Canning 101: Choosing Jar Size

One question I’ve been getting frequently has been about jar sizes. Often, when I write a recipe, I describe the yield in whole pints. However, just because I say something yields three pints doesn’t mean that you have to you use a trio 16 ounce jars.

You can divide that product between any assortment of jars without changing the processing time as long as they are the same size or smaller than the jars specified in the recipe. If you want to increase the size of the jars, you typically add five minutes to the processing time, though it’s always good to check the National Center for Home Food Preservation website to confirm the time.

Oh, and if you’re picked up a case of the pint and a half jars that were re-released this year, remember that they get processed like quarters, not pints.

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37 Responses to Canning 101: Choosing Jar Size

  1. 1
    Amy says:

    I see in the picture above that you have some jars with the gold screw top lids. Could you talk a bit about using those? I live in Switzerland, so that’s the kind of jar I find in the store, but I haven’t found anything about how to use them safely. Thanks!

    • 1.1
      Marisa says:

      Amy, they’re not recommended for home canning, but if they’re all you can find, you simply use them the way you’d use regular lids. Prepare them by simmering them for 10-15 minutes before using. When the jars are filled, wipe the rims and apply those lids. When the time is up, remove the jars from the canner and let them cool. The jars are sealed if the top of the lid is concave.

  2. 2
    Lori says:

    Hello, have you also used jars with lids like you’d get on a jar that you’d buy at the grocery store. Can I recycle/reuse those jars?

  3. 3
    Carol says:

    Those pint+ a half jars are so cool looking, I had to buy some. Though normally I don’t can in quarts or anything that tall, but I may soon.

  4. 4
    Leah says:

    Have you seen any 2oz jars for canning? I’d love to make tiny jars so I can give a wide variety of jam to folks as gifts, and also bring a jar of jam with me on a plane. I fear these don’t actually exist, but it would be really nice.

  5. 5
    cynthia lupo says:

    concerning the trivet from last post….are you putting jars into the water bath without a rack? and they touch?

    • 5.1
      Marisa says:

      The trivet serves as the rack. It keeps the jars off the bottom of the pot, which is truly the only thing that a rack needs to do. It’s perfectly fine if the jars touch during processing.

  6. 6
    Nicole E. says:

    I have a newbie canner question regarding size. Can you safely adjust any canning recipe if you want to make it smaller? So if I have something that yields 8 quarts (for example), can I halve the recipe to make 4 quarts? I didn’t know if that throws off the safety of the recipe or not. Thanks!

    • 6.1
      Marisa says:

      You should always be able to divide a recipe in half if you want to make it smaller.

      • Val says:

        You can not cut a jam or jelly recipe in half or double it, unless you are only using the fruit and sugar. I use 1 cup fruit pulp to 1 cup sugar and boil it for about 20 minutes and do the spoon test.

  7. 7
    Steph says:

    Thanks for this really helpful post.

  8. 8
    amy says:

    Thanks for the great info about the pint and a half jars. So lets say, hypothetically, of course, that I didn’t know that and had only processed some hot sauce for the pint time, not the quart time. Thoughts?

  9. 9
    Krista says:

    Do you have to adjust the headspace if you are using smaller/larger jars? I know it creates a vacuum, but I guess I’m really not clear on why the headspace varies between recipes anyway and whether it is better to have too much or to little of it (so I know which way to err when my recipe doesn’t come out to exactly filling the jars I had prepared). And so I know how to think about it when using different sized jars. Thanks! I LOVE your blog (and your book just came in the mail today- hurray! :) )

    • 9.1
      Marisa says:

      Krista, the headspace varies depending on the density of the product. So it doesn’t change for different sized jars, it only increases the more dense your product is. If you have to choose, I find that it’s bette to err on the side of having a little less in the jar than a little more.

  10. 10
    meg says:

    I’ve been canning for my wedding favors all summer, using those teeny 4 oz jars. They’re precious, but I’ve just about had enough of them for a while. I’m seeing them in my sleep!

  11. 11
    Donna says:

    You are responsible for my new passion, canning. I have canned about 14 recipes (mostly from your book, which I love) since I took your class in Brisbane in June.
    My question is about doubling recipes. Is it safe? Are there any rules or guidelines?
    Thanks, Donna

  12. 12
    Jill Butler says:

    I just made your Apple Lemon Honey Jam and it is delicious. I have 2 questions: What is the processing time if I had used 1/2 pints instead of pint jars? my other question is whether I could open my newly canned pints of jam and process again into the half pint jars and if so, how to go about doing that. I am pretty new to canning and was afraid that I couldn’t change the size of the jars. Thanks so much for your help!! I am so glad I discovered your site!!

    • 12.1
      Marisa says:

      Jill, the processing time doesn’t change for smaller jars, it’s still ten minutes. You could open up those pints and process them again in half pint jars, though that could impact the set.

      • Jill Butler says:

        Should I heat up the jam before re-canning?

        I ordered your book on Amazon tonight – can’t wait to read it!!!

        Thanks for your info

        Jill

  13. 13
    Alison says:

    Can you talk about straight-sided vs. non-straight-sided jars? Thanks!

  14. 14
    Kristen says:

    Marisa, I am a newbie canner who just got your book for Christmas and I am eager to try some of the syrups. Are there any glass bottles that are safe/possible to use in the water-bath canning process?

  15. 15
    Christopher Todd says:

    Not sure if this is the best place to ask this question but here goes. . . I have recently become interested in canning and will start when I get back home to Chicago. That said, I see that there are a bunch of different jar companies out there. Which one do you recommend? Which is the easiest for a newbie to use? For some reason i am attracted to the Weck jars with the glass lid, metal clamps and the rubber thingy (I also love the fact that you can get the little white plastic tops for the jar for use after you break the seal). Are those easier to use than say the Ball ones with the screw on lid and those little metal covers or perhaps those french ones with the glass lid that is attached to the jar? I would like to start this off right but I am just so confused by all of the different styles out there.

    • 15.1
      Marisa says:

      I recommend that you start canning with the Ball jars with their two-piece lids. Most canning recipes are written for those jars, so you’ll be able to follow the directions exactly while you’re getting started. Once you’re more comfortable with the process of canning and have a greater understanding of how it all works, that’s when you can start expanding to other styles of jars.

  16. 16
    Heather says:

    Hi! I just made the Gingered Pickled Beets and Honey Lemon Apple Jam. I know they’re going to be delicious! I have a question about yield and jar size though…in both cases, I ended up with quite a bit less than the amount stated in the recipe (2 pints of the beets and 3 8-oz jars of the jam). Any thoughts on what I could be doing wrong? Am I misunderstanding jar sizes? This is my first foray into canning so advice is appreciated! Thank you!

    • 16.1
      Marisa says:

      As far as the beets go, it could be that your scale is a little off or that you’re trimming away far more than I did. In the case of the jam, yields do vary, but yielding half as much as the recipe calls for is pretty major. Again, you could measure differently than I do and you may have cooked it more than I did.

  17. 17
    Kelley says:

    I have been wanting to can some baby food for my 8 month old. What are the smallest jars you can safely can at home?

  18. 18
    craig says:

    HI, I am looking for some advice on buying 2 oz jars for jellies we are making for our wedding, We want the round, not hexagonal-shaped jars, but cant seem to find any that dont have ridiculous shipping costs, and still have the proper canning lid.
    Any suggestions?

    We could go up to 3 oz. but no larger just in case people take them on a plane with them.

    Thank you

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