How Long Do Pickles Last | Best Storage Tips
Last updated: 02/02/20
Pickles are a favorite snack that we love to have in our homes. You might be curious as ask just how long do pickles last.
Our ancestors did not have the luxury of having a refrigerator or freezer to store all of their harvest.
If you garden and grow cucumbers..you might know that cucumbers come out like gangbusters once they start growing.
Pickles’s shelf life really depends on the many ways & methods that you choose to store it.
- Pickles in a jar will last 1-2 years if left unopened
- Pickles will last for 12-18 months in the fridge if opened.
- Fermented pickles will last 1-2 years
- Frozen pickles will last for 2-12 months in the freezer.
You will discover the shelf life of pickles, plus some tips on how to maximize your pickle storage life.
Our suggestions are based on the premise that you properly follow the practices of food preservation.
As always, use your best judgment when trying to determine when something is no longer edible or safe to eat.
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1 – Shelf Life of Pickles at Room Temperature
How long do pickles last, is an important question that needs to be answered correctly.
When properly sealed, pickles stored at room temperature (under 75°F) or in the refrigerator will last between 1 – 2 years.
The shelf life of any type of pickling solely depends on the way it was prepared.
Pickles are usually prepared by a combination of vinegar, sugar and salt which all possess substances that preserve the flesh of vegetables or even meat.
The base solution formed by the ingredients produces an acidic solution, which is a perfect preserving agent which can give pickled vegetables a shelf life of 1 – 2 years.
Vegetables pickled in this way can be stored in jars at a temperature of below 75°F and placed on shelves the pantry or in any other selected space.
Tightly sealed jars of pickles can be stored anywhere including the dark basement, where they will stay in their fresh but pickled state for a very long time.
However, once opened and used, the pickles must be stored in the fridge otherwise it could spoil very quickly at room temperature.
2- How Long Do Pickles Last in the Fridge | Shelf Life of Pickles in the Fridge
Pickles never seem to last too long in our fridge as we tend to eat them quickly. However, pickles will last for about 12-18 months if opened and stored in the fridge.
It’s important to keep in mind that whenever you remove a jar of pickled vegetables from its place in the pantry or the basement at room temperature and open it, it must be consumed fairly quickly if stored at room temperature.
This precautionary measure is important because even though the fermenting agents in the jar have preserving agents, they are not harmful bacteria.
The danger lies in the incursion of mold spores and degrading organisms when the sealed jar is opened.
You also need to know that provided they are properly sealed, pickles stored at room temperature, opened and used and then stored in the fridge will normally stay in good condition for up to 18 months.
It would therefore be safe to claim that pickles that have been stored at room temperature for their maximum life span of say 2 years, will, given the reactivation of fermentation after opening, remain good for another year. But sealed them tight every time after use.
Some pickles known as refrigerator pickles are made especially for storing in the refrigerator and used after a certain period of time which is usually 4- 6 weeks.
3- How Long Do Pickles Last After Freezing
Pickles stored in a freezer will last up to 1 year or more.
People are finding it’s not such a bad idea to freeze your pickles, but of course, meticulous preparation before doing so is vital to success.
It’s much easier than spending tedious hours cleaning and sealing glass jars.
The texture and flavor of the vegetables are retained by the process of pickling.
Freezing achieves this outcome without using heat which destroys the flavor and texture of the vegetables inside.
Frozen vegetables in brine stay fresh and crispy and this quality is retained because once inside the freezing process takes over and stops when the pickled vegetables are frozen.
The pickles can’t be frozen beyond this point so they can’t turn soft or mushy on thawing.
More importantly, because freezing takes place in a totally anaerobic environment where heat is absent, oxidation fails to take place and the pickles retain their fresh coloring.
Remember also that boiled water spoils the texture and flavour of veggies.
Essentially, when vegetables are pickled they retain their raw state and when they are frozen, this condition is further preserved.
It’s logical to expect that from the very start the idea of using boiled water or brine during the preparatory stage is to be avoided as they destroy texture and flavour.
Preparing veggies for putting in the freezer involves a 5-step chain of tasks made up of preparation of the brine, taste, flavor, preparation of veggies and slicing the vegetables:
Preparation of brine – the ratio of 1.5 parts vinegar to 1 part water heated to a simmer as
Taste – salt and sugar are added to taste in the following amounts: 2-3 tablespoons of salt and up to ¼ cup sugar per 2½ cubs of liquid until salt, sugar, and acidity to achieve balance.
Flavor – flavoring agents, turmeric, coriander, celery seed (for bread & butter pickles), fresh dill, black pepper, garlic and garlic dills, smashed ginger (for beets) cover pot and let it cool as you
Prepare veggies – a crucial step which includes selecting two groups of vegetables,
Fibrous, less watery veggies – beets, carrots, cauliflower, radishes and so on.
Watery veggies – cucumbers, zucchini, onions, green tomatoes
Green beans and asparagus should be blanched first so that they retain their color. This is done by first immersing the vegetables in boiling water for a short time and then into an ice bath to stop the cooking effect.
Slice veggies – ideal thickness of cuts should be between ¼ or ½ an inch, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon per pound vegetable and leave to macerate for 1-2 hours. Wash off any remaining salt, squeeze out excess water in vessels (plastic soup container)
The next stage is a very simple task. You pour the brine (which has now cooled) over the packed vegetables leaving an inch at the top and put the container in the freezer until the content is totally solid.
They will keep in excellent shape for up to 1 year or more.
The final step is to thaw the pickled veggies in the fridge where they will stay until you’ve eaten the last pieces of pickled vegetables remaining.
4- How Long Do Fermented Pickles Last
Fermented pickles will last will last approximately 1-2 years days if stored properly.
Let’s differentiate between pickles that you get from the store, quick refrigerator pickles and fermented pickles.
The reason that we need to make this distinction is because not all pickles are created equally and it can affect the storage life.
These types of pickles take the longest to process of the three types of pickles. Believe it or not these pickles do not use any type of vinegar in the process.
Cucumbers are placed in a solution of water and salt and left to it. There is certain bacteria that breaks down the naturally occurring sugars of the cucumbers to give it that distinct flavor.
While this is an abridge version of the fermentation process, it really is just a waiting game. It can take up to 5-6 weeks for it to really be completed.
Its such a long time to wai, but it is certainly worth it.
Generic Store Brand Pickles
Run up the aisle of canned pickles at a supermarket and you will see the many different choices that you can choose from.
These types of pickles are made in a canning operation that can process huge volumes of cucumbers. Most pickle operations that you know use the pasteurization process.
The pickles are boiled, then packed in their jars with a vinegar brine. Next the jars go through what is similar to a pressure cooking method.
Most commercial pickle makers do not fermentate them because this process takes a longer processing time.
These types of pickles may last about 1-2 year if unopened.
Quick Pickled or Fridge Pickles
These pickles are simply made to be eaten within a week or two.
The process involves making a pickling liquid and adding in the cut up cucumbers to this. You would put this in a jar or glass container and store in the fridge.
These can be eaten in a day or two as it does not take too long for the flavors to be absorbed by the cucumbers.
The vinegar, cold and the little bit of salt does help to extend the life of cucumbers. Unfortunately, I would not count on these lasting too long.
5- How to Properly Store Pickles | Best Ways to Store Pickles
After the long hours of preparing the different types of vegetables, washing, cutting and pickling them, the next task is perhaps the most important – how and where to store them.
Here are a few suggestions in addition to those already discussed:
- Clear glass jars – this is not only a neat way to store pickles, but you also get to actually see what is inside and how they’re faring.
- Sterilized jam jars – these small jars are useful not only for storing pickles but also for transferring pickled veggies from a larger container in the freezer when you feel like having some pickles during the day
- Tupperware containers – they can withstand high temperatures and are perfect for storing pickles in the fridge and freezer, they don’t emit unpleasant odors as plastic containers do with PVC parts and you can see the pickles inside.
- Plastic jars – these preserve pickles for a long period of time, they are durable and seldom break. They are also safer to store pickles which contain acetic acids that react with metal containers and render pickles toxic.
- Pasteurized pickle jars – most pickle jars you buy from supermarkets are usually pasteurized which means that the fermentation process has been stopped. Once these jars are opened, they need to be stored in the fridge to keep the contents fit for eating but they must be tightly sealed.
6- How to Know if Pickles are Bad or Spoiled
Generally speaking it’s difficult to determine whether or not the pickled contents of a container or jar are safe to eat.
It’s difficult to know for sure that pickled veggies are not safe to eat.
To a large extent you have to use your common sense & your senses so that you can be safe now and not be sorry later.
It’s natural to believe that pickled veggies are normally good to eat but sometimes you need to pay attention to its:
- Color – if you notice that the pickled contents show signs of advanced discoloring, throw them away
- Smell – if you open the sealed jar and the smell of the contents is disagreeable, throw it away.
- Immersion – pickled veggies in a jar or container must be fully immersed in the brine. If you find that some are not totally immersed, select and throw them out. For you to do so, indicates that you know how long pickles last.
7- Methods to Make Pickles Last
Pickles have a pretty long shelf life compared with some other fruits and vegetables. This all assumes that you prepare it properly.
Canning is by far the most popular and best way to keep pickles.
There are 2 methods of canning that we must discuss. There is the water bath canning method and there is pressure cooking canning.
Pickles only need to be processed using the water bath canning method.
An important step to canning or preserving any vegetable always starts with selecting the best quality ingredients. Canning does not improve the cucumbers, but captures its state at the time.
Make sure you select only the best cucumbers.
The best guide that we use for canning and pickling is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. We have found that this is the most complete guide for pickling any types of food.
You will learn all the steps plus it has exact recipes to help you figure out how to make them perfect.
You can find this book here.
Keep in mind that the information that we provided is based on the recommendations from the FDA.
We also use our own observations, and the data from other sources such as the Ball guide we mentioned above.
Please do your own due diligence in determining your own set of guidelines.
This information provided is at your own risk. Use your best judgment. We did our best to present you with the best information we had available at the time of this writing.
The shelf lifetimes are based on the following conditions of your storage area:
- Room temperature of 60°- 70°F
- Refrigerator temperature of 35° – 40° F
- Freezer temperature of 0°F or lower.
Check out our guide on ways of preserving food for more information on some of the techniques.
- How long do pickles last without juice? – These will only last a few days at most if left in the fridge.