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Best way to sterilize jars for pickles?

  • m

I've never done this before, and I have to say I am a bit indimidated. Any tips to help me? Thank you!!

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  1. Hold them over a steam of the pot of boiling water (wear gloves!). Wash them (the jars) first of course.

    1. I usually hand wash with HOT water and soap-add boiling water from the stove if your tap water isn't uncomfortably hot and rinse in more HOT water, and allow to drain. I then pack them while they are still hot, and either water-bath or pressure can them per your recipes instructions..... If you are just learning about home canning/preserving, I highly recommend the Ball Blue Book. I've been canning for 20 years, learned at my dear mother's kitchen, and have never had problems or spoilage - just be safe and clean EVERYTHING! Don't forget to check your canning jars for scratches, nicks, etc. And place your lids and bands in a saucepan of simmering water, too for a few minutes to sterilize them. This also seems to soften the rubber seals slightly, so they seal better for me. Good luck!

      4 Replies
      1. re: kmr

        What a timely thread for me - I was just reading about canning as I want to make a bunch of chutneys and preserve them. One thing that confused me with the instructions I was reading was, after sterilizing and filling the jars, do you boil them for a couple of minutes sealed (seems like that could be a bad idea), or uncovered (with water up to an inch or so below the top)?
        Also - any opinions about Weck vs. Ball in terms of the jars - I love the shape of the Weck deco jars. TIA.

        1. re: MMRuth

          Hi MMRuth - most recipes will indicate an amount of headspace, and processing time. For example, a half inch of headspace means that there is a half inch of empty airspace between the top rim of the canning jar and the top of the food product (making sure that all air bubbles are gently removed). You would then put on the clean lid and screw ring, and tighten by hand. Place the jar in the canner (on a rack, not resting directly on the pan bottom) so that there is about 1 inch of water above the lid. Processing time starts when the water in the canner begins to boil. Once the time has elasped, remove CAREFUllY, and set aside to cool. This process forces out the air and creates a sterile vacume seal that will preserve your food.

          Don't try to tighten or remove rings until they are completely cool. You should hear a very satisfying "ping" when the lid seals! The lid will will not "pop" when you press on it if it's properly sealed. Once sealed, food will keep in the pantry for a year or so. FYI, do not store in the pantry with the canning rings on. Sorry for such ramble! Haven't seen Weck jars, but we're out in the boonies...

          1. re: MMRuth

            I run my jars through the dishwasher and while still hot put them in my canner in boiling water and keep them there until ready to fill. I also sterilize my jar lids and never try to reuse them and buy fresh lids every year. The bands don't matter so much but you want to get a good seal and not risk doing all of that work for naught.

            1. re: Candy

              I have a "high temp scour" setting on my dishwasher, and I put the jars and rings in there, while prepping the ingredients, so they are still too-hot-to-touch when I'm ready for them. I simmer the lids gently, so as not to warp them, in a little pan on the stove. I never re-use the lids, but re-use rings.

              Most counties have an "extension office" with free up-to-date canning instructions, as they change over the years with new food-saftey information and techniques.

        2. My mom used to boil them (and she had a special curved pair of tongs to take them out of the pot).

          She also used to wash the cucumbers by agitating them in the washing machine. Once a cuke got stuck in one of the pipes without us realizing it. Days later, we were doing laundry, there was a flood, and we called the repair man. Guess what he found? That was pretty embarrassing.



          1. I wash (in hot soapy water) and rinse the jars, lids, and bands. Then I put the jars, upside-down, in a roasting pan half-full of water. Bring the water to a boil and boil for ten minutes. As soon as you turn off the heat, add the lids and let sit for ten minutes.

            1. I was taught/read that you need to back off a bit - maybe a quarter of a turn - after the lid is "tight", before you put 'em in the water. Tighten immediately upon removing from the water bath and leave until cool. You don't want the rubber gasket held down too tightly while processing or you may not evacuate enough air. If you don't see bubbles coming from the jar in the first 5-10 minutes after the water comes back to a boil, the lids were too tight. (And do remember that you don't start timing until the water has come back to a full rolling boil after placing the jars in the pot.)

              Really, if you're going to can anything but jams and jellies, you should read something like the Ball book at least once. Chances are pretty slim of serious risk of illness, but you might as well establish all the right habits at the start, rather than relying on piecemeal posts like these. (No offense to anyone intended, I mean my posts, too.) ;)

              1. Any standard canning book (Ball, Putting Food by, the USDA Guide, Farm Journal etc) will tell you how to sterilize. I put them down on the rack in the waterbath canner (same thing you are going to process in) for a period of time, remove and turn upside down on a clean teatowel until ready to fill..

                You can also steam as somebody has said, in in a closed container so the surface of the glass is actually sterilized. I dont know if I would rely on running through the dishwasher, filling with boiling hot water or holding over steam by hand as an adequate sterilization method.

                yes, boil the rings and the caps, leave them in the water until needed. fill the jars with hot product, leaving the specified amount of airspace, wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, moist cloth (to get off any spilled food) and lay on the cap, screw it down firmly. Process (the food needs to be processed in boiling water for the specified period - among other things, I think this forces some of the air out so that, when the jar is removed from the water bath and cooled, and the air inside contracts, a vacuum is formed sealing the jar.

                It is really quite a simple process but you need to follow a standard procedure to do it safely.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jen kalb

                  I leave the flat caps to simmer in a shallow saucepan until they're needed to top the filled jars. You can buy a handy gizmo to retrieve them that's a rod with a magnet on the end, so you don't have to try to grab the slippery thin lids with tongs. Only costs a buck or so.

                2. I wash the jars carefully and then dry on a clean roasting rack in a 150 degree (Centigrade) oven. The lids go in boiling water.

                  I also really like my new silicon oven mitt, which lets me handle the glass with no slipping, and even to take the jars out of the boiling water bath after filling. I've read that you shouldn't lift the jars by the lids when canning.