Family Food Garden may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.
Canning is a great way to make sure that all your favorites are fresh, natural and on hand. There’s an extra level of satisfaction when you spread your homemade jam over a thick piece of toast or bite into a crunchy pickle that you’ve been tending to for weeks.
But the canning process does not start once your ingredients meet their new home, it starts before that. At the sterilization stage. A bonus of home canning is knowing where your utensils have been and what they have been exposed to. But there is only so much that we can know, and therefore the responsibility of sterilization falls to us.
After all, the base of a clean meal is a clean workspace.
Technology has come a long way since the invention of the microwave and the dishwasher. Once, it was considered lazy or even irresponsible to trust the sterilization of your utensils to these machines. Could they clean? Of course. But sterilize? Not at that stage.
These days, dishwashers and microwaves have come as far as to include settings at a high enough temperature to do a thorough sterilization; Perfect to speed up the process and allowing you to get straight to your canning.
You can simply put your jars at the highest temperature in either machine. For a microwave, you can leave it in between 30-45 seconds.
The Serious Stuff
The Oven Method
This heavy-duty method takes a little longer than other methods. Getting into your canning rhythm helps to know when the right time to put your jars in the oven is. If you pop them in about 30 minutes before you’re ready to can, between ingredient prep and sterilization... the process becomes a part of the dance of canning.
What you will do:
- Heat the oven to 275 F/130 C. Any higher than that and your glass is at risk of shatter so be careful!
- Line each shelf with a double layer of newspaper, but leave the floor and walls of the oven bare, making sure that the newspaper is as far away from the flame of the oven as possible.
- Place jars on the lined shelf making sure none are touching. Leave them for 20 minutes max.
- Remove with thick heatproof gloves and place them on a heatproof mat.
Make sure that when you fill your ingredients that the jar and ingredients are of the same temperate. Otherwise, you are risking the dreaded shatter.
The Boiling Method
The boiling method is the most common and arguably the most thorough of the methods. It combines the heat of the oven with the fluid nature of water, getting into all the cracks.Enter your text here...
A note on temperature:
When you’re boiling water, the height of your temperature is dependent on your physical altitude. Meaning, wherever you live will affect your water’s boiling point. The higher you are, the lower your boiling point will be. When sterilizing a jar the base time is ten minutes.
Depending on your altitude this can vary from anywhere between 1-5 minutes. When it comes to sterilization these are details that matter. It’s also this attention to detail that makes boiling the method of choice of most die-hard canners.
- Sea level to 1,000 ft: 10 minutes (base)
- 1,000 to 2,000 feet: 11 minutes
- 2,000 to 3,000 feet: 12 minutes
- 3,000 to 4,000 feet. 13 minutes
- 4,000 to 5,000 feet: 14 minutes
- 5,000 to 6,000 feet: 15 minutes
- 6,000 to 7,000 feet: 16 minutes
What you’re going to do:
- Place your empty jars right-side-up (pop them in directly bottom first) in your empty pot over the stove. The stove does not need to be on yet, this just makes it easier than lugging from place to place once you have a heavy pot full of water and jugs.
- Fill the pot with average hot water until the water level rises to one inch over the top of the jars.
- Turn the heat of the stove to high and bring it to boil.
- Once you see the water is boiling, begin timing. Allow the jugs to sit in the boiling water according to the chart above, but for the very least ten minutes.
- After you turn off the heat the jugs can be left in the water for up to an hour.
- When you’re ready, remove the jugs with tongs and place on a clean surface.
Whichever method you choose it’s always important to ensure that your space is clean itself. There’s no use sterilizing your jugs if you place them on an unclean surface or are handling them with bare hands. Always clean your space and utensils. Don’t forget your most constantly used utensils...your hands!
Now that you have you've sterilized your jugs, you might like some recipes for inspiration. Below is a recipe for basil and cherry tomato jam. This one is for the sweet tooth in you and one for the savory. Enjoy!
Basil and Cherry Tomato Freezer Jam
- 2 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved and stems removed
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- Sterilize your jars
- Combine tomatoes, sugar, basil, onion, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, coriander, and cumin in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened and reduced by half, 2 to 3 hours, stir as necessary.
- Remove from heat.
That’s it! You’re ready to pour your delicious jam into your nice clean jars. Don’t forget to allow them to cool a little before covering them with their lids. This recipe can be refrigerated for up to two weeks or frozen for up to four months!
My name is Isis Loran, creator of the Family Food Garden. I’ve been gardening for over 10 years now and push the limits of our zone 5 climates. I love growing heirlooms & experimenting with hundreds of varieties, season extending, crunchy homesteading and permaculture.