Your preserved food is only as safe and sanitary as the vessels you put it into. An important step that must not be overlooked is sanitizing and preparing the Mason jars, lids, and rings. A question I get a lot is, “How do you sanitize jars for canning?”
A quick note: sanitizing and sterilizing are not the same thing. Sanitization allows a small number of microorganisms, where sterilization allows zero microorganisms. Remember, when canning, you are not performing open heart surgery. You only need to sanitize for canning. You do not need to sterilize your jars. With some of the methods below, sterilization may occur, but remember, the goal is just sanitization.
With that out of the way, there are several methods for sanitizing canning jars. This information comes from my book, The Prepper’s Canning Guide. Trust me – you’ll love the delicious recipes and simple instructions even if you aren’t a prepper.
How to sanitize jars in the dishwasher
If you have a dishwasher, this is easy. Just run it on the sanitizing cycle right before you begin canning. The dishwasher will keep the jars hot until you are ready to fill them. The heat from the dishwasher will also make the rubber on the jar flat more pliable and ready to seal.
How to sanitize jars in a water bath canner
Assuming that your jars are clean and all you need to do is sterilize them, you can use your water bath canner for this. Place the jars in the canner, on the rack. Pour in enough water that it goes over the openings of the jars and fills them. Bring the canner to a boil and allow it to boil for 10 minutes. Then use your jar lifter and remove the jars, placing them upside down on a towel or drying rack to drain. You can reuse the hot water for canning once the jars are filled and lidded.
How to sanitize jars in the oven
You can also use your oven to sanitize your jars. (Remember, you don’t have to sterilize your jars in the oven – we are just sanitizing.) Preheat your oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Place your jars in a roasting pan and slide them into the oven for at least 20 minutes. At that point, you can turn off the heat, but leave the jars in there until they are ready to be packed.
Warning: (this is kind of a “duh” but I’ll say it anyway!) The jars will be hotter than heck when you take them out of the oven – take care not to burn yourself when filling them and placing them in the canner! Sometimes I use this method – when I do, I leave the jars in the roasting pan while I fill them and then use my jar lifter to move them from the roasting pan to the canner.
Sanitizing the lids
In a small saucepan, bring to a simmer enough water to cover your flats and rings. Do not bring the flats to a rolling boil, as this could damage the sealing compound. Keep the lids in the hot water and remove them with sterilized tongs or a lid lifter (a cool little magnetic wand) when you are ready to put them on the jars.
Don’t be overwhelmed by all the rules!
Sometimes all of the canning rules sound overwhelming! Please don’t let them scare you. I’m providing you with the best practices so that you have all the information you need.
Another reason not to panic is this: nearly all canning recipes have to be processed for more than 10 minutes, which, in conjunction with the pre-sanitization you have performed, should help you to keep your food safe and healthy.
Do you have more canning questions? Maybe the following articles will help.