In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “do pickles need to be refrigerated” as well as other questions pertaining to the subject at hand, like how to maintain the freshness of pickles and what are the ideal storage practices to prolong the shelf life of pickles.
How long do pickles last?
Pickles are a fermented food product in brine or in oil. They can only go bad if proper hygiene and safety measures are not ensured. Pickles can last very long if stored at ideal conditions. They might as well last for about a year or two since they are stored in a brine solution with high salt concentration.
Salt binds with the moisture present in fruits and vegetables and acts as a natural preservative with antimicrobial properties. Whereas, vinegar provides acidic conditions and prevents the growth of spoilage bacteria. However, acid-tolerant bacteria and molds are likely to grow in pickles, if not stored properly.
Factors affecting the shelf life of pickles
Some of the factors that affect the shelf life of pickles are temperature, moisture, pH, contamination and storage conditions. Any food product can go bad if not stored according to its protocols.
Increased temperature means reduced shelf life, same is the case with pH. Increased humidity promotes microbial growth. Therefore, the chances of it being spoiled are increased in moist and humid conditions.
Contamination with other products is a likely cause, especially if the jar of pickles is not properly sealed and stored in a separate place. Whereas storage conditions include refrigeration and freezing.
These factors affect the quality of pickles in terms of texture and taste.
How to store pickles?
Traditionally pickles were stored in barrels at room temperature in the pantry or cupboard, away from light and heat source. But it required time to check and stir just to ensure that all the fruits and vegetables have submerged in oil or vinegar. This was also dependent on the type of pickle. The portion exposed to air will dry out or change its colour and taste over time.
There are two types of store bought pickles pasteurized and unpasteurized. Pasteurized pickles are shelf stable but unpasteurized one need refrigeration.
Do pickles need to be refrigerated?
Unpasteurized pickles are always sold refrigerated as bacteria in a jar is still alive. In order to slow down its activity or fermentation process, the jar needs to be refrigerated. Refrigerating slows down the metabolism of fermenting bacteria, meaning they can’t reach dangerous numbers within the recommended storage time after opening.
Pasteurized pickles are shelf stable as the pasteurization process kills all of the harmful bacteria inside the jar.
If you have opened the jar of pickles, it is advised to store them at refrigerated temperature.
How to tell if your pickles have gone bad
If pickles are properly sealed and stored at refrigeration temperature, they can last long 1 or 2 years after their best by date. Check for the following signs that indicate unusable pickles:
Colour: Color is one of the most noticeable signs that indicate the spoilage of the product. Fresh pickles have a bright colour which gets darker and dull by the time. If you notice a change in colour and lining on the surface, discard the bottle.
Texture/Consistency: One of the signs that indicate unusable pickle is the consistency of the fluid in which fruits and vegetables are submerged. In fresh pickles the fluid is thick, it becomes thin and watery as time passes. If you observe a watery fluid, do not consume the pickles, rather throw them away.
Mold: Growing of mold inside the container is another sign that indicates unusable pickles.
Smell: The most common way to tell if pickles have gone bad is its smell. Naturally, pickles have a fermented smell but if you observe any unpleasant, sour or rancid smell, that indicates the pickles have gone bad and are now unsafe to consume0.
You can read more about these signs here.
In this brief guide, we have answered the question, “do pickles need to be refrigerated” as well as other related questions pertaining to the subject at hand, like how to maintain the freshness of pickles and what are the ideal storage practices to prolong the shelf life of pickles.