They say cleanliness is next to godliness and when it comes to the world of preserving it really is The Most Important Thing you have to learn. All your hard work will go to waste if the jars and bottles you use to store your preserves are not scrupulously clean in the first place.
Bugs, bacteria, micro-organisms, call them what you like but make sure that you are not harbouring them in your jars when you are on a jammin’ mission!
Here is a run-down on how to sterilise jars ready for preserving;
The first thing to do before you even choose a method of sterilisation is to check the jars over to make sure there are no chips or cracks because something that looks pretty innofensive and minor can become a danger zone when hot jam enters the jar and the whole thing can shatter. Give the glassware a good wash in hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly, don’t forget those lids too.
IN THE OVEN
You can bake off those bugs by heating the jars in the oven. Stand the jars upright on a baking sheet lined with kitchen roll and put them into a cold oven. Set the temperature to 110C/225F/Gas 1/4 and bake for 30 minutes.
Do this just before you want to use them and allow to cool just slightly before filling with jam etc.
Line the base of a big pot with a tea towel and stand the jars upright on it, now fill the pot with water to cover the jars. Bring the pot of water up to a boil and let it boil for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars and stand them upside-down on a clean tea towel to drain. Set them the right way up and fill while still warm. Make sure you do the lids as well.
Half fill your clean jars with water and heat on full power until you can see the water has boiled and bubbled for 1 minute. Carefully remove the jars from the microwave and swish the water around the jar before draining and allowing to dry.
If you happen to be blessed by a dishwasher in your kitchen then this is by far the easiest method for you to use. Just load up the machine with your jars, bottles and lids and let the machine do its work on the hottest setting.
Mums may recall those sterilising tablets from baby bottle days. Don’t use this method if you are going to be making delicately flavoured jams and curds as the tabs can leave a chemical taste on the glass. This method is best reserved for pickles etc that have a powerful flavour of their own. Just follow the manufacturers instructions then drain and dry ready to use.