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Shelf Life of Refrigerated Products?

wintersummer May 17, 2008 06:56 AM

I was reading Everyday Food and came upon a short piece about the recommended shelf life of opened refrigerated products. Here's what it said:

Ketchup and Barbecue Sauce - good for up to 4 months
Salsa - good for up to 1 month
Mustard - good for up to a year
Jam/Jelly - good for up to 6 months
Maple Syrup - good for up a a year
Pickles - good for up to 2 months
Mayonnaise - good for up to 2 months

I go through considerable amounts of mustard, so that's not a problem. But, I rarely use the ketchup, jam, syrup, or mayonnaise - they are in the refrigerator mostly for the rare instances they are needed in a recipe. I do discard products when they've past their expiration dates - but some of the items above don't have expiration dates (ketchup, salsa, syrup)

Do you follow these guidelines?

  1. marmite May 21, 2008 11:45 AM

    As long as it's been in the fridge all that time I usually go by smell/ tiny taste test. But on Monday I went to the kitchen in my office to discover that someone had taken out my salad dressing and broccoli to make room for something else, presumably on Friday, and left them out all weekend. The broccoli was yellow and got tossed, but the dressing still smells fine and I believe it has vinegar in it, so I just put it back in the fridge to do my taste test another day. Should I be afraid?

    1 Reply
    1. re: marmite
      racer x May 22, 2008 06:02 PM

      If it's like most salad dressings, it contains preservatives that help keep germ counts low (various sorbates, EDTA, etc). And chances are, it could be used again without a problem.

      But if it were me, I wouldn't hesitate to dump it. It is so easy to replace the bottle. Why take the chance of getting sick (or worrying that you might get sick) from it?

    2. Kajikit May 20, 2008 11:26 AM

      Not really. Ketchup, salsa, mustard etc are good forever as long as they've been kept refrigerated and not contaminated with other food (ewww...) Jam keeps forever because of the sugar, but fruit spread doesn't (it has less sugar, and it gets a funny taste after about six months.) Maple syrup and honey are pure sugar - they keep forever and a day, and if they crystalise you can 'thaw' them with warm water. And pickles aren't EVER going to go off because they're pure vinegar!

      1. m
        mpalmer6c May 19, 2008 08:08 PM

        This sounds like recommendations from manufacturers who want to assure furnover. It probably takes me a year to use up a jar of pickles, and they taste fine.

        1. r
          racer x May 19, 2008 07:50 PM

          How long can you keep egg whites (or yolks) in the refrigerator once you've broken the egg open?
          (Since some recipes call for just the one or the other.)

          2 Replies
          1. re: racer x
            manraysky May 20, 2008 07:22 PM

            I would save them in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, or freeze them.

            1. re: manraysky
              racer x May 21, 2008 09:53 AM

              Thanks. I didn't realize you could freeze them.

          2. r
            Ranger05 May 17, 2008 03:58 PM

            Mayo for only two months, not true. Mayo and most other condiments have a "use by" date on them. This means "use by" weather the product is open or unopened. This differs from "sell by" dates. Once opened, the sell by date is no longer valid. And 1 month for salsa seems a bit extreme in the other direction. Personally, I wouldn't eat opened salsa a month later. Maybe 5-6 days max.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ranger05
              Morticia May 18, 2008 04:19 PM

              I guess with salsa, you need to distinguish between fresh and preserved (like Pace or Ortega)...the fresh stuff that comes in the plastic tub will definitely not last a month...but in my experience, Pace will last almost forever...

            2. mrbozo May 17, 2008 11:11 AM

              I safely eat everything in my fridge no matter the expiry date: unless it obviously smells off or dab on the tongue feels wrong in terms of flavour/texture. In the case of mold I scrape it off and apply the smell and taste tests. Never in all my years have I got sick from food in my fridge (or pantry). I trust my senses to warn me and so keep them tuned.

              1. v
                Val55 May 17, 2008 08:21 AM

                Thank you for posting this. It is very useful information. As a single woman, I usually only have condiments in my fridge, and I never know how long I can keep them after they have been used. I just tossed a 3/4 full bottle of ketchup because I think it dates from last year. I figure with summer and bbq season approaching, it is time to spring for a new bottle. I buy small bottles of mayo, unless I need it for a recipe, so mayo is not a problem. But I've always wondered if I should toss jam and bbq sauce after a couple of weeks, and it is good to know that they will last months.

                1. lupaglupa May 17, 2008 08:06 AM

                  It depends on whether you care about taste or safety, IMHO. Some things lose flavor over time but aren't a danger to the eater. We keep items in the refridgerator well past their expiration dates (and past the dates listed above) and never have a complaint. I toss things only when they are no good - the salsa molds, the pickles get mushy, etc.

                  1. m
                    mkel34 May 17, 2008 07:46 AM

                    I probably follow the guidelines due to use for all the items above except for these two:

                    Pickles - good for up to 2 months
                    Mayonnaise - good for up to 2 months

                    How do pickles only have a shelf life of 2 months?

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