Canning in Vintage Jars


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).


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).


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).


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.


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


  • 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


  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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99 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.

      • You can use Ospho (phosphoric acid), which is a rust inhibitor. Wear rubber gloves, steel wool the wires, wipe with a rag, brush the wires with the Ospho and then wipe again with a rag. Allow to dry thoroughly (I usually leave them overnight) then was is soapy water and dry. This will turn your wire black, but it will stop the rust and protect the functionality of your jar wires.

    • 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 🙂

      • James Elmer, GASKETS FOR VINTAGE JARS: were you ever able to carry through with making the gaskets out of food grade silicone or good grade rubber. Things have come full circle and another generation is getting into Homesteading. I have many of the glass jars and now dollartree are coming out with small jars, however I am having problems with getting them to seal. Also, for jams and jellies, at one time we use paraffin to seal, but now it is not advised. Between all these idea, maybe you will come up with some ideas. Priscilla

    • 53.3
      Annette says:

      Soak in white vinegar for several days and be amazed!! I used old cool whip container

    • 53.4
      Paul Lorentzen says:

      Put the wire bails in a container of molasses and let sit for a week. Remove and rinse. Your bails will be clean as new. This is an old trick car restoration guys use.

  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.

    • 54.3
      anthony m. santoni says:

      With the Crown jars you first tighten the metal band, then untighten it about a 1/4”, then firmly tighten after processing. They work on the same principle as the older american zinc lids and rubbers worked.

    • 54.4
      Erika says:

      Did you boil the rubber rings? Then apply to clean jar. Put on glass lid and clamp down to seal. My Mom did that and the seal should work.

  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.

    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.

      • I have these same jars and have asked them online if they are safe for boiling and for directions on how to use for canning. They were listed as canning jars on webrestaurant but after an extensive internet search (while waiting for a reply) I have found no information for use, not even on the national canning site (which needs an update). Have either of you found more information since this was posted? I am all ready to make rhubarb rosemary jam….

  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.

  7. 57
    Arlene says:

    I know canning season is about over here,but getting thinking about next season…I have some of the wire jars gotten from an old house before it was destroyed.I have a few glass tops.I was wondering how they worked and your info on this site was helpful..I do need to get some rubber rings..I know…A question…..I have some……

    I think they are zinc lids which are glass on the inside of them..Do these require rubber rings??How do I test the sealing process with these?? Information will be appreciated. Thank you!

    • 57.1
      Marisa says:

      Arlene, it’s not recommended that you use those zinc lids. The good news is that those jars typically work with standard two-piece rings. The reason they don’t recommend those lids is that there is no reliable way to test that the seals are good.

  8. 58
    Erica says:

    Can you pressure can with these jars?

    • 58.1
      Marisa says:

      I wouldn’t advise it, simply because the stock of available jars in this style are so old. They’re all certain to have seen a lot of use in their lifespan and so will probably be more prone to breakage.

      • Heidi says:

        I’m wondering the same thing. I would really like to know if anyone has tried it. I’ve noticed with the old jars that I have (might be different than others jars) that they are not only in great shape, but the glass is actually thicker and more durable than the current new style Ball jars.

        Just wondering if there are any updates to this question of pressure canning with them.

        • Lisa says:

          Hi. I pressure can with mine. They aren’t wire bail but glass lid with zinc band. I remove the band for storage. Love them but I have a 1/8-1/4 seal failure rate when canning fatty things, like baked beans with a slice of bacon in each jar. I’m thinking this would happen with snap lids too. I tend to overfill.

          • Jane Bertl says:

            I pressure can green beans in my wire bail glass jars every year. I occasionally get a failure and think it is my fault not the jar’s. I can purchase new red rubbers at my local grocery store. Oh, and I also pressure can applesauce. My wires are very rusty and corroded. I just ignore this but I wish I could renew them. The problem is, some are so bad, there is not much original steel left. I don’t understand why these lost favor.

    • 58.2
      Jennifer says:

      My mother (who learned canning from her mother in the 1930’s) only used the wire bail jars for tomatoes and fruit in a hot water bath. But by the time I came along, the regular metal lids were here and she did other canning in those types of cans. As I recall, it was because the rubber seals were getting hard to find, along with the fact we ate Hellman’s Mayonnaise by the quart. Most of the jars I still have in my cellar are mayo type jars that we used for canning–we NEVER threw out a mayonnaise jar! 🙂 I still use the old mayo jars. So take that for what it’s worth.

      I will say, glass does get harder with age, and I assume harder also means more brittle so where it once might have “bounced” it would now break in a given situation where you knock it into something. I don’t know about the qualities it has when pressure and heat is applied, though. If the jar is solid and the rubber seals you have are good, I wouldn’t be afraid to try it.

      If you have a very old jar that may have bubbles in the glass, I’ve read do not pressure can with these. The bubbles make weak areas, and it makes sense to use those for storage where you aren’t sealing them in canning situations anymore.

      My mother always said that food lasts longer in the old bail style jars, because there is no metal lid to get rusty (our cellars were generally dampish). And that’s true. If the liquid in the jar can keep the rubber seal from drying out, the food inside will stay sealed for years. There are still cans of tomatoes my mother canned 40 years ago sitting in my cellar that look fine. I won’t ever eat them, but I leave them to remember those times.

  9. 59
    Shirley says:

    Thanks for these instructions!! I have been looking for instructions since I found out IKEA markets their korken line as canning appropriate and sells replacement rubber gaskets!

  10. 60
    Tom Jones says:

    Just used two of these jars, one Weck and one unknown brand, to can some pear halves. Never used them before even though we brought many back from a tour in Germany a few years ago, mostly I had just put dry beans etc in them but I had the gaskets new from IKEA and ran out of large mouth jars. I process other screw-lid jars 20 minutes so I did the same for these. I noticed bubbles escaping past the gaskets all during processing. Is it normal to see these bubbles? Also it is obvious that the pressure building inside a screw lid jar will increase the temperature beyond boiling, just like in a pressure cooker, but the gasket type may be loosing the pressure and therefore not building to as high temperature. Is it over 160 F is the question, enough to kill germs? In any case the tops were tightly sealed when they cooled so I am happy with that. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of these old jars with us, it really gave me confidence to proceed.

    • 60.1
      Marisa says:

      It’s entirely normal to see air bubbles escaping from the jars during processing. It happens with conventional mason jars as well. And mason jars do not raise the temperature above boiling. If you developed that kind of pressure, the jars would explode. The boiling water gets to 212 degrees F, which is plenty.

  11. 61
    Dimitri says: will be stocking these jars (new), new bails, plus we will have a shaker top available as an option to the traditional glass top used for canning. They will be in stock in early October 2015. There is a lot of talk about replacement bails, and use of vintage jars here…The Jars that will be available are new, but identical to most popular vintage jars.

    • 61.1
      kelly says:

      I am so new to this… I have just gotten a boat load of these type of jars and also another name brand that starts with an A. but a lot of my wire bails are gross.. and almost hard to use because of the rust. but is there or will there be a replacement type of some sort that will let us use the reg type of lids you see now adays ? to swith over the vintage glass lids with wire bail to the new type of lids that are everwhere ? does that make any sense ? thanks

  12. 62
    Katw says:

    My mother only canned with vintage jars called Crown sealers. I have dozens of jars. I’ve used them regularly. I agree with Anthony m santon I from April 2015. Fill jars to 1/4 inch from the top, wipe top of jars thoroughly, place new rubber seal on jars, put on sterilized glass tops then screw on lids. Tighten lid then back off 1/4″. Process in water bath for required time. Remove from bath and tighten finger tight. Bubbles will escape during processing. I live in Ontario, Canada. I purchase the rubber rings from the Home Hardware store in our town. Look online (home for them and I’m sure you can purchase them. Many women in our community have used them for years. Your choice as to what you use. People new to canning would be better to use newer glass jars.

  13. 63
    Caro says:

    Hi, i just bought some jars with flat glass lid ( ) but im not sure if i can use them for jam. Can you help me please?

    • 63.1
      Marisa says:

      Those are not canning jars. They are simply storage jars. They’re good for spices and small amounts of dry goods, but that’s it.

  14. 64
    William Dotson says:

    I am not new to canning but I just became the proud owner of close to 200 old jars like these in various sizes 1/2 gal. to 1/2 pt. and have a few that are still in the original boxes unopened, I would like to find out the value of them, I know some of them are in the time period of 1933-1962 by the ball logo. but haven’t got to check all of them, also some of them are Atlas brand, Thank you.

    • 64.1
      Marisa says:

      I don’t have any idea of jar values. So sorry!

    • 64.2
      Jane Bertl says:

      I see these being sold on E-bay for as much as $5 each. I don’t know it any are being purchased. I do know the green glass jars go for more money. Do a search on E-bay for your jar type.

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