I have a box of raisins in my cabinet that have been there for many years. Should I discard them or can they still be salvaged for use in baking or cooking?
According to this Sun Maid specification sheet, the shelf life is up to one year, and they contain about 15% water.
This is probably not sufficiently dehydrated for truly long term storage, and mold would be a risk. Also, if they did dry further in storage they would be rock hard, and probably quite nasty.
I just found a pack of Sun-maid that were dated 05 04 00. Opened them up & tried a couple , not too bad . And not hard at all.
They usually spray the raisins with Sulphites to preserve them. The ones with sulphites look a little shiny whereas the ones without look a little chalky (but taste better to me).
If your cabinet is not very humid, chances are they have not gone bad. Otherwise you might see 'signs of life'.
However, the good shelf life of raisins is about a year. They are likely to carry an off taste and mess with your cooking/baking flavours.
I just sampled a few raisins from a half-used pkg of golden raisins--"use by 10/15", stored in a ziploc bag in my refrigerator; the raisins are still pliable, no mold, no significant change in flavor. However, I think they are more sugary now...perhaps that's the downside of the aging process.
Maybe after we have inspected the raisins, and they still look good, (have no mold whatsoever, using a magnifying glass), we can use them in baking of cookies, cakes, etc. In fact, just to make sure, we can probably boil them first (to soften them), and then add the drained raisins to our cookie, cake, etc. batter. Just a thought. I have a package of boxed raisins that I've had for a couple of years. (Now that I've thought about and posted this, I'm going to inspect them and boil them first before adding to my pancake batter.)
In the refridgerator they last for years. A lot longer than you might think.