Canning in Vintage Jars

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When I first started becoming truly enthralled with canning, I began to look beyond the standard Mason/Ball/Kerr jars available. I discovered the Weck jars that are typically used in Europe, but was put off a bit by the price tag and the fact that they are often hard to actually get (I did break down and order a half dozen from Lehman’s, but with shipping, they cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 a jar. That is far too much for the volume of canning I typically do).

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However, when I took a close look at the way in which the Weck jars seal, I realized that they are practically identical to the vintage bailing wire canning jars that were popular in this country through most of the 20th century. The glass lids on the Weck jars seal via a rubber gasket. Through the hot water process, everything is held in place by a couple of metal clips. The glass lids on the vintage jars seal via a rubber gasket.

During canning, the lid is held in place by the metal wire that locks up over the lid. The thing that makes the vintage jars even better than the Weck jars is that you have an easy way to keep the jar closed after you’ve opened it, via the bailing wire. When you use the Weck jars, you have to keep replacing the metal clips (or get a set of their plastic lids).

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So once I figured out that the jars I already had (and had gotten for free when helping a friend of a friend clean out her mother’s basement) would do the exact same job as the spendy ones, I got down to work. I ordered a set of rubber gaskets from Lehman’s for just over three bucks (they’re the only ones who still seem to carry them) and made a canning plan.

I did a mixed berry jam, because I’ve been endeavoring to clean out my freezer, in preparation for the coming onslaught of produce and still had some frozen fruit from last summer. I supplemented my frozen strawberries and raspberries with some fresh (but cheap and decidedly not local) strawberries (I made up for it the following week by hand-picking 13 pounds of local strawberries and making the best jam I’ve ever tasted. That recipe is coming later this week).

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When canning with these jars, most of the steps are the same as with the screw-top jars. You clean your jars, lids and seals well, prepare your jam and fill the jars. Once the jars are filled, you wipe the tops clean and the apply the rubber seals and top with the glass lids (of course, making sure that your vintage jars and lids are without chips, cracks or other damage).

Like when you can with conventional mason jars, you need to leave some space for the air to escape. To do this, you don’t lock the wire down all the way. You close it so that it’s closed, but pointing up, not down (if this doesn’t make sense, just get an old bailing wire jar and start opening and closing it. You’ll soon notice the two closure positions).

Process jars as usual. When time has elapsed, remove the jars from the water, being careful not to tip them (these jars are mostly glass, which means that if you get the jam on the top of the lid, you’ll see it, and if you’re a bit of a perfectionist, the residue that will stick to the lid will vex you). At this point, grab a tea towel and lock the wires into the tightest position with the wire pointed downwards. This presses the rubber gasket more firmly into contact with the rim of the jar and ensures a good seal.

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These jars are in the fully locked, post-process position.

The next day, when the jars are all cool, unlock the bailing wire. The lid should not move in the slightest. Test your seal by picking the jar up by the glass lid (don’t go crazy, just lift an inch or two above the countertop). It should hold fast. If it doesn’t, your seal is no good. If it holds, leave the wire unlocked and store as you would any other sealed jar.

Mixed Berry Jam

Yield: Makes 3 1/2 to 4 pints

Ingredients

  • 8 cups chopped mixed berries (if frozen, let defrost thoroughly) with their juice
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 2 packets liquid pectin

Instructions

  1. Pour the fruit into a large, wide pot (give yourself at least 8-9 quarts). Add sugar, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla been pod and stir to combine.
  2. Once, the sugar has begun to dissolve, set the pot over high heat and bring to boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook at a gentle bubble for 15-20 minutes, until the jam begins to look syrupy.
  3. Bring up to a rolling boil and add the lemon juice, zest and pectin. Let boil for an additional five minutes and check the set with either the saucer test or the sheet test.
  4. Ladle into prepared jars, clean rims, apply lids and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (remember that you don't start timing until the water has reached a boil).
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69 Responses to Canning in Vintage Jars

  1. 51
    annenca says:

    Hi there, I was fortunate to come across a few old ball jars with the attached glass lids ($2 each!!). However they have been stored for years closed with the rubber seal compressed on there. It is stuck. Short of chipping it off, do you have any advice?

  2. 52
    M says:

    I agree and can see no difference other than price of these vs the Weck. They both have lids, gaskets and ring/wire bale. You remove the ring of the Weck and loosen the bale both can be watched and tested for a bad seal. I see no safety issues at all and intend to use mine.

  3. 53
    Miche says:

    Hi, I have a bunch of vintage ball jars… a few dozen. I am planning on replacing the rubber gaskets through the same seller. But, what am I to do about the rusty wires? I cannot seem to find replacements anywhere! Can you help?

    • 53.1
      Marisa says:

      You just can’t get new wires. You can either pull them off the jars and scrub them, or you can just live with them. They don’t come into contact with the food, so they won’t impact the safety of your food.

    • 53.2
      James Elmer says:

      I just got into these jars this year, I have in mind to oil the bail so as to not have any more rust. Vegetable oil will work but it never drys and will remain sticky, I have been burning Waste Vegetable Oil / WVO in my 1980 V W Rabbit for fuel for about 6 years. I have thought I might make some type of a jig to make these wire bail with – have not done it yet – but it is on my mind. I am a rancher / farmer / old guy and seem to have less time each year – ha ha. I don’t KNOW what type of wire to use – yet, but I thought this might help someone. I am certain there will be a learning curve, I am also thinking on making a machine to form canning bands for the old glass lids which I have a bunch of, frankly I don’t know where to begin. Partially because I presume it would be financially prohibitive. I have made some jar rubbers from food grade rubber and a gasket cutter, I just got the first batch too big, they stuck out some from the edge of the lid and the band pulled the seal off when removed – so i was unable to check the seal. Need more food grade silicone and the end of the month came slower than the end of the money. I have no doubt they will work, if anyone wants more information let me know, if you don’t get an answer you may have fallen through the cracks – send another. I dump about 3-4,000 unopened emails per month, lots of things get lost here. Put Jar Rubbers in the subject line, I might notice that. If you want to let me know how to go about making screw on bands for glass lids I would like to know that as well. I am James Elmer :-)

  4. 54
    Marc Beaudoin says:

    I’ve acquired some Crown jars and bought new rubber seals, but I’m not having much success in getting the jars to seal. I’m keeping the mouths of the jars clean and the rubber seals are clean and so are the glass tops. Is there something I’m missing? Should I be tightening the screw band after removing the jars from the hot water?

    • 54.1
      Marisa says:

      I really don’t have any experience canning in that particular style of vintage jar. So sorry.

    • 54.2
      James Elmer says:

      If your jar rubbers are sticking out past the glass lid, they may well be touching the band and being pulled off when you take off the band, or not letting the lid seal to begin with. I cut some rubbers myself, and got them sticking out slightly, it is my theory when the vaccuum pulls down on the rubber it flattens it even more making the rubber tight against the band. Some of mine did that. You don’t want to have the rubber being wider than the glass lid INSERT, I bought some jar rubbers on ebay and they stuck out past the glass about 1/32 or 1/16,” when I put the lid on it did not go on easy. On bail tops it HAS to be wider, I have learned there are lots of sizes of jar rubbers, I am now making my own, I buy food grade silicone and cut them out with a gasket cutter – both bought on ebay. You will want your blade to stick down 1/16,” if that is the thickness of your gasket material / food grade silicone, if it is more you will cut holes in your cutting board, I used my wife’s plastic or nylon cutting board, there is one side she does not like so I use that side. I use a diamond steel sharpener to touch up my blades. I could not buy small / regular mouth gaskets for the glass lid inserts, nor for the wide mouth glass lid inserts. I bought some Canadian rubbers, that fit fine on Canadian jar inserts / medium mouth, it is a real tussle to stretch them over the wide mouth inserts – but it can be done. You can buy small Weck jar rubbers from Lehman’s that may work for small mouth glass inserts, but the ones I got have tabs and those MUST be cut off before using them for small mouth / regular GLASS inserts and screw on bands, still they stick out from the edge of the GLASS INSERT, I have not tried them yet but I expect trouble. Back to the gasket cutter ! I am James Elmer :-)

      • James Elmer says:

        The gaskets I bought on Ebay were made by an individual contracting for gaskets and they stuck out beyond the width of the glass lid, when I cut mine out I made them the same size, which was too big. I might be able to use them for Zinc caps.?! I don’t know where to buy gaskets / jar rubbers for the small or wide mouth glass inserts – you can buy Canadian size for glass inserts, like I said above, it is a real tussle to stretch them out for wide mouth, BUT it can be done.

  5. 55
    Mary Hannah says:

    I am new to canning and am curious about the following jars I found.
    I think they are adorable and want to preserve some apple butter in them to give as Christmas gifts. Could you please let me know if I could use your same method as described in this post if I were to use these jars? They are clamp top, so I’m not sure if they’re meant for canning.

    http://www.amazon.com/Anchor-Hocking-98907-Clamp-Mini-Heremes/dp/B00C0E0GN0/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1409185094&sr=8-9&keywords=heremes+jar

    Thank you so much! Your blog is adorable and so helpful!

    • 55.1
      Marisa says:

      Those jars may not be rated for boiling water bath canning. You’d need to check with the manufacturer before you try canning in them.

  6. 56
    kathie richard says:

    I been canning for years and my sister gave me a sweet & cute round jar with peaches .ok now my brain went into gear I ordered the metal clip down to put strawberry jam and will share as Christmas gifts this year. I was reading on a wed site how to do there all new with new seals. Does the seals need new ones each time used in canning?

    • 56.1
      James Elmer says:

      Probably not, but it would be a good idea to turn the gasket over each time so as to NOT build up a memory in the rubber.

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  1. Canning in a Boiling Water Bath « local kitchen - May 30, 2010

    […] store. The gasket-and-lid type of jar is not recommended by the USDA as it is more difficult (though not impossible) to tell whether or not you have achieved a tight seal.    There are also cool (and spendy) […]

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