Canning 101: How to Pack Jars for Shipping

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The holidays are coming up and what better gift to give your friends and family than a jar of your homemade preserves! It’s an easy task if they live near you, a simple hand delivery will do. But what’s the best way to do it if they happen to live on the other side of the country?

I thought I’d show you the way that I wrap and pack my jars for shipping (although certainly, this is not the only way) to help you get plan the best way to get those precious jars of raspberry jam through the mail unscathed.

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Start with a small to medium sized box (it depends on the size of jar you’re sending). Line the bottom with bubble wrap or some other sturdy padding (bits of old foam or eggshell mattresses work well here).

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Lay out a long strip of bubble wrap and roll up your jar. If you’re using the small bubbles like the wrap pictured above, you want to encircle the jar in at least four layers. With the larger bubbles, two layers will do.

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Behold the wrapped jar. You should only barely be able to see the jar through the wrap.

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Secure the bubble wrap with tape, so that it doesn’t abandon its post during shipping.

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Fold the ends of the wrap and tape those down too. Think of this like the physics project so many of us did in the tenth grade, in which we designed enclosures for eggs that would keep them from breaking when dropped off the top of the ladder. The same principles apply here.

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A well-wrapped, well-secured jar. I always wrap glass to the point where I’d feel comfortable dropping it from a height of at least five feet onto my kitchen floor (which is a single layer of linoleum on top of solid concrete).

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Nestle the jar into the box on top of that primary layer of padding.

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Now, add more protection. I save all the bubble wrap, foam peanuts and other useful packing materials all year long, in order to have plenty of jar protection for the holidays. I beg you, do not use crumpled newspaper to pad your jars. I have learned the hard way that it is not nearly as effective at absorbing the bumps and bags that shipped boxes must endure.

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A final layer of bubble wrap to finish off the box. At this point, I tape the lid and check all the box seams and give them a layer of taped reinforcement, should they need it.

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If you are shipping more than one jar, I recommend looking into the flat rate boxes from the USPS. Jars of preserves weight quite a lot and if you are shipping more than one jar, the cost of mailing the box can quickly get expensive. With these boxes, you can ship as much as you can fit in there for a single rate. If you’re shipping multiple jars, do make sure to pad between them and pack them tightly enough so that they won’t shift during transport. And that’s it!

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36 Responses to Canning 101: How to Pack Jars for Shipping

  1. 1

    Just this morning I was thinking about emailing you about how you recommend shipping jars. Perfect timing! Thanks.

  2. 2
    Amy says:

    One thing I found out years ago (the hard way) is that if you’re flying somewhere for the holidays, you cannot take your canned goods in your carry on with you – don’t lose your jam at security!

  3. 3
    Eugenia says:

    I use the priority boxes, too — learned that one the hard way one xmas. But I pack slightly differently, so here are more ideas! First, I put each jar in a ziploc bag so if the seal pops and it leaks, there will be some containment (this hasn’t happened yet, but still). And secondly, I pack the jars standing up, because if they are on their side, they’re more vulnerable to breaking. I found that you can pack pints in the large boxes with a layer of padding on the top and bottom, but if they are packed tightly, there won’t be any problems. Quarts have to be packed on their sides, though.

    • 3.1
      Marisa says:

      I do try to pack jars upright, although I find that it’s hard to find smaller boxes that allow this. Sometimes I’ll put the label on the side, in the hopes that the post office will interpret that as the orientation.

      • Eugenia says:

        It’s true — if you only want to send 1-2 jars, it’s hard to find a good box. I tend to send only enough jars to justify using the Priority boxes.

  4. 4
    Wendy says:

    Timely! I’m making apple butter in the crock pot right now that I’m planning to send to relatives as gifts. Thanks for the overview!

  5. 5
    meemsnyc says:

    What a great idea! I was thinking about how to ship preserves. This is perfect.

  6. 6
    Diana B says:

    May I suggest that you put each jar in a small ziploc bag before rolling in the bubble wrap? I pack the way you do, but still, the postal gremlins have their ways. I was glad I use the ziplocs recently when a jar of my jam did break (a first) in transit. Saved a big mess for the recipient!

  7. 7
    Denise D says:

    I pack jars lik that in Ziplocs first as well. We like to send out Apple Butter for the holidays, and that can be a huge mess if they break. The recipients were very happy to see the mess all contained in a bag when one broke last year!

    • 7.1
      Marisa says:

      The only reason I skip the ziploc is that I typically tape the bubble wrap around the jar well enough so that it’s fairly contained, even without a bag as the initial layer.

  8. 8
    Rachel says:

    If you’re short on packing materials, check in at your local bookstore or gift shop to see if they have any extra packing materials left from shipments they have received. Another suggestion is to put out a post on Freecycle asking for packaging.

  9. 9
    huebscher says:

    the last box I shipped with two pint jam jars was $17.50 … if I’d had the time to re-pack with a flat-rate box, it would have been $10.
    also, seconding euginia’s rec of bagging before wrapping — I don’t feel half as much guilt saying there are no ::ahem:: liquids enclosed.

  10. 10
    Kathleen says:

    I packed breakable things for years at a department store and one of the most important lessons I learned was PACK IT TIGHT! Any extra space lets things slide around and leads to breakage. Tightly packed boxes with padding (like the ones you showed!) make all the difference.

  11. 11
    Sandi Garcia says:

    Thank you — I was wondering if you could even send them in the mail or take them on a plane because of the pressure difference — so I will try this. Do you think I could even send a jar to Portugal?

  12. 12
    Trina C says:

    Very nice explanation. I am going to do something like this when I ship this holiday season. As an extra precaution, I put each jar inside a sealable plastic bag. That is not perfectly leakproof, but then if a jar DOES break, its contents most likely won’t get all over everything else in the box.

  13. 13
    Trish says:

    Thanks for this! We’re visiting my in-laws for the holidays this year, and I’m debating just shipping their jars anyway, instead of trying to pack them in our luggage.

  14. 14

    Great tips. I’ll send this to my mom in hopes of getting her wild strawberry jam for my Christmas morning.

  15. 15
    Anna says:

    Thank you for this!! I have 6 dozen jars to ship coast to coast for Christmas, and was looking for some instructions!

    • 15.1
      plicketycat says:

      I live in Alaska, so half the year our packages are subject to freezing. If you have the proper headspace on a jar of stiff preserves, then you should be ok because these don’t normally expand enough to break the jar or seal if they do freeze. Also, straight-sided jars and wide-mouths without shoulders are much less prone to breakage if they do freeze during transport.

      I wouldn’t mail syrups, pickles or produce packed in water/juice during the winter though. Most fruits preserved in alcohol won’t freeze unless you’re sending them somewhere really cold like here in AK where -40 is common.

  16. 16
    Renee says:

    Have your shipped anywhere where freezing temps are an issue? I live in Minnesota and it could end up sitting in the cold somewhere for a day or more.

  17. 17
    Rebecca says:

    I’m a glass carver and have been shipping glass, ceramic and crystal for years with only two instances of breakage. I pack in a box like you do but then for added insurance, I take a slightly larger flat rate postage box, put a thick layer of peanuts in the bottom, sit the gift box centered on top of that, and then pack peanuts tightly all around the sides and top of the inner box before closing and sealing the outer box. If you have too much for one flat rate box pack in two, you’ll still come out ahead on postage because the PO also has box size limits and if you exceed them the cost of shipping becomes pricey, fast. It may also prove cheaper to ship by UPS or FedEx. They all have shipping calculators on their websites so you can do a price comparison by weight and where your package is being shipped.

  18. 18
    Kathleen van Voorn says:

    Another way to ship items is thru bus parcel express offered by Greyhound Bus lines. Sending a parcel from Ontario to Alberta takes about three days, surface mail takes longer.

  19. 19
    Nina Strnad says:

    No way that my (incredibly wonderful!) jams are worth giving as gifts with the huge shipping costs we have to pay nowadays! If I can’t deliver personally, then… sorry :(

    Most of what I make is out of town and on vacation. I have been struggling with preserves that I’ve made on vacation since the new TSA or air security regulations have been in place. I visit my in-laws at the height of berry season, and make most of our holiday presents then. So tired of the bagging and bubble-wrapping that I have gotten polystyrene wine-bottle-mailers made just for jams! If you are interested, let me know! I have extras. parterrekitchen.com

  20. 20
    Joseph says:

    Are the Glass Canning Jars safe to send by air cargo when full & sealed? My understanding is that the air pressure in some airline cargo area’s fluctuates, so if the sealed jar is not strong enough, it would result in bursting / breakage. Please advise. Thank you.

    • 20.1
      Marisa says:

      I’ve been shipping full, sealed jars for years now without any issue. However, I always seal the jars in ziploc bags in the rare event that they do burst. It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

  21. 21
    Cindy Riley says:

    Hi There, this is my first time at making “Home made Apple-Butter” and I followed the direction about heating the jars before putting the apple-butter into them, they said that helps seal the jars. I have a quite question, I see many of you are talking about sending apple-butter or jams, But do you have to add ice when shipping so the apple butter does not spoil when being shipped from one state to another?

    I hope my question is not to silly this is my first time in ever making it.

    Thanks to anyone who answer’s my question.

    Cindy

    • 21.1
      Marisa says:

      Cindy, did you process your canning jars in a boiling water bath after you filled them? If so, they are shelf stable and do not need to be refrigerated to be preserved. It’s those processed and sealed jars that this post about shipping is referring.

  22. 22
    Kateweb says:

    Should I leave the rings on or take them off?

  23. 23
    Kim says:

    Any recommendations on packing them up to move across country in the winter? I’m worried about freezing temps as well as breakage.

  24. 24
    rudy says:

    Thank you! I’m not used to shipping pickles, because in my home country India, all the people we want to send something to are nearby. And all of them make equally good pickles. So, never had to do this before. I’ll try this…!

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