Canning jars house some of the most delicious fresh food items in the country. From jellies and preserves to the freshest of vegetables, spaghetti sauce, juices, soups, and more—it seems that everything canned just tastes better than products purchased in a grocery store. That’s likely because the foods that are canned are made from the best ingredients, often coming straight from the garden.
If you’re planning to can your own foods, there are safety precautions that must be taken. Properly cleaning and sanitizing your canning jars are steps that can’t be skipped. Improperly performing these steps—or using products that aren’t safe cleaners—can result in serious illness. Safe cleaners include those not filled with harsh chemicals. Safe cleaners won’t contaminate your canning jars—and thus, your food.
Items Needed to Clean and Sanitize Canning Jars
In order to take on these important tasks, you will need the following items. You likely already have some of them in your kitchen.
- Bucket or basin
- Liquid dish soap
- White vinegar
- Clean dish towels
- Cleaning rags
- Pressure canner
Before sanitizing your canning jars, you must first clean them. If they’ve been sitting on a dusty shelf, without their lids, you must first wipe out any dust and debris with a cleaning rag.
If your jars have any scale or hard water film on them, immerse them in a bucket or basin that is filled with hot water and white vinegar. Pour in one cup of white vinegar per gallon of hot water. Allow the jars to soak in this mixture for a few hours before moving on to the actual cleaning process.
You may either hand wash your canning jars or run them through your dishwasher instead. Either way, make sure all traces of soap are rinsed away. Leftover soap can cause an unpleasant taste in any of the foods you may choose to can.
Sanitizing Your Canning Jars
Even though your canning jars are clear and shiny following whichever washing process you chose, note that this in no way means they’ve been sanitized. That is a completely separate process.
Some foods—when canned—will be processed in a pressure canner long enough that you may skip the sanitizing process before adding your food. Foods like jams, jellies, and pickles—which require less than 10 minutes in the canner.
Place your canning jars right side up on the rack inside your canner. Fill the canner—as well as all the jars—with hot water, making sure the water comes to an inch above the tops of all of the jars.
Bring the water inside the pressure canner to a full boil. Continue boiling for a full 10 minutes. Remove each jar from the canner with tongs—they will be extremely hot—and set right side up on clean dish towels where you are preparing to fill them with the food you are canning. Pour the food inside of the jars, add the lids and tighten the screw bands on each one.
Washing the Lids and Screw Bands for Your Canning Jars
Do the lids and screw bands for your canning jars require sanitizing, too? No—but pay heed to this important warning. The lids—comprised of metal and rubber—aren’t reusable, contrary to some people’s beliefs. They must be replaced every time you can food.
The screw bands don’t need to be replaced, as they never come into contact with the food. Instead, they may be washed by hand using a few drops of liquid dish soap and warm water.
The most important step when washing the screw bands is to make sure they are completely dried. Do this with a clean cotton dish towel, and be sure to leave them upside down on another clean dish towel for a few hours before using. This will help prevent any rust from forming on the bands.
Now that you understand the important steps to take when canning food—and making sure no one gets sick as a result—you’re ready to harvest whatever you’ve grown in your garden. Others will be making a trip to their local “pick your own” orchard or garden and bring home the foods they plan to use in their canning jars.
Taking these steps each time you prepare to can any kind of food will prevent your loved ones from becoming ill. You’ll have an impressive organized pantry filled with wonderful, nourishing foods as a result of your efforts.
You may also like 3 Easy Steps to Clean & Organize Spice Jars.