If you are a peanut butter and jelly sandwich fan, you may not have to worry about the storage conditions of jelly.
But if you are someone that has a jar of jelly sitting somewhere in the kitchen just in case someone around the breakfast table asks for it, you may need to learn more about how to store jelly properly.
Does jelly need to be refrigerated? An unopened jar of jelly does not need to be refrigerated, but an open jar will likely preserve best in the fridge, especially if it is a low-sugar or sugar-free jelly. Jelly with a high sugar content can be stored at room temperature in a tightly sealed jar and in a dark and cool area.
Keep reading to find out in which cases you should refrigerate jelly and when you can get away with storing it in a kitchen cabinet.
Does Jelly Go Bad?
Jelly is made from sugar, some kind of fruit juice, and pectin.
That last ingredient is a type of starch used in the making of jelly for two reasons. First, it makes cooking jelly a faster process. Second, it enhances the fruity flavors in the jelly.
Store-bought jellies may also contain preservatives and other added ingredients.
With this simple ingredient list, there is still an important question. Can jelly go bad? And what makes it go bad? How should you store jelly to make it last long?
Jelly does go bad. As in the case of jams and preserves, improper storage conditions will make jelly go bad. Another thing that can affect the shelf life of jelly is the amount of sugar in it.
If you didn’t know, sugar acts as a natural preservative by stabilizing the water content in food. Thus, the less sugar in the jelly, the shorter is its shelf life.
As far as the storage conditions are concerned, you can ask different people about how they store jelly and they will all give you different answers.
Some leave this breakfast staple at room temperature. Others prefer to keep it refrigerated to avoid any ‘risks’.
So, what is the right way of storing jelly? Let’s find out!
Does Jelly Need to Be Refrigerated?
Jelly doesn’t need to be refrigerated if you still haven’t opened the jar. If jelly is sold unrefrigerated, it is only natural to keep it in the pantry or a kitchen cabinet once you bring it home.
Once you open the jar of jelly, it is up to you to decide where to store it.
Ask yourself a question, how often do you eat jelly? If you eat it often and go through jars of jelly one after the other, you can keep it in a cool and dry kitchen cabinet or pantry.
If jelly is not a commonly sought spread in your house, consider refrigerating it anyway as it can’t hurt anything.
The cases when you should refrigerate jelly is when it is made without sugar or contains very little of it.
Jelly that contains little or no sugar will go bad quickly as there is little to nothing to stabilize its moisture content.
Additionally, these kinds of jellies undergo flavor changes sooner than jellies with more sugar do. They will start to taste tart shortly after being stored at room temperature.
How Long Does Jelly Last Unrefrigerated?
An unopened jar of jelly stored in a cool and dry area can last up to 12 months stored in the pantry. However, the shelf life of jelly varies depending on its sugar content, especially after it’s been opened.
If you want to keep jelly out of the fridge but make it maintain its best qualities for as long as possible, follow a few simple safety tips:
- Don’t dip food into the jelly. When using jelly for such purposes as a dip on a cheese platter, transfer the needed amount into a separate bowl and go from there.
- Always use clean cutlery for jelly. Particles of other food getting into the jelly may be a cause of bacterial contamination.
- Keep the lid sealed at all times. This will prevent jelly from drying out and the many insects that will enjoy the sugary preserve as a treat.
- Keep the jelly away from direct sunlight. The latter will result in flavor and color changes of jelly. Even if you have it in dark-colored jars, you need to put the jelly in a dark place to protect it.
How Long Does Jelly Last in the Fridge?
If you are not sure whether you should refrigerate your unopened jar of jelly or not, know that it won’t do much to the jelly. So long as the lid is on, store-bought jelly will last quite long stored in a cool and dry pantry.
An opened jar of jelly will last for up to 12 months or more in the fridge. Commercially produced jelly usually has storage instructions printed on the jar along with the ‘Best by’ date of the product.
The shelf life of sugar-free jelly ranges from 6 to 9 months in the fridge. Jelly with low sugar content has a slightly longer shelf life than this. It will keep well for 8 to 9 months in the fridge.
You can also freeze jelly to extend its shelf life if you are not sure that you can finish the entire jar before the jelly goes bad.
Transfer the jelly into an airtight container without overfilling it. The jelly will expand as it freezes. By leaving some space for it to ‘grow’ you are saving yourself the trouble of cleaning a jelly mess in your freezer.
Jelly stored in the freezer has a shelf life of over 12 months. However, we recommend eating it within the first 6 months as after that the favor of the jelly will deteriorate and become less intense.
How Long Can You Keep Jelly Out of the Fridge?
If you have an opened jar of low-sugar or sugar-free jelly, try not to leave it out at all. Put it back into the fridge as soon as you finish your breakfast.
As for traditional jelly with ample amounts of sugar, you can leave it out of the fridge for longer than a month.
Signs That Jelly Has Gone Bad
If you are not a fan of breakfast sandwiches with jelly, then you most likely let it sit in your fridge for too long.
To detect whether the jelly is still good or not, look for the following signs:
- Mold – You have to try really hard for your jelly to get moldy. However, this is still possible if you haven’t been storing it right, or if you’ve been double-dipping.
- As soon as you notice any traces of mold in the jar of jelly or in the jelly itself, discard it. Don’t even try to scoop the moldy part out. Jelly is a soft substance. If there is mold in it, then it has most likely leached into the entire jar.
- Discoloration – Color changes are not a serious indicator of spoilage. An opened jar of jelly may undergo slight color changes if it has been sitting in the fridge for a few months.
- It is more common for the top layer of jelly to get darker as a result of exposure to oxygen. It is in these cases when you can scoop out the ‘bad’ part and eat the rest.
- If you notice severe discoloration or the color changes are paired with other signs of spoilage, don’t hesitate to discard the jelly.
- Off-Odor – An off-putting smell is a common sign of bad jelly. It most cases, if jelly is spoiled, it smells like something fermented.
- Consistency Changes – If you notice severe consistency changes in jelly, it is time to discard it and open a new jar.
- Something that people mistakenly consider to be a sign of spoilage is the liquid that accumulates on top of the jelly. But this is normal if you have had the jelly for some time. Just give it a stir to bring back the original texture.
What Happens If You Eat Bad Jelly?
If by saying ‘bad jelly’ you mean expired jelly, you can relax as the date printed on the jar is simply an estimation of how long the jelly will maintain its best qualities. It likely won’t be truly ‘bad’ yet.
As for truly spoiled jelly, there is little chance that you would eat it as it smells and looks so bad that you wouldn’t fail to notice it.
In any case, practice food safety. Inspect the jelly closely before eating especially if you have had it for a few months.
How Long Does Homemade Jelly Last?
Almost everything homemade lasts shorter than its store-bought version due to the lack of preservatives.
But the good thing about jelly is that there is sugar in it. It makes it safer to leave homemade jelly out.
The shelf life of homemade jelly is 6 to 12 months in the fridge. If you prefer to leave your jelly out at room temperature, expect it to keep well for up to 4 weeks.
Note that these estimations are only true if you store jelly properly, i.e. in a well-sealed jar, away from heat, sunlight, and moisture.