My first canned good gone bad. Spoilage scare!

I've done a fair bit of home canning and all of my foods have been and stayed good until eaten; in fact, I've never even had a problem with a jar not sealing during the initial processing time. I consider myself lucky! But last weekend when my family came to visit and I excitedly showed them my year's work, a terrible, terrible sight looked back at me.

The jar on the left immediately caught my eye because those pickled nectarines were looking very brown and discolored, even inside the cupboard. My mom tapped the lids to check the seal and the jar with the darkest colored fruit didn't sound like the others. To my horror, I simply lifted the lid right off the jar with my fingers-- no can opener needed. Spoilage. It smelled really sweet, in the way a piece of fruit past its prime does.

Now that the freak-out has passed I'm not afraid of botulism because this was a high-acid food. A sugary, acidic fruit that was pickled in vinegar isn't a recipe conducive to botulism so it seems much more likely to me that I overfilled the jar (hence, note of the leftover brine in my initial post about these) and/or got a bad seal during processing. The spoilage of these pickles really is sad. They were very tasty during the initial canning and I'll be tempted to make them again. By the way, the jar on the right (top picture) looked closer to what the color should be, but when compared to my peaches in the same cupboard they're not similar. Look at the difference from when they are initially canned (below). The two remaining jars don't give the lid away the way the darkest jar did, and I wonder if the cinnamon, anise and peppercorns might cause some discoloration. Regardless, those three jars are all going in the trash. No risking it!

PS. In their guide "Principles of Home Canning," on page 1-26 the USDA says "while holding the jar upright at eye level, rotate the jar and examine its outside surface for streaks of dried food originating at the top of the jar. Look at the contents for rising air bubbles and unnatural color." Continuing on the next page, 1-27, "While opening the jar, smell for unnatural odors and look for spurting liquid and cotton-like mold growth (white, blue, black, or green) on the top food surface and underside of lid." If you are concerned about spoilage I recommend you do the same, toss it. If it was a low-acid food be sure to refer to the USDA guide for proper disposal because botulinim is a toxin that requires special handling during clean up.

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