Food past the "Best by" date

Sweet Tatorman's picture

New topic for discussion. Share your own experiences.
I imagine that most folks that put up items from the garden by freezing, or use a freezer for storage of purchased items, have had the experience of moving around a bag of whatever for years while rooting in the freezer for what you need for a meal. I certainly have. Yesterday I decided that I had moved one of those bags for the last time. It was dated 11/17/2015 and identified as cooked mustard. Why did I even have this? Unlike kale, mustard greens are not an item that I would typically cook and freeze. Reviewing my garden record book for that date provided the answer. Apparently soil moisture conditions where favorable to do my Fall tillage and there was a bunch of mustard that would get tilled under. There must be a bit of Scotch in my ancestry because I felt compelled to pick some of it prior to tilling the rest under. So I thawed it out and had some with supper yesterday as well as again today. My impressions below:
Was it edible: Yes
Was it unambiguously inferior to fresh cooked or cooked and frozen for a year or two: Yes
Was it so inferior that I will not be eating the last 2 or 3 servings: No
Would I recommend keeping frozen cooked mustard for 5 years: No
I have some frozen okra from 2015 and likely will report on it soon.
Share your experiences with "mature" food.

Ah, yes, old food. I have definitely had my share of old frozen food. At the moment I am trying to get through some meat dated from 2013. Old, certainly. Inedible, no, but it did taste old. I will certainly finish it off. My records aren't as good as yours, so I have run into frozen mystery packages and those have gone into the compost pile or the trash.

Food storage of any kind doesn't work unless you use what you stored. Otherwise, you just waste it and your money. This is something I and my pack-rat self deal with constantly.

I was given a packaged cookie mix (because it was expired and my girlfriend expected me to compost it).

We took the chance and other than the "off-taste" I expect with commercial cookie mixes, I didn't notice anything wrong.

We routinely use expired (by years) canned goods despite rotating our stock and using First In First Out. Things still get forgotten. As long as everything is kept cool, dry, and in the dark, I haven't had a problem.

Dried beans now. Those can get so hard you need a pressure cooker if you want them to be edible.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Yesterday I thawed out two packages of okra "breaded" with cornmeal. These were dated 9/3/2015 and 9/14/2015. Original preparation for freezing was to rinse and slice the okra pods and then roll in coarsely ground cornmeal. No cooking or blanching prior to freezing. Note, all of my freezing is done with the use of a vacuum bagging appliance. Normally I would oven cook this on an oiled metal pan with frequent stirring but on this occasion I cooked in a frypan on the stovetop.
Judgement: I was surprised with the quality. I cannot say that it was unambiguously inferior to more recently frozen and used.

mountainmoma's picture

I dont like to waste food. the latest one was finishing off dehydrated hash browns, sell by date was 3 years ago, packaged in those little waxed cardboard cartons. I had bought them for emergecies, I usually cook potatoes I grow, and so I need to use them up, took 3 years. this last carton was opened last late spring, and I finished it off night before last. They were as usual. Typically I use up things within a year of the sell by date

I have some dried split peas in the back of the cupboard that are years old and I keep forgetting I have. I'm going to have to try them and see if they'll cook up ok. Soak them overnight, and go from there...

kma's picture

I'm glad I'm not the only one these things happen to!

I once canned 50 quarts of applesauce in a year. It took me a few years to go through them. They were all fine and tasted good except for one that had clearly gone bad but was easily identifiable by bubbles and smell.

I also find chickens to be good for any food that I'm not willing to eat. It's quite a nice symbiotic way to recycle old food into new eggs. I've given them some mystery freezer food before as long as I could identify that it wasn't chicken! They ate it.

My biggest struggle has been long term storage of dairy. I have littles so keeping calcium in the deep pantry is a necessity but unless desperate, I've found no brand I can consume (yet) under normal circumstances happily. I've tried the heavily processed UHT milk. It doesn't go bad, just gets...lumpy. My solution is that when they get close to or past their expiration date, I water them down a bit and mix them with a regular gallon of milk so I don't have to throw away. So they've been a good way to stretch a fresh gallon.

mountainmoma's picture

Bega canned cheese will store for many years, and the price right now, if the sale is still on, at Safecastle is right under $5/half pound canned. This will store for years, I figure a half pound of cheese a week is good goal for me. SO, this stores better than dried or UHT milk. I also keep some UHT and dried whole milk and then rotate it in. Then there is red feather butter, canned, it is from new zealand, and can also be bought at safecastle ( online business). One can is 3 sticks of butter. This is more expensive than regular butter, a much bugger price hit than buying the canned cheese. You can also just have a years supply of butter in your freezer, and rotate every time you use it. SO instead of buying and using a pound of butter straight from teh store you buy the pound of butter and put it in the back of the stack in the freezer and take the front pound out of the freezer to thaw and be in the refrigerator. For milk, the good dried milks, whole milk so have to rotate are peak milk, but I now like the less expesive Nestle Nido milk better, you can buy that all over, the Nido milk is very common, even amazon and walmart. For UHT milk, I know the local dollar store has quarts of shelf stable milk, whole milk or lowfat, for $1. I make sure to have 4 quarts of UHT milk and one can of NIDO milk ( makes 3 gallons) in the house, I rotate into the kitchen to use and replace when they hit their sell by date. That much milk would last me 4 months at my most minimal usage if I only had 1/2 cup a day. 1/2 cup of milk a day and 1 oz of bega cheese a day, plus a cube of butter a week is minimal but would make my life better than having none in an emergency.

For calcium, you want dark green vegetables. Kale, lambsquarters are good sources. grow those in your garden, alot of it, then dry the leaves that you dont need fresh for off season.

kma's picture

Thank you! I'll look into these choices.

For this winter, post-JMG hypothesis, I got a number of bottles of calcium gummies if need be. It's easier to get kids to eats gummies than kale! (Although, I'm with you on the kale and sneak it into dishes as I can, shhh...) Also, I do like kale chips but it's still a hard sell for everyone else here.

Some while ago I saw a video on pressure canning butter to store it long term. I don't remember all the details, but I remember the presenter cooking the butter for some time before putting it in the jars and processing it in the pressure canner. Unfortunately, I didn't keep the URL, so perhaps a search for preserving butter by canning would so that video.

mountainmoma's picture

Generally, people can home made ghee, so they cook a bit to separate out the milk solids and just can the liquid part, the ghee. I do not think it is pressure canned, or at least it would not be a beginner thing to do. When I pressure can soups, I have to make sure to not have very much or any fat as it can wick up and keep the jar from sealing properly. You can also buy canned ghee at specialty stores and it stores for a very long time

This Blogger, Samantha Biggers is also the guest Blog writer at peak prosperity on the preparedness stuff, so this is not a random link, she does not do additional processing on the ghee after putting it into hot, sterile jars. Hot sterile fat straight into a hot sterile jar doesnt contain anything that would grow botulism or mold.

mountainmoma's picture

the sale right now has a full case just a bit more in price than a half case, at least I think everyone can access teh sale, let me know when you click on the link, I picked up a life membership years ago so sometimes I see a different sale price, I am seeing a full case of 36 cans at $164. That would give 2 people a can ( 1/2 pound) each a week for 4 months. 4 people a can a week for 9 weeks.

This isn't the first video I saw on pressure canning butter, but it seems to follow the same routine as the first one.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Thanks for bring up this topic. It is something I had not ever considered and think I will give it a try at some point. It looks to be a good project for the gardening off season. My pressure canners haven't seen much action in recent years.