Home Canning and Sterilization

On the way home from Vancouver, Eric and I stopped over in Vernon at the Davison Orchard. If you are ever in Vernon, you must stop at this delightful place.  They have a lovely shop full of delicious fruit.  The fruit is all super fresh and  grown on-site.  Davison Orchard also has a bakery where you can get pies, fresh bread and a delicious lunch.  This year the orchard had the most beautiful peaches.  Despite Eric’s objections I bought a crate and the plan is to teach myself how to can.

While researching the canning process, I have found a lot of conflicting information, specifically around the sterilization process.   The rationale behind sterilizing your cans is that it ensures a proper seal, makes sure your food does not spoil and prevents Botulism.  Botulism is super scary! According to the British Columbia Health Link: “Botulism is a serious, often fatal, form of food poisoning. The poison is produced by Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium that is found everywhere – in soil, on raw fruits and vegetables and on meat and fish. Over the years, a number of Canadians have died from botulism as a direct result of improper home canning.

With this in mind I thought it was necessary to get to the bottom of the sterilization process.  I decided to take it a step further than simply asking my grandmother (sorry grandma)!  To be on the safe side I checked with  the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  I am not even going to paraphrase what I found.  Here is what this organization has to say about the serialization process:

“All jams, jellies, and pickled products processed less than 10 minutes should be filled into sterile empty jars. To sterilize empty jars, put them right side up on the rack in a boiling-water canner. Fill the canner and jars with hot (not boiling) water to 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Boil 10 minutes at altitudes of less than 1,000 ft. At higher elevations, boil 1 additional minute for each additional 1,000 ft elevation. Remove and drain hot sterilized jars one at a time. Save the hot water for processing filled jars. Fill jars with food, add lids, and tighten screw bands.  Empty jars used for vegetables, meats, and fruits to be processed in a pressure canner need not be presterilized. It is also unnecessary to presterilize jars for fruits, tomatoes, and pickled or fermented foods that will be processed 10 minutes or longer in a boiling-water canner.”

They take the guess work out even further by providing step-by-step instructions for canning specific types of foods, including peaches!

The lesson here? Look to an authoritative source and recipe if you want to can.  Also, botulism= super scary!

Also I promise more on the canning process ASAP!

So do you always sterilize your cans?  Even for things like peaches that don’t have to be sanitized?  Do tell…

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  1. says

    I use a pressure canner so I rarely sterilize my jars. I just give them a good old fashioned washing beforehand and they’re good to go.

  2. Amy in StL says

    I’ve only ever put up jam and I do it the same way my mom and taught me. It’s the way her mom and her grandma did it.

    I wash the jars in super hot soapy water and rinse them in water as hot as it comes out of the tap which I think is 140F or 150F (I have my water heater turned way up because I hate washing dishes in water that’s not hot hot hot). Then I set them out to dry while I keep the lids in water I boiled in the microwave in a clean dish. I then cook the jam for longer than the one minute that it says on the box – basically until it reaches a hot candy look. One minute never results in a firm set for me. (I’m guessing maybe this is why my jam always sets and never has gone bad) Then I fill each jar, wipe the rim dry with a clean towel, screw the lid on and invert it. When I’m done I let them sit like that for about ten to twenty minutes then I turn them right side up and tighten each lid securely. I know that people who are learning to can are taught this is a strict no-no; but if everything you use is sterile it’s fine. The key is very hot water and being very strict about cleanliness.

  3. says

    Hey Amy: Thanks for the tips… it is really interesting to see the different approaches people take. It seems they are all passed down from generation to generation. I hope this tradition doesn’t fade away!

  4. says

    I put the jars thru the dishwasher just to clean them and then boil to sanitize. I don’t boil the rings and I put the lids in a bowl and put boiling water over it to soften the rubber…

    Post more, I’d like to hear what you’re canning! I just learned this summer too!

  5. Lindsay Stepney says

    hey Kristen,
    when i pickle carrots, i place the jars, seals and lids in 2 inches of boiling water for about 10 minutes. i then let them air dry on a clean tea towel prior to putting in the good stuff. then i just listen to all the lids popping as they seal themselves shut while they cool down.
    i’ve had some not seal properly and it was because the pickling agent was not hot enough anymore to create the vacuum seal. so just make sure whatever you’re putting in is hot enough to create the nice seal.
    just have a look at the food before you eat it. i’ve had carrots go white, so something nasty was obviously in the jar.

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