Question: I’m new to canning and don’t have much storage space. I was thinking I’d store my canned goods in the unheated garage until I’m ready to eat them, but are they still safe to eat if they get frozen?
Answer: The issue of where to store home-canned foods is a problem for many of us! The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP.UGA.edu) tells us that canned foods should be stored between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit for best keeping qualities. But if you don’t have those ideal conditions, then you’ll have to make do — in your garage, for example.
If the temperature in your garage gets higher than 95 degrees, the food will lose color, flavor, and nutrition. If the food freezes, it will be safe to eat as long as the seal is not broken. Freezing will soften the texture of food, and repeated freezing and thawing will really alter the texture.
The problem with freezing is that it causes the liquids in the canning jar to expand, which could break the seal or even break the jar. If the seal is broken, the food is spoiled and should be discarded.
Be sure you know how to check for a good, unbroken seal before using your canned foods. The lid should be concave, and there should be no give — meaning when you press down, the lid doesn’t move or shift at all. You should be able to grip the jar by the lid only.
Before storing your canned foods in the garage, remove the screwbands and test the seals. Keep the screwbands off; if there’s any dampness in your garage, the screwbands could rust onto the jars, making them impossible to open without breaking.
You can prevent some freezing and thawing by wrapping the jars individually in paper and by insulating cartons of canned foods with heavy blankets. Label the cartons so you don’t have to dig around to find the jars you want. Good luck! - Andrea Chesman, food-preservation expert
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