If you are like most of us who have a jar or two of olives lying around in the fridge or your pantry, you are probably asking yourself – can they go bad?
The short answer to this popular question is yes. Olives can go bad, mainly if they are not appropriately preserved.
The good news is that it takes a long time for them to spoil, especially if they were packaged properly and stored correctly.
Since high-quality olives can be pretty expensive, and in some cases, hard to find, it is a shame to throw them out because they have become spoiled.
So, read on to find out how to preserve olives, what their shelf-life is, how to tell if they have gone bad, and how to prevent them from spoiling.
What is the Best Way to Store Olives?
The best way to preserve olives depends on the type of olives you have, and more importantly, how they are cured and sold – in oil, brine, water, lye, or are dry-cured.
Olives come in a wide variety of types, colors, sizes, forms, and combinations, but what is essential to keep them fresh and delicious is whether they are preserved in brine, oil, or packaged differently.
While they are unsealed or opened, the olives will stay good for up to 2 years when kept in the pantry, cupboard, or anywhere else at room temperature. As with all jars and cans, make sure to keep your olives away from direct sunlight and heat sources and store them unopened in a dry, cool, and dark place.
Once you open them, you should keep the olives in their own brine or other preservative used and in a non-metal container in the fridge. When stored this way, open olives can last for 1-2 months in the refrigerator.
If the olives come in a metal can or container, pour them in a glass jar or a plastic container for better storage. Make sure that they are covered with their brine when kept in the fridge.
While some experts recommend keeping the leftover olives in an airtight container or jar, other manufacturers such as California Ripe Olives suggest leaving the can lid loose.
To ensure you are storing the olives correctly, check the instructions on the label given by the manufacturer.
In case you happen to discard the original brine, you can easily make your own. This is done by mixing half a teaspoon of salt per cup of water. This solution is not very strong, so make sure to eat the leftover olives in the next two weeks.
If you have olives that are sold preserved in oil, then you should keep them in the refrigerator both after and before opening them. Make sure to seal the jar’s lid well before putting the leftover olives in oil back into the fridge.
How Long Will The Olives Last?
If you buy olives that are sold in brine, check the best-by date printed on the label. When they are not opened, and if they are correctly stored, in most cases, they can last for weeks and months after the best-before date has expired.
Once you open the jar, can, or another container, though, you will let the air and bacteria in. This is why you should keep the leftover olives in the fridge.
Check for the shelf life of your specific olives, which are written on the label.
Some types of olives need to be consumed within two weeks after opening them. Others will last for only 7 to 10 days. At the same time, some manufacturers ensure their buyers that their olives can last and stay good for up to 12 months after opening.
The main difference in these storage terms comes from the type of brine used for preserving the olives. The saltier it is – the longer the shelf life.
To stay on the safe side, we recommend that you aim to use up and eat all of the open olives within three weeks from opening them and keeping them in the fridge.
For olives preserved in oil, whether or not the jar is opened doesn’t make too much of a difference for their shelf life.
You should try to eat them until their expiration date, no matter whether you have opened the jar or not. But even if you are about a week or two past the best-by date, the olives will probably still be edible and safe to eat.
Oil submerged olives have a much shorter shelf life than those sold in brine. You can expect a jar of olives in oil to have a shelf life of just a few months. At the same time, some olives packed in brine can last for 18 up to 24 months.
So, when you are buying olives, always check the expiration date and the open storage information. This will give you a good idea of how long you have to eat and utilize all of those delicious olives.
The good news is that all types of olives can be frozen. Pour them into an airtight container without the brine, and they will remain suitable for up to six months in the freezer.
How to Determine Whether the Olives Have Gone Bad?
If you have an old jar, can, or other containers of olives in the pantry and want to make sure that they are still good, then perform the following tests:
Examine the container and the lid. Look for any rust, leaks, bulging, denting, or other damage. If there is damage, then the safest thing to do is to throw it away.
Smell the olives. If your olives or the oil smells rancid or off, then you should discard them immediately.
Look at the olives. If even one is moldy, then it is better to throw all of them away. Also, make sure to trash the olives if they have become discolored or more shriveled than usual.
Keep in mind that olives submerged in brine will become paler after prolonged storage, which is expected, so make sure to taste them first before throwing out the entire jar.
Taste the olives. In case you are not 100% sure that the olives are still good, taste one. If it tastes off, then it is advisable to dispose of the entire jar.
Related: Does Olive Oil Go Bad: How Long Does Olive Oil Last?