Canning 101: A Field Guide to Jars

regular mouth ball jars

Recently, one of my long-ago former co-workers mentioned on the Food in Jars Facebook page that what she really wanted to see was a visual guide to available jars out there. So earlier, after I’d met all my deadlines for the day, I raced around my apartment, hunting down examples of all the easily available jars currently in production in the hopes that I’d have them all. Amazingly, I did.

Before we dig into the jars, you should know that all standard canning jars sold in the U.S. are made by a company called Jarden Home Brands. They own Ball, Kerr and Bernardin (that’s their Canadian brand). So though it appears that there are multiple brands of jars out there, they’re all made by the same manufacturer.

The first group is the available regular mouth Ball jars. They come in quart, pint and half pint sizes. These jars are the ones most commonly found on the east coast. These shapes and sizes can also be found with the Kerr marker, but only out west. I prefer the Kerr jars to Ball, because they have a smooth back (it’s perfect for labels) but they’re nearly impossible to get where I live.

wide mouth kerr jars

The next group is the wide mouth Kerr assortment. These come in quart, pint and half pint sizes. Of all available jars, the wide mouth half pint is my very favorite jar currently in production. Sadly, it’s one that’s very hard to track down here in the Philadelphia area. I either drive to the Good’s Store in Lancaster or I mail order them. It kills me every time I visit my mom in Portland, OR and see stacks of this size/shape at her local grocery store.

wide mouth ball jars

Here’s the Ball brand wide mouth assortment. They have these in half gallon, quart and pint. As far as I know, they don’t currently make a half gallon jar under the Kerr label (feel free to correct me in the comments if you’ve seen them in stores recently). Jarden doesn’t currently make the wide mouth half pint under the Ball brand, though I have one floating around my apartment, so at one time they did.

quilted jelly jars

Here’s the quilted line-up. These jars come in 4, 8 (half pint) and 12 ounce varieties. I don’t love the looks of them (I much prefer a smooth-sided jar), but these are such handy sizes (I love the 12 ounce jar for pickling asparagus because it’s a bit taller than the available pint jars) that I put aside my aesthetic concerns and use them.

collection elite jars

Lastly, there’s the Collection Elite line. This consists of just two jars, a pint and a half pint. Unlike the rest of the canning jars featured* which come in cases of 12, these jars are sold in four packs. I love the shape of them, but often forgo them for the less expensive jars.

You will often come across other sizes and shapes in thrift and antique stores, but to my knowledge, these are the only ones currently available for purchase new.

One last thing before I sign off. Remember last year when I mentioned that a new brand of canning jars was coming to market? Sadly, it’s not to be. Jarden Home Brands bought Penley and put the kibosh on that plan.

*Half gallon jars are sold in cases of six.

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158 Responses to Canning 101: A Field Guide to Jars

  1. 51

    The way to tell which (Ball/Kerr) jars are suitable for freezing is to look at the sides. Straight sides are suitable for the freezer. Any (Ball/Kerr) jar with a “shoulder” cannot be put in the freezer safely but is a appropriate for canning.

    I rather like my Ball jars and the quilted jars, no matter the jar is not smooth. On the other hand, I have 12 oz quilted jars that I just hate. I don’t know why. I have drank from two or three of them. The rest are still in the plastic wrapping, undisturbed. Maybe I will rethink my attitude.

  2. 52
  3. 53
    Deb says:

    Exceptional post! I’ve even read each and every comment which is rare. Great information.

  4. 54
    Sheryl says:

    Fascinating and informative post – and the comments are awesome, too!

  5. 55

    [...] What I love the most about making jam is that it’s actually amazingly easy. Throw some fruit, spices and sugar (and pectin, if necessary) in a pot, boil, cool, eat. This recipe is for a refrigerator jam, which means that I just store it in the fridge rather than actually canning it for a longer-term storage. I use 1/2 pint (8 oz.) Ball jars. Read more about jars here. [...]

  6. 56
    Mary Williams says:

    I get my jars at Dollar general and my lids at the local grocery store! The jars from dollar general come with ring and lids but the lids are not good one and i dont trust them to seal.

  7. 57
    Rachel Smith says:

    Oooh—what an incredibly useful post. I feel very inspired…off to browse ebay!
    xx

  8. 58
  9. 59
    Krista says:

    I got some better homes and gardens jars at Walmart for $5 a dozen. The quart size you can actually can a whole quart unlike the Ball jars which hold a quart up to the brim. This meant I didn’t get as many jars of applesauce as I thought I would. =)

  10. 60
    Elaine Blythe says:

    Do you know if the “Ball smooth jar especially made for Ball Jar Art” can be safely used for canning? Thanks…… Elaine

  11. 61
    Carl says:

    Why buy? I just use any and every jar that we empty, jam jars , peanut butter, and rather than ‘processing’ in a hot water bath we just fill the jars, stand them UPSIDE DOWN for five minutes or so. As the jam or jelly cools it reduces in volume and a powerful vacumm seals the jar.

    • 61.1
      Marisa says:

      Carl, reusing jars and simply turning them upside down doesn’t actually do the work of ensuring that the contents of the jar are sterilized. Jars processed like that go bad far more often.

  12. 62
    Elizabeth says:

    I’m a newbie, and I am wondering if it is okay to use different sizes to can the same product, i.e. canning both 4 oz and 8 oz jars of relish? How does that change the processing time? Or, for example, say that a recipe calls for a half pint jar, but I want to put it in a pint (or vice versa)? I assume that would change the processing time too, but how? Many thanks for helping me keep my food safe and delicious. :)

    • 62.1
      Marisa says:

      You can use different size jars than what the recipe suggests. Quarter pint, half pint, 12 ounce jars and pint jars get processed for the same amount of time. If you want to can in larger jars, the time increases. Quarts and 24 ounce jars are processed longer.

      • Kelly says:

        Last night I made your peach jam. It was my first canning endeavor and went so well!!! Thanks for your careful explanations. I feel as though I am learning great skills through your cookbook and blog. I invited my mom over to help with the canning. She hasn’t canned in 20 years and was thrilled to be back at it.

        Thanks for this indication on processing different sized jars. I really like having all of the different sizes for gifts, etc.

  13. 63
    plant freek says:

    I was trolling the web looking for someone I lost track of years ago and somehow ended up on this page. I thought your readers might enjoy reading about some of the history of canning jars starting from way back in 1858 when John Mason invented a machine that could cut into into threads and that led to the resuseable screw on lid. The info is located on a very informative website for those of you who grow your own or want to pick your own food-there’s state by state guide on farm stands, orchards etc. There’s also a wealth of very accurate info there for new canners including resources for canning equipment. It’s at http://www.pickyourown.org/canningjars.htm
    As a 40+ year home canner/preserver, wine maker, master gardener/landscaper, I & my DH have been growing our own fruits and veggies for many years. At the moment I’m busy putting up the start of our 75gallon+crop of blackberries into pie filling and liqueur. We grow our own strawberries, blue&blackberries, raspberries, peaches, pears, sour cherries, apples, herbs, veggies, currants and elderberries as well as gooseberries& potted Myer Lemons with which I produce limoncello. I also make my own burgundy and several wines and my husband loves to brew beer. I’m also a county&state fair judge for home canning/preservation as well as several other categories & I teach young woman just married or new gardeners how to can/preserve their produce. To be absolutely sure of their safety and that of their families I adhere strictly to the USDA Canning/Preserving Guidelines and I recommend anyone interested in learning how to can/preserve take the USDA online course. It doesn’t take very long and having done so will give you the confidence a new canner needs to go forth into unknown territory.
    Well that’s about all. There’s lots of information out there on world wide web. Just be sure for your health and safety you make sure your sources are up to date and accurate. Bon’ appetit-)

  14. 64
    Kim Gill says:

    Any comments on hinge-type jars, and also the Weck brand jars? I have considered buying some Weck jars (expensive, true, but very pretty!), and so far, I only use the hinge jars in my quilting studio to store supplies, but like the looks of them, too.

    Your blueberry shrub recipe is FANTASTIC!

  15. 65
    Meliad says:

    Is Bernardin available in the States?

    In Canada, Bernardin does a whole wack of different sizes – litre, pint (half-litre/2-cups), 1-cup (half-pint), and half-cup jars, all with the same mouth-size.
    I like the half-cup ones for gift baskets. :-)

    • 65.1
      Marisa says:

      Bernardin is the Canadian equivalent of Ball and Kerr (they are all owned by the same parent company). The jars are precisely the same, they’ve just got a different name.

      • Susan says:

        I don’t think they are exactly the same size. I have some taller pint size made by Bernardin, there is a distinct size difference. I think it’s because Canada uses metric measurements instead of imperial.

  16. 66
    Robin says:

    canned bread and butter pickles. the cukes settled and now the jar is half filled. is it possible to open jar, fill and reprocess. will this effect the flavor. is it safe?

    • 66.1
      Marisa says:

      You don’t want to do that, because a second trip through the boiling water bath will result in soggy, mushy pickles. They won’t last as long in half full jars, but you’ve still got many months before they start to lose quality.

  17. 67
    Robin says:

    Trying to make green tomato relish with onion, green peppers, cinnaman, allspice, cloves, brown sugar, white sugar, and vinegar. Online recipes say to mix everything together in a pot on stove (after salt overnight). I however, dissolved vinegar sugars and spices in pot. Wondering if it is okay to add the remaining ingredients and heat through, then add to hot jar for a hot water bath.

    • 67.1
      EMJAY says:

      I just got out my recipe card for a similar pickle/relish and the directions were —
      Slice tomatoes, peppers and onions thin. Sprinkle with salt. Let stand overnight in a crock. Drain well. Add the seasonings to the vinegar, add the tomatoes, pepper, and onion. Simmer for one-half hour, stirring gently at intervals to prevent burning. Remove spice bag (the whole spices are tied up in a piece of cheesecloth which lets the flavor out, but doesn’t leave the whole spices in the pickles). Pack in sterilized jars and seal.

      Hope this helps…

  18. 68
    Jaime says:

    This may be a silly question but I can’t seem to find the answer online.
    I am currently making your marinara sauce as have run out of pint jars. The only pint jars I have are old (all in great condition and no cracks) and maybe antique. They are samco and presto brand. Are they safe to use? I’m also using Tattler lids. Thanks for any feedback!

  19. 69
    Ann Romeo says:

    have you heard of Stonehaven? do they make jars or canning equipment? I can’t seem to locate them anywhere.
    Thanks
    Ann

  20. 70
    Mary Welch says:

    In either raw or hot pack, would it be okay to put tomatoes in half pint jars? I need so little at at time that pints and quarts are a waste except on occasion.

  21. 71
    Sally B says:

    I have a question about the Ball 1/2 gallon jars. Can I pressure can soup and broth in them? I really don’t see why not, but I can’t find a reference to it anywhere? Do I just add 5 minutes to the processing time? Thanks in advance for the answer. A quart of soup just wouldn’t do for my family! :)

    • 71.1
      Marisa says:

      You actually can’t use those half gallon jars for anything besides juice. That’s why you don’t find instruction on how to use them for any other recipe.

  22. 72
    Lori says:

    Any advice on using the old wire clamp, glass top Ball and Mason jars for canning? I am not sure if it would be worth the trouble but I have a number of them collected at yard sales over the years. I use them for infusions and syrups and wondered about the possibility of canning in them. Any thoughts? Similarly the blue glass Ball jars with aluminum lids.
    Also, BTW, I have a new and wonderful use for the 4th burner pot — dulce de leche. I have made it for years with much guilt since I need a pasta pot full of water boiling for 3 hours in order to keep my can of condensed milk submerged.

    • 72.1
      Marisa says:

      Lori, you can still can in the old wire clamp jars. I wrote a blog post about them here: http://foodinjars.com.s164546.gridserver.com/arugulapesto/2009/06/canning-in-vintage-jars/

      Canning in the old blue glass jars isn’t recommended anymore. Often the rims are thick and uneven, which can make for a poor seal. And it is definitely not advised to use the old zinc lids.

      That’s brilliant idea, to use the 4th burner pot to make dulce de leche. So smart!

      • Lori says:

        Thanks much. This is my first season canning and I have been working my way thru many of your recipes. I wish I could make it to your Brooklyn Kitchen event. It is a great place and I know you will have an appreciative crowd.

      • nicole says:

        Got the same jars with glass lids and the wire around them.do i need to use some type of gasket. Or just the wire. Just decided to try out canning or jams. So im clueless. But i really like the look of the glass lids and wire.

    • 72.2
      Heather says:

      I haven’t tried it but I saw someone use their crockpot instead of boiling water! Not sure the specifics but it looked absolutely delicious!!!!

  23. 73
    Amy Allen says:

    Fantastic info! My favorite size right now is the kerr pint and a half, its the perfect big water glass :)

  24. 74
    Lindsey says:

    I’m coming to this late–can anyone tell me if the Kerr half pint jars have a smooth side? I bought some Ball ones and was disappointed to find there wasn’t one–I’m using the jars for a craft and want a smooth side for etching. I also have Ball plastic caps to use on them, not sure if they would fit Kerr jars. Thank you!

    • 74.1
      Marisa says:

      Ball and Kerr jars are made by the same company, so the lids and rings are interchangeable. The Kerr jars have a smooth side, whereas the Ball jars don’t.

  25. 75
    Nina Maas says:

    Hi! I read your post from a couple years ago about Penley Mason Jars. I got so excited because I have spent many of hours researching to find “Mason” jars with the name “Mason” large wih out the Kerr or Ball logo. Reason being is my son “Mason” is turning 1 and want to use them for drinking glasses at his party. So am a super sad to see that they didnt go through. Is it true? Do you know where I can get some like the Penley’s..??? THEY WERE PERFECTLY WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR :(

    Thanks if you can help in any way :)

    • 75.1
      Marisa says:

      Unfortunately, the Penley company was bought by Ball before they were able to sell nationwide and they’re not available anymore.

  26. 76
    Tammy B. says:

    I have a few Kerr half-gallons, standard mouth. Got ‘em at an outlet store years ago, probably late 80’s or early 90’s. I think I got two boxes, I think there were 9 jars in each box. I’ll have to look in my attic, I think I kept the boxes for storage. I use them for juice mainly.

    I recently got 2 sets of the new Ball spice jars @ Wally World. They are the cute little quarter pints with shaker lids. They are embossed with the Ball name on one side and smooth on the other side, great for labeling.

    I also just bought a set of these: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00B9IJOV8/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    Why are they so darned expensive??? If I hadn’t had a gift certificate coupled with free shipping, I’d have likely passed on them.

  27. 77
    hannah says:

    Do you think half a gallon or the 2 litres is a good size for pastas, flours and nuts etc?

    • 77.1

      “71.1
      Marisa says:
      October 2, 2012 at 10:43 pm

      You actually can’t use those half gallon jars for anything besides juice. That’s why you don’t find instruction on how to use them for any other recipe.”

      So yes, you can use the biggest jars for anything except canning. I and everyone I know keep our flours, nuts, cereals, other dry goods, etc in the biggest jars.

      • Marisa says:

        I guess I should have said, “You can’t can anything in those half gallon jars besides juice.” However, you can use them to store anything you want.

  28. 78
    Anna says:

    Looking online, some jars are specifically listed as ‘canning jars’ while others are not. Is there a difference? The jars are Ball and Kerr brands. I’ve noticed that the ‘canning jars’ are also wide mouth. Is that just a convenient feature, and perhaps why they are labeled ‘canning jars’? Thanks!

  29. 79
    Sarah says:

    Hi Marisa,

    I was given some Quattro Stagioni jars as a gift (they’re available at Sur La Table) and I think they’re really pretty–but are they safe to use for canning? The lids are all one piece (rather than lids and rings) so I wasn’t sure. Also, since they’re Italian the sizing is slightly different… Thanks for your advice!

    PS I am a new canner, but I bought your book because you made it seem so fun and easy, and I loved the gorgeous pictures! I did your canned peaches with bourbon last week and (I think) they turned out great! Anyway, I was searching for info about jars and was happy to find your website.

    • 79.1
      Amanda says:

      Regarding the Quattro Stagioni jars….my understanding is they can be processed with a Water Bath canning method but not pressure canned. I am planning on ordering some as they have BPA free lids and look easier to can with than the Tattler lids I’ve been using. I do think the smaller sizes don’t line up with the small mouth size jars but I have read the wide mouth lids might work on the Quattro Stagioni jars.

      That said, I just discovered newer Kerr and Ball Regular sized are now BPA free. (I haven’t found any WIDE mouth lids that say they are BPA free yet). This is good because I can a large amount of produce and can’t afford to replace all my Mason, Ball, Kerr and Atlas jars!

      I think every year I’ll buy a dozen “new” jars like the Quattro Stagioni or Weck jars and in 10 years I should have a pretty nice collection! Best wishes on your canning adventures.

  30. 80

    […] a self described “Jar Geek,” had a number of different canning jars on display and explained the benefits and differences of the […]

  31. 81

    […] website Food In Jars has a useful taxonomy of canning jar sizes. Note that my infatuation with jars begins and ends with the wide mouth variety. Unless you have […]

  32. 82
    Stacey says:

    Interesting article. I was looking to buy some mason jars for the first time ever today, was looking for Ball jars to be specific ( I guess because I’m from back east and it’s what I thought was best??) but all I could find was Kerr jars out here in the west. :)
    I’d be very interested in a couple of the “quilted” ones as large as I could get up, 16 or 32 oz but I’ve never seen them.
    I want them to keep juice in. I make green juice.
    Anyway thanks, I learned something new today :)

  33. 83

    […] website Food In Jars has a useful taxonomy of canning jar […]

  34. 84
    Barbara says:

    I have some wide mouth quart ball jars that say freezer on them..

    Can I pressure can in these ????

    • 84.1
      Marisa says:

      Yes, you can absolutely pressure can in them. They say freezer jars on them simply because the wide mouth straight sided jars are good for both canning and freezing.

  35. 85
    Matt says:

    You missed my fave – the pint and a half wide-mouth Ball. See here for the complete lineup: http://www.freshpreserving.com/products/canning-jars

    • 85.1
      Marisa says:

      The pint and a half jar wasn’t available at the time when I wrote this post. I should really update it to include it! :)

  36. 86
    Catherine Ireland says:

    Just discovered your website after making my first two batches of Pepper Jelly (red & green mixed sweet). I used the proportions (2+ c. cut peppers, 2 c. cider vinegar, 2 pouches Certo pectin) from my mother’s very old recipe and used a makeshift hot water canner for the first time (my Mother just used wax to seal). I also tried a trick of using 1 tsp of butter to reduce the amount of foam on top of the hot jelly and it seems to have worked out well. The jelly tastes delicious and each batch made 7+ jars.

    One question…. how do you get the hot jelly into the jars? I put the hot jar onto a small plate, held it over the big pot of jelly and used a black plastic soup ladle with a spout on either side of the “bowl”. I dipped it into the boiling water used to sterilize the jars to sanitize it first. Any other ideas? Many thanks.

  37. 87
    Sonia says:

    I can’t seem to find heavy duty jars. (Am I using the right term?) I want ones that are a bit thicker and less apt to break. I’ve also heard they’re only available in certain sizes. Can you help me find them?

  38. 88
    Denise says:

    Hi. I stumbled on this site while looking for a comparison chart for various brands of canning jars. Funny to learn that there is one factory in the US that make all. Not surprising however. My question is regarding a wide mouth quart jar I used yesterday. The brand name is Best and it is said to be made in Canada. I’ve never heard of this brand before and didn’t even notice it in the box of Kerrs. I was pressure canning soup and when I took off the lid of the canner after the processing time, there sat a jar with no lid or ring on it. I don’t think I forgot to screw down the lid and upon closer inspection afterwards the lid and jar seems to fit tightly. Now I’m wondering if anyone else had had this experience and what could have been the cause. This has never happened to me in thirty years of canning. Thanks.

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