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I've started to be a big fan of store-bought spicy ajvar, which is generally a delicious and low-effort spread for toast et al.

However, all the jars claim something like "after opening, refrigerate and consume within 3-4 days", despite being essentially lightly pickled, cooked peppers and seem perfectly fine to consume through about the 4-weeks mark (about the 4-5 week mark, I've seen visible molding, which more pickled foods like kosher pickles, kimchi, etc. don't display .. though this mold is probably still safe to eat, it probably tastes bad and should be discarded)

Why do retailers suggest such a brief edible range? Is it really fine to eat?

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  • Repackage it yourself into smaller airproof containers - maybe you could freeze them too Apr 21 at 15:18
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    Just to make sure no-one walks away with misleading information: this question’s assumption is incorrect. Ajvar is not pickled or fermented at all (at least the versions I’m familiar with) — nothing like kimchi, kosher pickles, etc. It’s cooked and seasoned and delicious, but not pickled or any similar preservative technique.
    – PLL
    Apr 21 at 20:51
  • I would not bet on that mold being safe to eat! Ajvar is not a food where "good mold" has a huge advantage so the chances that the mold you're seeing is benevolent isn't the same gamble that it is on camenbert or non-pasteurized ferment-pickled foods
    – Hobbamok
    Apr 22 at 7:14

3 Answers 3

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The manufacturers are correct - if you want to produce a product that can last significantly longer, you need higher acid levels (or salt or sugar or chemical preservatives) than the average ajvar has.

During packaging, the jars are typically canned, which makes them shelf stable until opened, but once opened, the contents of the jar have been exposed to the ever-present mold spores and bacteria in the environment.

From a food safety perspective, the safe time window according to food safety authorities is the same as given by the manufacturers. Your experience of the ajvar being “good” for longer is no contradiction - there is a fundamental difference between “no longer safe” and “spoiled”. The former doesn’t directly mean the latter. You can choose to use your own judgment as to whether you consume the ajvar after the four days. But please don’t serve it to others, especially vulnerable people who may be immune compromised in any form.

One word about the mold: please don’t confuse the mold on a too-long open jar of previously opened ajvar with the kahm yeast on fermenting foods, these have been killed by the processing and canning step. What you find in your jar is not safe. Please discard these jars.

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    +1. I’m pretty cavalier about food safety for my own consumption, and will keep eating an ajvar as long as it smells/tastes right; and in my experience the timeline is simply very unpredictable. Sometimes it stays fine over a month; sometimes it spoils perceptibly within a week. So even in a fairly laid-back view, the manufacturer’s guidelines seem not over-cautious as a window for how long it’s reliably safe.
    – PLL
    Apr 21 at 20:59
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Preserving a comment: Ajvar is NOT at all pickled, not even lightly. Ajvar is roasted bell pepper flesh (so no skins or seeds), ground into a paste, then stewed for hours with sunflower oil and salt and then preserved immediately in sterilized glass jars. There is NO pickling, NO fermentation, No form of preservation. At most there might be some additives in certain brands that might add in preservation. So it is completely normal that it'll expire within 3-4 days, because it's really just a veggie stew.

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  • oh, definitely not by preparation, but what I have on-hand does contain at least some vinegar, salt, and spicy pepper oils, which are bound to pickle the contents a wee bit! that said, they do also expressly state "no preservatives" and claim to be 94% bell pepper, so there can't be much and it's just for flavor - tmyk!
    – ti7
    Apr 23 at 18:28
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All previous answers (to this one) are correct. I'll add just a few hints and tricks. If available, do not buy ajvar in large jars. If you do and you use just a half or even less of it, pour a little oil on the remains in the jar (just enough to cover the entire "surface") and it'll keep a lot longer. Oil prevents air to come in contact with ajvar. Another option - freeze the remaining ajvar in small portions. Third option - cook it in a small skillet, putting a little oil on the bottom and add salt or any spices or vinegar that you miss or think would enhance the flavor of that industrial made ajvar. You don't have to cook it for long, let it slowly heat and reach the boiling temperature, reduce the heat for a few minutes then (still hot) transfer the "enhanced ajvar" into sterilized small jars, seal them and set them (covered with a blanket) on a countertop to cool. Then you can put those small jars in a pantry or in a fridge - wherever you have place for them. Once opened, keep them in a fridge again. I make my own ajvar and do it to taste -there are plenty of recipes, but I stick to my grandma's one. We're from the Balkans and this delicacy is one of our favorites, although every region had its touches and alternatives.

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