when in doubt, throw it out!

This morning, a can of sauerkraut sitting in my pantry caught my eye. I confess that I don't know how long I've had that can. It was definitely bulging and not just on one side, but on both sides. So, I threw out the can.

You might find that you have some canned-food as part of your three-month supply. Normally, those canned goods shouldn't cause you any hesitation to use them. Canned foods store well in cool areas for at least several years. The US Department of Agriculture states,

Store canned foods and other shelf-stable products in a cool, dry place. Never put them above the stove, under the sink, in a damp garage or basement, or any place exposed to high or low temperature extremes. Store high-acid foods, such as tomatoes and other fruit, up to 18 months. Low-acid foods, such as meat and vegetables, can be kept 2 to 5 years. While extremely rare, a toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum is the worst danger in canned foods. NEVER USE food from containers that show signs of “botulism”: leaking, bulging, rusting, or badly dented cans; cracked jars; jars with loose or bulging lids; canned food with a foul odor; or any container that spurts liquid when opening. DO NOT TASTE THIS FOOD! Even the tiniest amount of botulinum toxin can be deadly.

Here is an alternative link on storing canned foods (University of Minnesota Extension).

My can of sauerkraut did have an expiration date, but it was in some sort of code. The University of Nebraska extension service actually has a site that can help you interpret the coding dates on your cans. You can save yourself from having to look up this information on every can by dating your cans with a permanent marker when you buy them. Recently canned-food makers have done a better job of dating cans in a language that I can understand. I find that I have to mark my cans far less often than I used to (which is probably an indicator that that sauerkraut was older than I had imagined).

You'll likely be storing some canned goods in your three-month supply. So, it's a good idea to know and recognize signs of a can-gone-bad. A phrase comes to mind: "When in doubt, throw it out!"

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