If you are going to make anything that needs preserving then you absolutely must sterilise your containers first. This is important to avoid your preserves from deteriorating or spoiling as you wait for them to mature or keep for use later on. As a general rule of thumb always sterilise a couple of extra jars or bottles than you think you will need, then nothing will go to waste. We do hate wasted food here at Parva HQ.
It's not just the end container that you should sterilise either. All equipment that will be used - pans, bowls, jugs, ladles and so on should be scrubbed clean in very hot soapy water before using, again so as not to pass bacteria into your tasty preserves or sauces. If you have a dishwasher that can do a short hot wash then that is ideal but a sink works just as well.
Jars & Bottles - in the oven
Wash the jars and bottles in warm water (to be extra sure I wash with milton but that is probably just a touch of OCD!), do not dry them, place on a baking tray with a little distance between them. Heat the oven to 180c / 350f / gas mark 4. When the oven is at temperature put the jars / bottles in for 20 minutes. Hot filling the jars is best practice as if they are cold and you put a hot preserve in them they will most likely crack. Therefore turn the oven down slightly and only bring them out when you are ready to fill. Oven gloves are your friend when handling for potting / filling!
Lids & Caps
Place your lids or caps in a saucepan of water and bring to the boil. Leave on a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Drain and make sure they are dry before using. If they are still wet then you run the risk of condensation forming.
Alternatively you can hot fill your jars or bottles, put the lid on and invert the jar and leave upside down for a couple of minutes. This is an effective way of sterilising the lids and has the added bonus of meaning you don't need to use wax lids.
Follow these simple steps and you will be fast on your way to unspoiled homemade delights with no added bacteria :)