Since the dawn of man, humans have been preserving food in order to increase its shelf life whilst keeping it safe. The term food preservation refers to any one of a number of techniques used to prevent food from spoiling. Whether saving for a rainy day, or to preserve the remainder of a bumper crop, preserving food is a great way to keep a steady supply of foods in your cupboard.
One way to ensure your food stays preserved without spoiling is to preserve food in mason jars, or preserving jars as they allow you to cleanly store dry, wet or non-perishable goods in a cool, dry place. By storing them in canning jars, you can keep goods unspoiled for up to a year.
Fermentation is a preservation technique that increases the food’s acid or alcohol content to help you store food longer. Learning how to sterilise your preserving jars is the first step to fermenting your own food. By doing so, you can create popular Australian fermented food recipes such as kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and yoghurt. We recommend getting large mason jars or large fermenting jars with airlocks for your favourite fermented recipes.
How do you process jars for canning?
Prevent food poisoning from using dirty preserving jars. Safely preserve food by following these easy steps:
- PREHEAT: Start off by preheating your oven to 160°C.
- INSPECT: Check the preserving jars and lids for any nicks, cracks, or sharp and uneven edges. Remember to also check both the inner and outer layer of the jar’s lid.
- WASH: Clean your preserving jars with water and dish washing liquid. Shake well but there is no need to pat dry.
- BAKE: Leave the preserving jars on a baking tray and put in the oven. Leave them to sterilise for at least 20 minutes.
- TIMING: Time the sterilisation well so you take the jars out of the oven when your food that you wish to preserve is ready to go into the jars. Note that you should not add any cold food into a hot jar as it will shatter the glass jar.
- SEAL: Seal the jar when it is cool enough to handle.
Basic steps to seal your preserving jars
If this is your first time preserving with preserving jars, it may be tricky for some. To ensure your first attempt is a success, do these steps:
- SPACE: It’s important not to fill the jars up to the very top. Be sure to leave at least ¼ of an inch space.
- TAP: Give the side of the jar a tap with a wooden spoon to remove any bubbles. Be sure not to screw the ring on too tightly, or the excess air won’t be able to escape.
- LOAD: Either using a canning rack, which is a device that sits on the water bath canner, or a deep stock pot, load the glass jars into water and bring to the boil. Ensure the jars are fully submerged and never layer the jars on top of each other.
- REMOVE: Use a jar lifter or a set of kitchen tongs to safely remove the glass jars and set them aside on a folded towel to cool.
- SEALED: Check that the jar is sealed by looking at the lid. If the lid is not depressed, it is not sealed. If it is not, either replace the lid and check the jar rim for cracks or nicks and replace if necessary and repeat the sealing process. Alternatively, you can refrigerate the jar immediately and use within three weeks.
How to get rid of smelly preserving jars?
If you have a mason jar that still smells of the remnants of what it was last used for, then here’s a handy hint to remove that odour. All you need is a heaped tablespoon of coarse sea salt, soap, and water. Simply pour the salt into the clean, dry jar, and secure the lid before giving it a good shake. You will find that the salt should absorb any of the strong odours. Give the jar a good clean afterwards, and you should find you now have a clean, odourless Mason jar ready to use once again.
If you find that the stubborn odour still lingers, then try using coffee grounds as opposed to coarse sea salt.