Let’s Talk About Canning Jars…


So let’s talk about jars.  A canning jar is a glass jar that is designed to be used over and over.  It is designed to be boiled and pressured.  A canning jar has a universal screw top.  You can switch up brands of canning jars or canning jar tops and the jars, lids and bands will all fit each other.

Canning jars are wonderful!  Even for dry good storage, it is such a convenience that they all have the same lids!  (I hate searching and searching for lids that fit.)  Of course they are glass, but they are among the most durable glass made for consumers.  They can also be dropped and almost always survive.
“They” say to only use actual canning jars.  “They” say that other jars aren’t designed for the high temperatures of canning or for being reused.  “They” say that when you use other jars, they might not seal.  Well, they’re right, technically.   They have to say that for liability reasons.

Now it’s my turn to say that for liability reasons.  Here it goes:  don’t use jars for canning that aren’t canning jars.  It could be dangerous.  The jars could shatter in the process since they are not designed for home canning.  They might not seal.  If they don’t seal properly, you could die from the bacteria.  Now that you have read my warning, you can read what I am about to say…

You can reuse non-canning-jar jars.  It may be risky (see above) but it can be done.

Classico Tomato Sauce comes in jars that have the universal canning jar size top.  Their website says not to reuse them.  (See the dangers above.)  All I am saying here is that they have the same universal top.  I have one.  I have used it for water bath canning.  Make your own decision.

Miscellaneous glass jars that have matching metal tops will usually reseal if subject to the same conditions as canning-jar jars.  They are not manufactured for reusing.  (See dangers above.) Know that pressure canning is a lot harder on jars than water bath canning.  Make your own decision.  This e-how post (see #5)  actually says that you can reuse these jars for water bath canning.  As of yet, this has been the only place that I have ever found something official saying that it’s OK to reuse non-canning-jar jars.

Actual canning jars come in two varieties: wide-mouth and regular mouth.  The wide-mouth jars are wider at the top.  The theory is that they are easier to clean than the regular mouth canning jars.  They are also more expensive, both initially and for the replacement lids or replacement lids and bands.  I own a few wide mouth canning jars.  They were in the house when we moved here.  I have not used them yet since it is so much more money for the lids and bands.  Make sure that if you undergo a canning project that you have enough lids and bands of the correct size to go with the correct jars.

Actual canning jars come in many different sizes.  Jelly jars are usually eight ounces.  There is also pints and quarts.  There are also half gallon jars, but I personally have not read anything about these with the exception of for dry good storage.  If you know of using these half gallon ones for canning, please do let me know.

The main companies that make actual canning jars (that I know about) are Ball, Kerr and Golden Harvest.  The majority of canning jars are made by these companies.

Canning jars are usually sold by the case of twelve.  They are sold initially with the bands and lids.  I am still looking for where they have the best deal on them.

Dollar Tree sometimes sells pint canning jars.  Although you can most likely find a dozen pint canning jars for less than $12.00 for a case, it may be worth the investment there if you only wanted to can a few jars to try.

I have personally yet to find them at a garage sale.  My little house on the prairie did come with about four dozen actual canning jars in the basement.  Canning jars wash up easily and well.  I am grateful for these.  (Or I guess I could say that I bought some really expensive jars and they came with a free house.)

Do you have a stash of jars?  Where did you get them?

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Shouldn’t It Be Called Jarring?

According to my husband, canning should be called jarring, since the food is preserved in jars and not cans.

In this post, I am going to give a little overview of canning.  I am aiming this post (and this whole canning series) to someone like the me of five years ago, the me who has no clue about canning at all.  You may be yawning right now since everybody else in the world has known all of this since they could crawl.

So what exactly is canning?  Canning is storing food in jars.  The food is food that wouldn’t ordinarily keep at room temperature.  When properly processed, you can store your jars just fine at room temperature.

Canning basically involves two steps:
1. Preparing the stuff to go into the jars, preparing the jars and putting the stuff in the jars.
2.  Processing the jars so that they both seal and do not allow bacteria to grow in them.

The reason that canning so hard for someone like me is that I had never prepared food in such a way that it could be jar-worthy.  I had to learn two new things: preparing the food for the jar and processing the jar.  Both of those above steps were new to me.


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Dreaming of Canning

I have dreams of canning. I have dreams of having a beautiful garden and preserving tons of vegetables and fruits. I have dreams of my children eating our own abundant harvest year round. Of course it’s all organic and produced locally, right here. I guess right now it’s just a dream… I’ve had that dream for years. It was before I knew that I would even have kids, before I knew how to grow a vegetable, before I knew exactly what canning was. Yeah, I know compared to Martin Luther King, Jr., my dream is nothing. But, it’s my dream…

In 2009, I had enough tomatoes in my garden to can some tomato sauce. My darling mother-in-law, who has been canning since she’s two, most patiently guided me though it. I only had one child at the time. We went to her house one afternoon. I brought the crockpots right there. I brought my few jars. She painstakingly and patiently showed me the basic process. I have to brag on my mother-in-law here: she is a saint. She has been canning her whole life. She gave up her time, used her own equipment and step-by-step explained things to her obnoxious slow-to-catch-on-to-stuff-like-that Jersey girl daughter-in-law. So that was my introduction to canning.

2009, My very first canning experience…

I understand the process a little better now. I’ve read and studied. I’ve canned quite a few times by now. Did you know that I’m a cheapskate? My first on-my-own canning experience was born out of my cheapness. My husband Kevin likes to take peanut butter and jelly to work. He’s pretty picky and only likes grape jelly. I’m pretty picky and only buy the “fruit only” jelly. Most jelly has sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup in it. The “fruit only” jelly is close to $3.00 for a very small jar. It only lasts for a few sandwiches. We were spending a fortune on grape jelly. Inspired by this blog, I decided to attempt my own grape jelly. It worked! Can I tell you how much I was bragging on myself for making those two jars of grape jelly? Yeah, I did it all by myself! Well, it wasn’t the perfect grape jelly. I had used honey as a sweetener. Honey is delicious. It was raw and local to where I used to live in South Jersey, too. Honey has it’s own taste. Honey made the jelly taste less grapey, and well, honey-y. But, it was my first try.

And I succeeded. I have since canned a bunch more times, and I think at least I got the basics enough to share…
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