Apple cider vinegar is a popular and useful health aid. Diabetics often take a swig to help control their blood sugar. Trying to lose a few pounds? Many believe that the consumption of apple cider vinegar leads to reduced belly fat, decreased triglycerides, and weight loss. According to Doctor Oz, it is also an excellent way to control dandruff. With so many uses, it is a staple in many homes, including my own. In fact, I bought the largest jug I could find, but I had never considered the shelf life of the product. Can apple cider vinegar go bad? How can I tell? What is the best way to store it safely?
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Go Bad?
Fortunately, apple cider vinegar is one of the most shelf-stable food products available. The shelf life for most brands is around 5 years. The “use by” date will be clearly marked on the container. Natural deterioration of the product occurs with time and the apple cider vinegar may lose its effectiveness.
Most apple cider vinegar brands on the market have a grain strength or acid concentration of around 5%. This may sound extreme but it is the recommended strength for use in foods, pickling as well as human or animal consumption. The high acid content of vinegar prevents it from readily spoiling, though problems may arise when contaminants find their way into the container storing the vinegar. This can happen in a variety of ways. For example, if you place a dishcloth over the mouth of the container and pour into it. Since any additive can change the acidity or pH of the vinegar, it is possible for the apple cider vinegar to spoil.
You may have been instructed to dilute the apple cider vinegar. When this is done the pH rises and the vinegar loses the acidity which protects it from spoiling. This also decreases its usefulness. Storing diluted apple cider vinegar unrefrigerated can be dangerous, as it allows growth of bad bacteria that may have been introduced as contamination, such as botulism. This commonly occurs in the improper pickling of vegetables and fruits when the vinegar has been diluted too much.
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How Can You Tell if Apple Cider Vinegar is Bad?
There are several ways to tell if your apple cider vinegar has gone bad due to spoilage or simply lost its effectiveness.
- There is more sediment in the bottom of the container than usual for apple cider vinegar.
- The vinegar has separated.
- You notice a change in the color.
- There is a change in smell — especially if it smells less vinegary.
- The vinegar is more or less acidic tasting.
- The vinegar has lost its flavor.
- The container has built up pressure, is bulging or “sighs” upon opening.
What is the Best Way to Store Apple Cider Vinegar?
To prevent both problems contamination and deterioration apple cider vinegar should be properly stored. Bragg, a popular apple cider vinegar brand, suggests storing their product in a cool, dark environment. It should be kept away from direct sunlight. It is certainly reasonable to want to keep your apple cider vinegar handy. I keep mine right out on the kitchen counter after transferring it to a darkened glass bottle. This precaution protects the product from both UV light and contaminants and allows me to have easy access to it. To further prevent contaminants, I make sure to recap tightly after each use.
Apple cider vinegar with its amazing health benefits and ancillary uses should be a staple in everyone’s pantry. However, certain precautions must be taken to ensure safe and effective uses, as research has shown that apple cider vinegar can go bad in two different ways. Inevitably, it will naturally degrade and lose effectiveness over time and rarely, it can spoil due to impurities.
Regular inspection of the product for certain characteristics is necessary to clue us in on any potential problems. Never dilute apple cider vinegar. This can cause dangerous bacteria growth and decreases the effectiveness of the product. The shelf life of the apple cider vinegar may be extended and effectiveness preserved by storing the apple cider vinegar in a cool dark environment, away from direct sunlight or in a container that filters UV light. As well, you can avoid introducing impurities by practicing good technique when using the product.
Following this advice will ensure that you get the most value from this amazing multipurpose product.
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