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Canning 101: Sterilizing Jars

October 25, 2010

Is sterilizing your jars a necessary step when processing your jams, jellies, marmalades, pickles, and other assorted goodies in a hot water bath?  The answer according to the National Center for Health is NO when processing time exceeds 10 minutes.  However, most of us still do sterilize our jars to be sure that they are properly clean and very hot when we fill them.  There are many recommended methods for sterilizing your canning jars and it is up to the individual to decide the method that works best for them but my new favorite is in the oven…and I will explain why! 

Making sure that your jars are clean is an important step that must not be skipped as the cleanliness of the glass jars you are planning to store your preciously prepared food in is important.  And, I still like to sterilize my jars just to be sure. 

Methods for sterilizing:

  1. For a long time, I used our dishwasher which comes with a sterilization setting adding extra heat to the cycle.  However, this is a long process that wastes both water, time, and lots of electricity.  Plus, timing when my jams or jellies would be ready to go into the jars proved impossible and often the jars coming out of the dishwasher were clean and sterile but not HOT.  So I gave this method up…
  2. For sterilizing the jars in the boiling hot water bath for 10 minutes.  This method was great right up until I badly burnt myself.  I was taking a 1.5 litre jar out of the boiling water only to have it slip out of my jar tongs.  Not wanting it to smash through our glass top stove I tried to dump the water and jar onto the floor but instead spilled the entire contents onto my shirt.  It was a disaster.  I gave myself a 2 and partial 3 degree flash burn over a large area on my chest.  It’s been extremely painful but is now healing well.  So, I’ve become leery of using this method as accidents do happen even if you’ve done the same thing a million times.  
  3. Now, I use the OVEN and it is by far my favorite method.  I read about this method in Rachael Saunders new book The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook and thought “this is for me.”  Preheat your oven to 250 F degrees and place your jars on a tray for 30 minutes.  I like to use a deep cooking sheet so that the jars can’t tip over when I take them out but you can use a baking sheet or larger dish.  I love this method because it doesn’t take as much energy to heat your stove to such a low setting, no water, and the jars are hot and ready when you need them.  Perfect!

So, for the reasons outlined above I will be using the oven to sterilize my jars from now on.  And, although it isn’t a necessary step I feel much more confident when I know my jars are sterilized.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 25, 2010 8:55 pm

    These are great tips! Thanks. Sorry for the burn!

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