Cleaning and Sterilising jars.

Melonfish

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jan 8, 2009
2,460
1
Warrington, UK
Hi,

i've been collecting various jars over the winter, the intention is to use them for jams, jellies, chutnies and whatnot. they're all metal lid types and have been washed out but some still smell of the original contents. whats the best way to REALLY scour these out so that anything in them doesn't taint what i'm going to fill em with.

once done whats the best way of sterilising, steam or oven bake?
thanks!
pete


edit: oh and as an extra does anyone know where i can get brewing kit from? tubs/vats and bottles there's nothing around here local that i can see.
 

g4ghb

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Sep 21, 2005
4,161
76
51
Wiltshire
For jam and chutney I sterilise in the oven at ~ 250'C - this makes the lids seal properly once the contents cools and 'sucks' the lid in.

For pickles a wash in hot water out the tap (to warm the jar to prevent cracking) then empty out and fill with boiling water. Leave for a couple of minutes then carefully empty and fill with the items to be pickled and the vinager till no air is left then seal
 

Nagual

Native
Jun 5, 2007
1,963
0
Argyll
Bicard of Soda works well to remove any smells, and as mentioned above a pressure cooker is the best at sterilisation, you can do it in an oven too though. If you use a pressure cooker, though, once you've 'cooked' it, leave the cooker over night to let the jars cool down slowly. If you don't do this well.. shards of glass is never fun.

Cheers,
 

eel28

Settler
Aug 27, 2009
587
4
Bedfordshire
Hi,

edit: oh and as an extra does anyone know where i can get brewing kit from? tubs/vats and bottles there's nothing around here local that i can see.

Wilkinsons generally have a selection of such stuff, although from experience it does vary from store to store.

Alternatively, you could try here - just a site i have come across, have NOT used them, but they do seem to have everything!
 

Chinkapin

Settler
Jan 5, 2009
746
1
79
Kansas USA
Hospitals sterilize with autoclaves. Autoclaves are nothing but pressure cookers. It is the best way. In a pressure cooker, you have HEAT, PRESSURE, and STEAM all at work killing those pesky microbes. If you don't have a pressure cooker, it is easy to sterilize jars in a large pot that will hold enough water to submerge the jars and then boil them for several minutes. There are pots with racks in them that are made specifically for this task. Without the internal racks it is difficult to remove the jars.
 

SouthernCross

Forager
Feb 14, 2010
230
0
Australia
G'day melonfish.

As has already been pointed out, Bicarb is good at removing traces of smells. So is vinegar.

With regards to sterilising, I don't typically go overboard.

A wash with hot, soapy water has generally been enough for me :). After all, how many people sterilise their knives, forks, spoons & plates before eating off them :)

The sugar content in jams will in itself act as a preservative, the acid content in pickles will do the same.

If you put the lid on containers with hot contents, the vacumm effect will remove the air needed by most nasty microbes.

If you want to be extra carefull, add a thin layer of fat to the top of the jar. This will effectively seal out the oxygen needed by just about all the microbes that will cause food poisioning.

I have been preserving jams, pickles & relishes for years & have'nt had any problems to date :)

Hope this helps.



Kind regards
Mick
 

Melonfish

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jan 8, 2009
2,460
1
Warrington, UK
Some fantastic advice there chaps thanks!
its times like this i wish i'd never got rid of the kids' bottle steriliser heh.
i reckon i can boil and oven bake without issue, and an initial wash with bicarb should do the trick too, i tend to use alot of salsa jars (what can i say i like salsa) so they're rather pungant in the chilli department :D
with luck i can get some jars ready to do some pickled ramson heads and perhaps even some pickled ash keys too!
then i can start on jams and jellies this summer, ooh and chutneys! i've got a special cupboard setup for all this stuff (i really am planning way too much!) but its going to be an interesting learning experience :D
i also have it on good authority that although the red onion chutney by British Red is fantastic, be prepared to have a house that smells like onion for the next 3 months :D
Pete
 

Chinkapin

Settler
Jan 5, 2009
746
1
79
Kansas USA
Why a wash with hot soapy water is enough for a knife, fork, spoon or plate and NOT enough for a canning jar:

When you was a knife, fork etc with hot soapy water it will be "clean." That doesn't mean that it is free of all bacteria. However, that doesn't particularly matter as the knife, fork, etc. has no food source left on it for bacteria to eat, thrive and grow on. Also, and this is a big ALSO, most of the really bad bacteria do not thrive in the air, but instead, thrive in an absence of air.

Enter the canning jar. The canning jar, once filled, now has a suitable food supply. Once sealed it is now without atmospheric oxygen. It has everything it needs to grow a nice batch of botulism. All it needs is to be infected with the right bacteria. This could come from the seal leaking or from an unsterilized jar.

You are right about sugar and acid but dead wrong about the air. I think you have been protected by the type of things that you have preserved. The sugars in the jams and the vinegar and other acids in the pickles and relishes. A jar of green beans would probably have landed you in the hospital. But, to each, his own.
 

Toddy

Mod
Mod
Jan 21, 2005
35,959
2,007
S. Lanarkshire
Lots of good advice :approve:

Tbh I wash the jars but if the lids are at all discloured inside, or the smell of chilli/ tomato/ pickle, remains, I just buy new lids from Lakelands. They sell them by the dozen.

cheers,
M
 

British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
25,569
455
Mercia
Chinkapin,

Canning is different over here - we generally don't pressure can and even water bath is rare as we use a different type of jar. In effect it becomes necessary to utilise the nature of the content to neutralise bacterial action (salt, acid or sugar cointent generally to inhibit reproduction). In effect the purpose of the lid in the UK is frequently to remove the possibility of mould spores for jams and jellies. Again, generally here meat is not canned as most don't have access to pressure canners and there is little heritage in doing so.

Melonfish. Scrub well, put in oven upside down on a grill pan rack if wet at 150C for ten minutes, reduce to 120c before use. I tend to boil lids in water for five minutes if reuding. Discard bent, smelly or discoloured lids and buy new ones from Lakeland as Mary says. Whilst you are on Lakeland buy a jam funnel - worth every penny.

For brewing try "Art of Brewing" online - very good firm. There are others that are better for demijohns and the like (although for demijohns hit the charity shops and don't pay more than a pound).

Red
 

Chinkapin

Settler
Jan 5, 2009
746
1
79
Kansas USA
BR: I learned most of my canning techniques from my mother. She never pressure canned anything either. However she did wash the jars thoroughly and then sterilize them in boiling water. Then she used a water bath to sit the jars in to be filled and the lids put on.

She always boiled her lids also. One difference I do see however, is that she never ever reused a lid. They were generally a bid hard to get off, and she always felt that they might have suffered a bit of bending in the process around the seal area. As Toddy says, they are cheap and we always just got new ones. We did of course keep the screw on rings as they can last for years.

When making jellies, jams, and preserves, my mother never even bothered to put a lid on them. She just melted some wax and poured it over the top of the jelly, about 3/4 inch or so. That sealed the jar and kept the molds out for at least a year. Until just now, I had forgotten about the melted wax trick. No one seems to do that anymore, preferring the lid.
 

Toddy

Mod
Mod
Jan 21, 2005
35,959
2,007
S. Lanarkshire
We seal the jam when it's still warm with discs of waxed paper and then dampened cellophane that shrinks tight as it dries. That's held on round the rim with a small elastic band. The lid is put on top of this.

I've just opened a jar of gooseberry jam I made and sealed like this eight years ago, and it's perfect :D

cheers,
M
 

British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
25,569
455
Mercia
She always boiled her lids also. One difference I do see however, is that she never ever reused a lid. They were generally a bid hard to get off, and she always felt that they might have suffered a bit of bending in the process around the seal area. We did of course keep the screw on rings as they can last for years.

Thats the bit I was trying to explain (badly):eek:

In the UK, most people have never seen or used a jar where the lid is separate from the ring. UK ones seal differently and don't require heat on the lid to seal it

This is the UK type jam jar

http://www.lakeland.co.uk/twist-off...wist-off-lids/F/keyword/lid/product/3812_3817

http://www.lakeland.co.uk/kilner-ja...ing-preserving-preserving/product/13219_13218

UK lids are much more robust than the separate ring and lid arrangement - but wholly unsuitable for pressure canning or even water bath canning.

As a result of this we only tend to use jars to preserve things where the contents themselves are an unsuitable medium for bacterial reproduction. So we never can meat, but high sugar jams and jellies, acid rich chutneys etc.

As a result of the choice of food stuffs put in jars and the type of lid, there is less concern over botulinum as it almost cannot reproduce in the types of products we preserve in jars.

I only understand the confusion because I have a fascination with preserving techniques and it took me a long time to understand what some US friends were telling me about their canning (we don't use that term either :lmao:) as words like "lid" mean something different here.

I now use both methods (although I had to import my pressure canner as they are not sold here).

Hope that explains what I was trying to get at:confused:

Red
 

Chinkapin

Settler
Jan 5, 2009
746
1
79
Kansas USA
Learned something today. That those u.s. type jars are called Kilner jars. Today, most people just call them "canning" jars. (I expect this goes back to us calling a "tin" a "tin can" and then eventually just a "can." This change has happened in my lifetime. Most of the old-timers, here in the u.s. called the Kilner jar a Ball jar or a Mason jar. This comes from the fact that the Ball Glass Co., and the Mason Co. made most of them, and still does. The words Ball and Mason are spelled prominently--molded into the glass.

The earliest "canning" jars that I have ever seen looked about the same, except for the "lid," which was glass also. A round rubber seal was placed on the top of the jar, and then the glass lid was placed over that and held tight with a wire "bail." (probably, none of this makes sense to you). The "bail was permanently attached to the jar and would pivot upward and allow the top part of the "bail" to go over the center of the lid. When the bail was pulled down it cammed the upper part down with considerable force onto the lid and held it tightly in place.

These types of lids were replaced with a large heavy duty screw-on lid that appeared to be made out of zinc. I have never seen a "new" one, and all the ones I have seen were corroded looking and discolored. Looked pretty nasty really. They did not last long and were replaced by the 2-piece lid of today. All of our commercial jams, jellies, etc. come with the screw-on lid that you showed in your first website. Many people just keep these jars and their lids, wash them out and re-use them, just as you have suggested. As far as I know, there is nowhere here in the u.s. to buy those lids.

I'm fascinated by Toddy's wet cellophane technique. If it was good after eight years, it must be a pretty good method!

Thanks for your excellent description of the differences in the "canning" techniques.
 
Last edited: