How long should I keep an open jar of jelly, jam, or preserves?

How long will a jar of jelly, jam, or preserves remain safe and appealing once it’s opened? Answers vary from 1 to 12 months. Why so much variation? The shelf life of the product is affected by many factors including these: the type of fruit, the amount of sugar and preservatives, whether it is a homemade or a commercial product, and how the product is handled by the consumer.

The Smuckers Consumers Relations phone message gives the following statistics: For unopened jars, consult the “best if used by” date. For opened jars: traditional and low sugar: 12 months; Simply Fruit and Sugar-free: 9 months; apple butter: 15 months. Note that these figures are a bit more generous than those in our chart at However, the message is that store-bought jelly, jams, and preserves are likely to last several months if properly handled in the home.

It's a good idea to put a label on the product indicating the date it was opened, and, before consuming, to examine it carefully for evidence of deterioration, especially mold. The entire jar must be discarded if there is any evidence of mold. Mold spores that can cause serious illness can spread quickly and easily through the entire jar. For more information on the shelf life of jelly and related products, go to

Low-sugar varieties of jelly, etc. may have a shorter shelf life than those made with the traditional amounts of sugar. Natural flavor changes in the fruit base are more noticeable without the sugar to mask them. Some lower-sugar jellies and jams may taste more tart or acidic over time.


National Center for Home Food Preservation "Jams and Jellies"

Smuckers Consumer Relations phone message

Susan Brewer, Ph.D. University of Illinois, Department of Food Science and Human Nurition


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