How to Prepare Sterilizing Home Cans & Jar Lids


Buy produce in season (or harvest it from your own garden) and make it last through winter and into the next growing season. That is the promise of home canning. Different foods require different canning methods: boiling water bath canning for high-acid foods (fruits and pickles) and pressure canning for virtually all other foods. But whatever you are canning, there is a constant: you must prepare the canning jars and lids properly to ensure the things you can do not spoil during storage.

Things You'll Need

  • Canning jars
  • Canning lids and bands to fit the jars
  • Automatic dishwasher... or all of the following
  • Stock pot or canning pot
  • Jar rack to fit the pot
  • Tongs or canning jar-lifter
  • Confirm that you have jars manufactured for home canning. Do not recycle mayonnaise, pickle and mustard jars for your own canned goods. Inspect the jars for scratches, chips and cracks. The rims of the jars must be in pristine condition to ensure a good seal between the jar and the canning lid.

  • Use only new lids. Lids come with new canning jars. Otherwise, buy replacement lids to fit old jars from previous canning seasons. Even the jars your parents used for canning should accommodate today's canning lids and bands. Make sure the canning bands have no dents and are not bent so badly that they will not screw onto the jars.

  • Clean the jars, bands and lids. If you are using new jars, rinse them thoroughly in hot water. If you are using old gear, rinse the jars and lids and check for dried-on bits left over from whatever the jars last held. Use a bottlebrush to reach the bottoms of jars that require scrubbing ... and use soap if there is caked-on dust or dead insects inside the jars.

  • Heat the jars and bands. Time this so that the jars are hot when you are ready to fill them. If you have an automatic dishwasher, run the jars and bands through it so they will be steaming hot when you need them.

  • Boil the jars if you do not have a dishwasher. Put the jars in the canning pot, fill the pot 2 inches above the tops of the jars and set it on high heat. Once the water starts boiling, leave the jars for 10 to 15 minutes before you fill them with food. Take the jars directly from the boiling water.

  • Heat the lids. When you start heating the jars, spread the lids around on the bottom of a saucepot or deep frying pan and cover them with water. They should be submerged about 1 inch. Set the lids on the stove on "Low" so the water gets hot but does not boil. If you want the added aggravation, use boiling water when you cover the lids. Keep the lids hot until you use them.

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  • Photo Credit Original Photo by Daniel Gasteiger.
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