Friday, August 31, 2012
How To Sterilize Jars
An essential part of home preservation and canning is being sure to sterilize canning jars. You never know what kind of germies might be in there that could make your carefully-crafted pickles, jams, or preserves turn into mold-ridden stomachaches (or worse!) waiting to happen. Sterilizing is the process of killing harmful bacteria that can accumulate in jars and on lids. This happens by heating jars/lids to a minimum of 175 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 minutes. Sterilizing gives you a "blank slate" for your canning creations and eliminates most bacterial risks for contamination.
Some sources say that if you are pressure-canning an item or processing in a hot water-bath canner for more than 15 minutes, there is no need to sterilize jars; however, I feel very strongly that you should sterilize anyway. It only takes a few minutes and gives you hot jars needed for many hot-packed canning recipes (ie - recipes that require hot liquid/preserves be poured into hot jars to prevent jar breakage).
There are a couple methods to sterilizing your jars. My preferred method is in the oven, just because I feel it's less messy (and safer/less likely to burn my arms and hands) than other methods.
How to Sterilize Jars in the Oven
Place clean jars and lids in a baking dish or carefully on a baking tray (I use an old enamelwear roasting pan because I can slide it in and out of the oven easily without worrying about the jars falling out. I place the lids in the upside-down lid of the roaster). Put them in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes. If you aren't quite ready to fill your jars, turn the oven down to "warm" or to it's lowest setting and let jars/lids sit until you are ready. Not only does this sterilize your jars, but it softens the rubber on canning lids to create a better seal when processing jars. The oven method eliminates having to pull jars full of boiling water out of the hot water-bath canner and allows for many jars to be sterilized at once.
How to Sterilize Jars in Hot Water
Place clean jars in a canning rack, then add about 1-inch to 2-inches of hot water to each jar (this keeps jars from floating once they hit the water). Carefully lower canning rack into the canner filled with enough boiling water to cover jars by at least one inch. Boil jars for 15 minutes. Remove jars/rack from canner and dump hot water back into canner from jars. Place jars upside-down on a fresh towel to drain out remaining water.
In the meantime, put lids in a small pot and cover with water (overlapping is fine, but don't stack them right on top of each other). Boil for 5 minutes. Remove lids with a lid lifter.
How to Sterilize Jars in the Dishwasher
If your jars haven't been recently washed, place jars and lids in the dishwasher and clean according to your dishwasher's instructions. Remove hot jars/lids from dishwasher and use immediately.
If your jars and lids are clean, sterilize them using an Express Glass or Sanitize setting on your dishwasher (no soap necessary). Remove hot jars/lids from dishwasher and use immediately.