An uncle passed away recently so I have been cleaning up his condominium and thinking about his food stash choices.
His pantry was crammed full of cans, with jars and dried foods being a small minority of his storage. This made sense for an elderly man with poor eyesight since he wanted things he could eat with a minimum of preparation.
Unfortunately I have had to throw quite a bit away, as he did not handle his food stores as well as I’d hoped. He had a lot of food from 2012.
Oils, kept away from air and light, will go rancid in a year. This includes many types of canned meat, such as tuna, sardines and corned beef. The kippers, sardines and corned beef he stocked? Nasty.
Protein under the same circumstances will last up to three years, depending on the protein. My uncle’s canned salmon from 2012 is ‘iffy’, the canned chicken was also starting to go bad.
Carbohydrates kept well can last for at least 20 years. His green beans and canned peaches were A-okay!
The rule of ten states that for every ten degrees difference from room temperature, the storage life doubles (or halves, if it’s hotter). The part most folks don’t get is that’s in Celcius, not Fahrenheit.
This is from chemistry ~ it’s called the Arrhenius equation. So, food kept in a cool room at 12 degrees C (54 F) can be kept for double the time, and food kept in a refrigerator at 2 degrees C (36 F or normal refrigerator temperature) has four times the storage time. That explains why my uncle’s Cure 81 ham in the refrigerator from 2012 was still good — the fat had not turned rancid.
Note that freezing changes things, the rule of ten no longer applies. Frozen goods can be kept for a very long time with minimal degradation. But when the power goes out… that rule of ten also works the other way.
For example, food kept in a garage in Arizona experiences a lot of heat differences, but in general expect only half the storage time. That sealed gallon of corn oil I forgot in the garage was going bad just six months later. Food stashed in a car trunk would have at most a quarter of the regular storage time – a can of peanuts in my trunk was going ‘off’ just halfway through the summer.
All these food storage times require the food to be protected from air and light. Bulging cans, jars with air under the lid, broken seals, otherwise compromised containers, those times mean nothing. If in doubt, throw it out.
Leave an open bag of chips out for a week or two and you’ll probably taste a difference.
Looking at my uncle’s place has made me realize that I’m not doing as well as I should with storing what I eat and eating the old food first. My family will be complaining … we have some Dinty Moore stew suppers coming up!