There’s a New Brand of Mason Jars in Town + Giveaway

Penley product line

Canning jars, at least as we know them now, have been around since 1868. John L. Mason developed the system of a threaded jar with a lid designed for sealing (he used lead lids with a rubber seal, not exactly the two-piece lid we know now, but very close). The technology hasn’t change much since then.

It used to be that there were a number of canning jar manufacturers. Ball. Kerr. Atlas. Drey. Mason. Globe. Mom’s. Knox. Golden Harvest. However, as so often happens, through a process of competition and consolidation, the number of jar producers grew fewer over the years.

Penley Mason jar

In 1993, the Ball Corporation (which by that time was the only domestic canning jar manufacturer) spun off their canning jar sector into the company that is now known at Jarden Home Brands. They make all the Ball, Kerr and Golden Harvest jars currently available in stores. One of the reasons that canning jars can be so pricey is that there’s been no competition in this sector of the market.*

However, thanks to the growing popularity of canning in recent years, we’re finally going to start seeing some new canning jars hit the market this season. Walmart has a line of mason jars called Mainstays, as well as a fancier variety branded with the Better Homes and Garden name. And soon, a variety of stores will be carrying Penley Mason jars (these are not the jars that Walmart is carrying). Those Penley jars are the ones I want to talk about today.

Penley lid

I recently had an opportunity to preview the line of jars made by the Penley Corporation. Up until now, they’ve been in the business of making and distributing clothespins, matches, toothpicks, plastic cutlery and drinking straws. Canning jars are a departure for them, but from the examples I’ve seen, they are doing an amazingly good job with their new product.

In most respects, they are physically nearly identical to the jars most of us currently use. They make pints and quarts in both regular and wide mouth and an embossed half pint in a regular mouth. Lids and rings are interchangeable between Ball, Kerr and Penley, which is fabulous for those of us who already have a stash of lids or who are planning on using Tattler lids this season.

When I met with the Penley rep, he pointed out the fact that they intentionally left the back of their pints and quarts smooth to better accommodate the labels that so many canners apply to their jars. I was happy to see that particularly since I’ve always hated the round of wheat and fruit on the back of the Ball jars (in researching this post, I learned that it’s been there since 1970).

made in china

As far as performance goes, I’ve canned in these jars several times now and they’ve been perfect, not a failed seal among them. What’s more, they just feel good in the hand. They are sturdy and solid, just the way I expect a good canning jar to be. As you can see from the picture above, there’s a water spot left on that jar from a run through the dishwasher, there because I’ve used this jar for leftover storage and the transportation of iced coffee to work. They’ve seamlessly become part of my collection of working jars.

Finally (and best of all), they are going to be less expensive than Ball or Kerr jars. While it will only be a dollar or two difference, if you do a lot of canning, that can add up quickly.

As far as I can see, there are only two drawbacks to these jars. The first is that they’ve left no space on the lid for writing. As someone who always writes on the lids of my preserves with a Sharpie, this is a minor annoyance. Second is that the jars are made in China. I pass no judgment on Penley for making this choice as in today’s market it is really the only way to make a lower cost product. If you are someone who avoids things made outside of the U.S. I wanted to make sure you were aware (and as you can see, they’ve clearly printed the origin on the bottom of all the Penley jars).

Penley jars will be available at limited locations around the country this season and more widely available next year. Keep your eyes peeled for them in your local grocery store. Additionally, thanks to Penley, I have one case (12 jars) of these jars to give away to a Food in Jars reader (the winner gets to choose the size they’d like).

To enter, leave a comment and share your favorite unconventional canning jar use. The contest runs through Monday, May 9 at 11:59 p.m. One comment per person, please.

Disclosure: The Penley Corp. gave me an assortment of jars and lids to try. However, all thoughts and opinions expresses herein are my own and untainted by the free loot.

*There are the Leifheit jars, but they are so much more expensive (around $20 for six jars) than Ball and Kerr jars, that I don’t see them as a viable alternative for people who do more than the most basic recreational canning.

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629 Responses to There’s a New Brand of Mason Jars in Town + Giveaway

  1. 551
    fatima says:

    I like using canning jars for candles

  2. 552
    Louise says:

    We make iced coffee on the windowsill in canning jars in the summer

  3. 553
    Kay S says:

    I have a couple of jars at our vet clinic that I use to hold tongue depressors.

  4. 554
    Deb says:

    I can’t tell you how much i have enjoyed other canners through this blog!

  5. 555
    Merri says:

    We use jars to sort and store nails and assorted hardware in the shop.

  6. 556
    Katie says:

    I am new to canning, but not to mason jars. :)

    I use them for all my storage in my cabinets. I use mostly 1/2 gallon Ball jars for wheat, oats, nuts, etc and the smaller sizes for coconut, choc chips, dough conditioners and then the pint or half pints for spices.

  7. 557
    Sarah says:

    I am new to canning but the best purpose alternative use for jars around this place would be LEGO storage/sorting!

  8. 558
    Brooke says:

    Such great ideas from everyone – I can’t wait to try a few myself!
    In addition to jams, pickles, etc., I use jars to display sand from each of the beaches that I have visited.

  9. 559
    MLP says:

    Most unusual? I baked a ‘cupcake’ in a half-pint jar, leaving plenty of room to pour in frosting. Then I capped the thing, wrapped it in bubble wrap, and sent it to a friend via post. Voila, birthday cake that travels in the mail without being crushed or disturbed.

    I’ll do it again.

  10. 560
    Megan says:

    Currently my only unconventional use is for flowers or starts off a plant that I put in water to root – HOWEVER when I was younger I use jars as lightning bug houses…Used to drive my mom crazy… I’d take a perfectly good jar lid and punch holes in it and catch lightning bugs andleave them in the jar…the next day she was alway letting the bugs out and throwing away the messed up lid.

  11. 561
    Sara says:

    I don’t have many unconventional uses for canning jars, other than storing pantry goods. But I’ve loved reading all the ideas listed here!

  12. 562
    Kim Birum says:

    I store my dried beans, lentils, and rice in canning jars in my pantry. The never get a hole and dump food all over my pantry.

  13. 563
    GENEVA says:

    I have many uses for my canning jars other than preserving food. I store all my different kinds of beans in them. I put them back in the box and store them in the barn. When I need them they are all in the same spot.

  14. 564
    julia says:

    i use jars for just about everything- leftovers, bulk food purchasing and storage, drinks (we have no regular glasses, just jars!), etc. but right now many of my jars are being used to root plants for my garden. thanks for this giveaway!

  15. 565
    Miranda says:

    I like to use the small jars for my homemade deodorant.

  16. 566
    Deena says:

    I keep q-tips in a jar in my bathroom. I also have jars full of rocks, shells, and sand from various travels. :)

  17. 567
    Nick says:

    In just under the wire! I use canning jars for everything from dry goods storage to drinking glasses, but the most unconventional use was lanterns at my wife’s birthday party. A votive candle in each quart jar, hung from the branches of a tree.

  18. 568
    Lindsey says:

    Sometimes I use jars to sprout sweet potatoes for planting. But mostly I use them for canning :) Love the site!

  19. 569
    TessaDiane says:

    Wow, it will be great to see some new types of jars out there.

  20. 570
    Amanda says:

    I love using them for leftovers. Not very unconventional, but that’s me!

  21. 571

    I like to put cut flowers from my garden in the small jars and tie a ribbon around them. I use them as table decorations or as a quick hostess gift when going to a summer bbq or party.

  22. 572
    Star says:

    I keep my yarn in them!

  23. 573
    Chris says:

    On the rare occasions where I make salad dressing – into a jar it goes for easy shaking and serving.

  24. 574
    Sarah says:

    I use them for tons of things, but the most unusual I guess is that I put beach rocks or salt or whatever in them to hold up candles for my Thanksgiving table.

  25. 575
    Heather Cross says:

    I use them all around the house for storage (they are my style). I love using them for parties for my guests to drink out of & tying a different ribbon so they don’t accidently pick up the wrong jar.

  26. 576
    Angela S. says:

    Sounds excellent! I would love a chance to win.

    Because of mouse problems pretty much everything in my pantry is in jars — everything from gallon-sized to hold flour and rice down to 2 oz for spices.

  27. 577
    Jade says:

    Excellent heads up. Thanks for the info – I’ll be looking for these. In the meantime, I hope to win!

  28. 578
    SusanK says:

    I suppose these are not such unconventional uses, but I do use mine for storage of bulk pantry items, growing sprouts and to display my collection of sea glass. I have some of the old blue glass jars that I use for vases; they look so pretty holding flowers! Oh and I also drink out of a quart Mason jar.

  29. 579
    kathy kensinger says:

    I’d love to win these! I just started making pie in a jar and freezing them for warm Spring BBQ season! They are so cute and easy for outdoor entertaining.

  30. 580
    Kathy says:

    Thanks! We’d love to add these to our canning stash… seems like we’re doing more and more every year.

  31. 581
    Jennifer says:

    Well, I guess you could say I’m new to canning…as in I haven’t started yet, but my unusual use of a canning jar would be the time I used one to trap a roach in a closet in Texas. (yucky!)

  32. 582
    Emily says:

    They make wonderful musical instruments! Fill them with different levels of water and tap them with a spoon or blow across the top – you can get a whole range of sounds! Or just fill ‘em with beans and shake ‘em for a rockin’ good time. Of course it helps if your band is known as The Rolling Kindergartners.

  33. 583
    Jeanette says:

    I used a jar to hold all the chopsticks at our last sushi party!

  34. 584
    Julie H says:

    I’d love these! DH has big plans for me this year for canning- 100s of everything!

  35. 585
    Dea-chan says:

    Um… I use them for everything — what counts as unusual? I DO get angry at those who use my jars for drinking, so my LEAST fave use? :-P

  36. 586
    Kristina says:

    I have been into making jams and jellies for the past 2 years. I feel in love with it when me & my husband & kids moved to a small acreage in just outside of a small town & along with his mother have a huge garden & we are into growing aronia berries in our back fields. Looking forward to those berries & the things I can make. Anyway, I love the idea of those jars that have a smooth side on them for labels, perfect for our labels & we tend to sell my jams & jellies at our local farmers market. Oh the things I could do with those jars beside jams & jellies. That is what I love about the internet & blogs you can learn so many things from different people & even meet people or even read about them who enjoy doing the same things as you do.

  37. 587
    Glenie Peebles says:

    I would love to have another dozen jars just in time for the canning season. I also use jars for holding spoons and forks, flowers, leftovers etc.

  38. 588
    Katie says:

    I’m not sure there are unconventional uses for canning jars. They are just so handy. Right now I’m loving half pint jars for my too grown up for a sippy cup 2 year old. They are sturdy enough that they don’t break if/when she drops them, but I don’t have to go buy more ugly plastic cups.

  39. 589
    Gwen says:

    Thanks for offering the chance to win these! Even though I’ve done very little canning, it turns out we keep nearly everything in jars; I got made fun of by a coworker last year for bringing homemade strawberry lemonade to work in a jar (but it was delicious, and I still do it all the time).

  40. 590

    Gracious, what *don’t* I use canning jars for? Canning, making kombucha, sprouting seeds, hanging yogurt cheeses to dry, food storage, pen storage, bead and craft item storage, dried herb storage, keeping bulk dried pasta, beans & grains, for making herbal salves (I heat herb oils in small mason jars, then add beeswax to get the correct consistency, then leave the salves in the jars for storage)… and of course for trapping spiders, bees and moths in the house, so I can take them back outside where they belong without having to kill them… :)

  41. 591
    Anna N says:

    I use a canning jar wrapped in a sock instead of a travel mug for tea–earning me lots of teasing from my boyfriend, naturally. The sock is only necessary if the jar is too hot to hold, and looks pretty weird, I have to admit. Also, I love your new banner (I usually read in Google Reader so I don’t know how new it is)!

  42. 592
    Elisabeth says:

    I love to brew my teas in Mason jars and tote them around all day. My friends, who know I’m a teetotaler, tease me about bringing my homebrew. I recently purchased the half-gallon jars so I could brew larger quantities at the same time. It’s not too unconventional, but it’s just quirky me.

  43. 593
    Emily says:

    Canning jars make lovely rustic vases.

  44. 594
    Emily says:

    I have started taking my jars to the bulk section as a nice alternative to plastic bags. I just write the weight on the bottom so the cashier knows. The best part is when I get home I just put it away instead of having to transfer everything, plus I always get the right amount.

  45. 595
    Brandi says:

    This is a great give away! I use canning jars for all sorts of things. Probably the most unconventional way I use them is to hold homemade laundry detergent.

  46. 596
    Donna Jordan says:

    I have just started canning with my mother. I have been amazed at what all can be canned. I would love to win these jars.

  47. 597
    Laura C. says:

    I used the old blue ball canning jars for the flower arrangements at my wedding. Afterwards we sold them to a woman who owns the chinese restaurant in town. so i can now enjoy chinese food and think of my wedding day.

  48. 598

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