Does an opened jar of pickles ever go bad?
Can I add to this question--olives and roasted red peppers?! I'm always wondering this myself.
I am not a food scientist, but look at it this way: the vinegar used in the pickling process inhibits bacteria and mold growth, which is further slowed if the pickles are refrigerated. Use the senses: if what are meant to be crispy, brightly colored pickles are mushy and dull, smell odd, or are in a cloudy liquid (or taste funny), then get rid of them. If in doubt, pickles (and olives and roasted peppers) are relatively cheaply replaced.
keeping them cold & using dry utensils to handle pickles keeps the spoilage at bay in terms of mold & bacteria. At the same time, these are (or were) live cellular organisms. In due course they will macerate in the brine. the cellular structure that helps the pickle retain its shape will disintegrate, reducing the pickle to a pulpy mass. The subsequent release of the intracellular contents will alter the taste. I do not know the time frames within which this occurs other than one bit of data that I gleaned from watching annual batches of baby mangoes being pickled. they'd turn to mush after about 9-10 months of pickling in brine, without refrigeration
Mine haven't yet, and heaven knows I've pushed the envelope. Just last evening I used up the last of a container of mixed French olives I know I got over a year ago and they were so wonderful I was sorry to see the last one go.
Davidpdx provides a good answer, and I would add to it by saying that properly sealed and stored pasteurized pickles will remain in good condition under normal refrigeration for up to six months. Barrel-style or fermented pickles which have not been made in the home canning (i.e. pasteurized) style will only retain their optimal structure and flavor for a week or so. Pasteurized pickles are considered acidified foods... foods which have been made stable (as measured by their final pH) by exposure to heat (the boiling water bath) and acid (vinegar in one form or other).
@the professor - I have brined fresh olives and I can assure you - you will know if one or the whole jar is bad.
I think it would be obvious if they do eventually go bad.
Pickes and olives in brine or even olive oil I've kept for many many months. Roasted red peppers that come In a jar will usually start to show mold a month or so after opening. The brine on olives will become a little cloudy and will sometimes have a thicker pool at the top of the brine. I'd say they need to be rinsed and used or tossed out at that point.
I may not be around later to reply to this but I just ate a couple of 13 maybe 14 year old pickles. I don't know how we managed to keep this jar for so long. I thought this was new jar I just bought. Best by date was July 2002.
They tasted fine by the way. My daughter noticed the date as I was about to eat another. Apparently my mother brought these pickles to us when my daughter was born. My wife remembers this...but I didn't. I suppose this is why she kept them in the fridge for 13 years.
The only food that never spoils is honey. It may crystallize, but heat it up and it's good as new.
As for pickles, trust your nose, and remember the Food Service motto: When in doubt, throw it out!
sharpie....date container is opened next to best by date! undoubt, contact company of product. I am gluten free and bad food is not my friend! dating when product is opened is best way to be safe!
I find the pickles will go soft eventually. But it takes a long time.