Canned goods are essential in nearly every pantry. Whether you make your own canned goods or purchase various fruits, vegetables, and fillings canned goods have specific functions and features that can cause other limitations.
How do you preserve your canned goods? Can you freeze them and save them longer? What options do you have for your canned goods? You cannot freeze canned goods, but that does not mean you don’t still have plenty of options. Once you’ve opened a canned good, you could potentially freeze the contents. There are a lot of factors to consider in order to do so.
Technically speaking, you could freeze canned goods if you decided you were just going to do it. But beware there could be consequences for freezing canned goods. We will dive into that a bit deeper later in this article.
Should you determine that you need to freeze the items that are canned we have some tips and tricks that you should pay mindful attention to.
We’ve put together this guide to help you know how to handle your canned goods and to understand what your preservation options are for them. If your concern is that they are soon to be out of date or opening and not using all of them, don’t fret, there are options available.
We encourage you to keep reading and learn everything you need to know about freezing (or not freezing) canned goods and alternative options and methods as well.
A Guide to Canned Goods
Do you can fresh garden goods at home and store them or do you buy canned goods from your local grocery store?
Whichever method you prefer we assume you’re familiar with canned goods on a basic level. However, there is a lot of information surrounding canned goods that you may have never known, including options for preserving them or reusing them.
Bear with us as we work through the details. It’s also important to know that not all canned goods are created equal. Some canned goods have great alternative options while some might simply need to be tossed rather than stored or extended past the date.
Why Canned Goods?
Canned goods came about because they were a useful alternative to pickling or drying items. Canning items provided another option for saving and preserving food, particularly if you relied on a garden for the majority of your foods and needed some way to maintain those throughout non-gardening seasons.
Over time, it was determined that canning goods with specific methods and sealing them preserved the food within for an extended period of time. Not only was the food preserved, but it still tasted great when the seal was broken and the food was cooked and served.
The canning process originally provided meal options for soldiers and people forced away from home. It provided a flavorful alternative to bland dried foods that just didn’t taste the same.
One of the great things about canning these foods was that the flavor was primarily unaffected. Canning saved the fruits and vegetables, allowed them to be transportable, and reduced other processes that were simply not as tasteful.
Aside from these benefits, canning eliminates waste because the foods that are canned are not likely to go bad. Never say never, they can go bad, but essentially they last much longer than any other form of the food.
The Canning Process
Most canned goods are now sealed through pressure canner mechanisms. Manufactured canned goods have a machine process that seals them. The key is that the can is pressurized. This is the number one aspect of canned goods and without that step, the food inside may go bad.
Canned goods that you purchase from the store are typically in cans. However, you might find canned goods in jars as well. If you’re canning foods at home, you’re most likely using a mason jar or comparable container.
Here is a simple outline of the canning process:
- Prepare foods for canning by washing, slicing, etc.
- Load the food into preferred storage container
- Add moisture content – this may vary depending on what you canned. It typically is a mixture that includes water and potentially an acid like vinegar.
- Attach lid or top
- Can by boiling or pressure canning.
The pressure canning method is the preferred canning method and is what manufacturers utilize as well, they just do it in bulk form.
Boiling to can foods is not recommended. It is typically reserved for fruits, jellies, tomatoes, or pickled products. When using the boiling method, the jars are covered with boiling water and heated for specific time frames until they are fully sealed.
Boiling canned goods is not as trustworthy of a method and is less likely to preserve all foods for long periods. That is why it is recommended for only certain types of items.
Pressure canning is the preferred method for the canning process. It is more likely to protect the foods from botulism or spoiling and should make the food last longer as well.
Pressure canning is also much safer for you and your kitchen. The pressure cooker requires just a few inches of water to be placed in the bottom. They are then enclosed and sealed into the cooker and heated to no less than 240 degrees.
This heat would not be attainable without the pressure cooker set-up and it is this heat that sterilizes the food, killing even the spores of bacteria, and seals the container in which the foods are canned in.
Using Your Canned Goods
There are no specific instructions for using your canned goods after canning. Some canned goods can stay good in their cans for up to 10 years. There are signs to know if your canned food is no good anymore.
When you’re ready to open your canned goods check for these things if you are concerned they might not be good any longer.
- Do they smell bad or rotten?
- Are the foods discolored or even moldy?
- Was there foam or odd liquid when you opened the can?
- Is the canning container cracked or damaged?
- Is the canning container leaking?
- Is the canning container bulging or swollen?
These are all potential signs that your canned goods may have gone bad. It is important to note these things and if you are concerned it is better to toss out the potentially bad items rather than take the risk.
Once you determine that the foods within the can are still good, you can proceed to cook them or serve them as normal. You may need to drain the liquid that they are preserved in.
Cooking or serving canned goods does not have to be complicated. There are no special rules to follow aside from checking to make sure your canned goods have not gone bad.
Most canned goods come with a “best by” date printed on the can. If you can at home, be sure to label with the date or at least the year you canned those items.
Most canned goods are recommended to be used within about 2 years but as we mentioned in other places within this article, many of them can actually have a shelf life that extends to at least 5 years.
Can You Freeze Canned Goods?
You should never freeze canned goods directly. Since canned goods are pressurized, you could experience a number of issues if you were to attempt to freeze the canned goods in that form.
However, if you receive canned goods that have been frozen or if you weren’t aware of the potential effects of freezing canned goods, there is a method to follow when you use them.
- If canned goods have been frozen they must be thawed in a slow method.
- You can thaw frozen canned goods in the refrigerator. This process could take 2-3 days.
- Place the canned goods on a plate or tray while thawing in case they leak.
- If the cans leak, deform, or crack you need to toss all of it and do not eat it.
- If canned goods have been frozen it can compromise the integrity of the foods, it is important to use them within a week of thawing time.
- If the canned goods have a low acidic content, it is recommended that you boil the food for at least 10 minutes as a precautionary measure against potential bacteria.
Freezing canned goods can cause canning containers to swell or even explode. Be very cautious about attempting to freeze canned goods while they are canned and when attempting to use them after freezing.
If you notice a canned good that has been in the freezer is deformed, potentially unsealed, or leaking do not eat the contents.
How to Freeze Your Opened Canned Goods
If you opened a canned item and decided not to use it or you simply have more than you need you don’t have to toss the leftovers. Once you have opened that canned good you have options available to store those foods.
This is your workaround if you feel like you really need to freeze canned goods. Open them and then freeze them. Just be mindful that there are some canned foods that simply will not freeze well.
Here are some of the items that don’t always freeze well:
- Citrus items (oranges, lemons, limes, etc.)
- Salad greens (lettuce, spinach, cabbage)
- Raw potatoes
Some of these items have specific methods that might allow you to freeze them, but as a rule, they are not simple to freeze and do not always freeze very well.
The primary alternative to freezing canned goods is to open the product and proceed from there. Follow the freezing methods that apply to the food that you are working with.
If you are going to freeze items that were previously canned, here are some tips you should keep in mind.
Tips for Freezing Previously Canned Items
- Don’t allow the item to sit out after opening for very long
- Follow freezing methods for the particular food you are working with
- Be aware of items that may not freeze well
- Freeze carefully, making sure the foods are good prior to freezing
- Seal well and do not store in the freezer for more than 6 months
- When you pull them from the freezer and use the item, be sure to use it quickly.
We do not recommend utilizing this method as an alternative to storing foods as canned. This information is primarily provided so that if you have a canned good that is no longer sealed and is still good you have options to preserve that food rather than have to throw it out.
Canning vs. Freezing
In some instances, you may need to determine whether you should can a product or freeze a product. There are some differences you should be aware of.
Canning is primarily used for fresh fruits, vegetables, sauces, jellies, etc. It is a pressurized storage method that preserves the food within for an extended period of time – sometimes up to 10 years.
Freezing is a short-term storage solution. It can be used for fresh fruits and vegetables if you are not storing a bulk amount and wish to store it for several years potentially. Freezing is meant to be a shorter long-term solution and frozen foods on average need to be used within a year.
Only you can determine which method will work best for whatever product you might be working with. However, if you are considering a long-term storage option for your garden vegetables, we highly recommend canning.
You can even utilize a mixture of both. Freezing some items for more immediate use and canning the bulk of the items to store in your pantry. The canned items will last for years to come and could provide for your family in times of urgent need.
Another positive quality of canned goods is that you can donate them or give them away easily if you participate in canned food drives or know of someone who simply needs some help. This is much harder to do with frozen goods.
We hope that you have found the information in this guide to be helpful when it comes to knowing whether you can freeze canned goods and what your options are.
We invite you to check out some common questions that could provide additional valuable information.
Does canning vegetables reduce their nutrition value?
It is possible that your canned fruits and vegetables will have a lower nutrition content than when served fresh. This is also true of freezing vegetables. For the most part, canning will preserve the vitamins and nutrition but anything not eaten fresh does decrease in nutritional value.
Is canning dangerous?
Canning methods and abilities have evolved since canning was originally presented to the world as a food preservation option. It is relatively safe to can if you are familiar with proper procedures and utilize a pressurized canning system.
Previously, it was possible for jars or canning containers to break or even explode if they were over-pressurized. It is extremely important that you follow instructions for your canning tools closely to avoid this.
Can meats be canned?
If you visit canned goods at your grocery store, you will notice that there are meats, beans, and even whole meals canned. Just about anything is able to be canned if the proper canning procedures are followed. This includes meats, seafood, dairy, fruits & vegetables, pie fillings, etc.