join the discussion about simple and green living, cost effective tips, life hacks, debt reduction, recycling, gardening, other homesteading techniques, and more!