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Where to Buy Jars for Canning

jars!

One question I get a lot, particularly from beginning canners, is where to buy jars. And it’s true, it can be challenging to find them, particularly during the off-season. If you live in an urban area, it can be even harder. However, I’ve found that finding canning jars is never impossible. Here are some places to look.

Grocery stores

Unfortunately, not all grocery stores carry canning jars and their stock often varies depending on the neighborhood in which the store is located. For instance, there is always a small canning section in the South Philadelphia ShopRite (during the harvest season, they expand their stock), but other locations of the chain don’t always have canning stuff in stock. I’ve been told that this is because that area has a historically high Italian population and thus, a tradition of canning tomato products.

Another local spot (for those of you in the greater Philadelphia region) is Wegmans. Their canning section is always stocked, although its placement in the store can vary depending on the location you’re in. We don’t have any Weis Markets in Philadelphia proper, but they start appearing as soon as you get out of the city. I’ve often found jars (as well as copies of the Ball Blue Book) there.

Out west, I’ve found that WinCo can always be relied on for canning jars, lids and other useful products (in the summer, they put the jars on special and they’re super affordable).

If you can’t find the canning section in your local grocery store, make sure to search out the odd corners, like that seldom-used hardware aisle and at the end of the pet food section (truly, I’ve found jars in both places). The Acme markets around here only stocks jars during the summer months, but they keep them on the baking aisle. It’s also good to look near the plastic wraps and boxes of tin foil. And don’t be afraid to ask grocery store staff where their canning section is. If they say that they don’t have one, suggest that they start carrying canning stuff. Customer demand is a terrific way to increase the availability of canning supplies.

Hardware stores

While canning supplies tend to be a seasonal item for hardware stores, a number of them will stock jars during the height of the canning season. I’ve found that Ace and TrueValue stores can be some of the most reliable jar destinations out of the traditional hardware store genre.¬†You can also order jars from their websites, but make sure to select the “ship to store” option, to save yourself the shipping costs. You’ll have to pick up the jars when they arrive, but I always prefer a quick errand over $20-30 in shipping fees.

Side note: There used to be a wonderful little independently owned hardware store across the street from my apartment building and they carried jars (I bought some of my very first canning jars from them about six years ago) and so many other useful items (like the tube light bulbs that fit the fixture over my kitchen sink). However, they didn’t survive the slumping economy. Lesson learned: support your local hardware stores.

While in Lancaster County, PA last weekend, I found myself in the most amazing home goods stores I’ve ever encountered (that’s where the picture above was taken). Called Good’s Store, their canning aisle was truly a thing of beauty. They had all sizes of jars (even my beloved half pint, wide-mouth Kerr jars), canning pots, pressure canners, pectin, cookbooks and more. Truly, seeing such preserving abundance in one place was enough to make me a little giddy.

Jar and Closure Distributors

There are a number of jar distributors located around the country. Their primary business is to supply jars to commercial food producers, but they’re also happy to sell to the general public. You can either order online from a jar distributor, or, if you have one in your region, you can often place an order and pick it up at the warehouse. Fillmore Container is my closest jar distributor and whenever I need a large number of jars, I’ll place an order online or over the phone, and arrange to pick up in person. It’s the very cheapest way I know of to get brand new jars.

Used jars

There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying used jars, as long as you give them a good once-over before you plonk your money down. Check the rims for any chips or cracks and make sure that they’re fairly free from major staining and scratching. Haunt your local thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets for good jars. My personal rule is that I don’t spend more than $4-5 a dozen when it comes to used pint jars (I’ll go a bit higher for quarts), because much more than that and they start to get as expensive as a box of new ones (depending on their size).

For more of my tips on buying used jars, check out the post I wrote on the subject last year.

Online

The one problem with buying jars online is that the shipping costs quickly get prohibitive. Glass is heavy and so the shipping can sometimes double your costs. However, for us urban dwellers, it can often be the only way to get your jar fix, particularly if you’re looking for a special size/shape (again, I call out those wide mouth, half-pints I love so much).

On Amazon, I like the seller Brand Variety for jars because their shipping structure is one of the more reasonable I’ve found. For all other canning stuff, I turn to Lehman’s. I love the stainless steel canning funnel they sell.

Craigslist can also be a good place to find used jars, depending on the level of jar competition in your area (I’ve found that it’s a heck of a lot harder to get used jars off CL in Oregon than it is here in Philly. The canning revival got there first, I guess).

Now, to make this post even more useful, please share where you find jars! Let’s here from the other regions of the country, which grocery and hardware stores are most reliable in your area?

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Ball Blue Book Giveaway

ball blue books

Hey canners! My apologies for the radio silence of late. I was out of town on a little vacation over Memorial Day Weekend (Thursday through Monday) and when I returned, work turned into a noisy and demanding beast. It looks like it’s going to continue in that vein for the next 12 days (I’m working on a very cool project that will be launching on June 14), so posting round these parts will be spare.

However, do know that this site is never far from my mind. In fact, while shopping for jars this weekend (isn’t that what everyone does on their vacation?) I stumbled across a terrific deal on copies of the Ball Blue Book. It’s the 2008 edition, but all the canning info is still relevant and I’ve been told that it’s only one recipe different from the 2009 version. I picked up two copies to give away here.

You have until Sunday evening (June 6, 2010) at 11:59 p.m. to leave a comment and enter the giveaway. In your comment, share your favorite fruit preserve recipe. Feel free to write the recipe out or link to where people can find it. Let’s spread the love for those jams, jellies and other preserves!

May Can Jam: Orange Rhubarb Butter

rhubarb ends

Last summer, I made more batches of jam than I can count. I used more than fifty pounds of sugar and filled hundreds of jars (admittedly, I was doing this in part to have plenty to give away at my wedding). Even with all that giving away, I still had a whole lot of leftover jam to consume throughout the year.

chopped rhubarb

Now I like jam as much as the next girl (or maybe even more), but that’s a whole lot of jam, particularly when I’m the only eater of sweet spreads in our household. Couple that with the fact that I’m trying not to eat tons of sugar (not that you’d pick up on that fact from reading this site), it means I move through my jam quite slowly. What’s a dedicated preserver to do?

rhubarb butter, from above

Well, I can tell you what this canner’s going to do. She’s going to declare this the summer of fruit butters! Butters cook longer than jams do, meaning that they need less sugar for palatability and can achieve a spreadable texture through the evaporation of liquid. The reduction of sugar does mean that butters don’t last quite as long as jams (sugar is a preservative), but since they’ll have less sugar, I’ll feel better about eating them more regularly, making it possible for me to work my way through my stash at a speedier clip. I do believe everyone will win (and when I say everyone, I mean me).

rhubarb butter

For my first foray down this path, I offer this Orange Rhubarb Butter. It tangy, spreadable and so concentrated in flavor. It would be brilliant on scones or stirred into yogurt. I just have one word of warning for you. It cooks down significantly. I started with six cups of raw ingredients (rhubarb, orange juice and sugar) and ended up with a single pint of product. This is the one downside of making butter instead of jam. But it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.

Recipe after the jump.

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Friday Miscellany

canning jar mug

I’ve been following the blog Lelo in NoPo for at least four years now. I first discovered it when its author LeAnn began to contribute gorgeous food images to the Slashfood Flickr pool. Occasions to email quickly developed and thanks to our mutual love of canning and Portland, OR, an internet friendship bloomed. LeAnn recently launched a radio show called Lelo Homemade on pdx.am and on her May 14th show, had me on as a guest. Take a listen if you’re so inclined!

My latest article in Grid Philly is live and it’s all about canning! Click here to see the digital edition. Pages 24, 25 and 26 are all mine. If you prefer a blog-style format, you can find the same content here (the canning article) and here (the recipe box).

My poor little OpenSky shop. I’ve struggled a bit trying to find products that would be useful and affordable for you guys, particularly since my primary goal with this site is to encourage homemaking instead of buying. Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to find a source for affordable canning jars (shipping costs make them prohibitive). However, I have managed to find a few things I think you all might like. The first are drinking glass jars, like the one you see above. Best thing about them? Regular mouth lids fit right on. They come in sets of 12, so if that’s too many for you, find a friend and split the box.

The other item I’ve got in stock are boxes of those fantastic white plastic lids. These aren’t used for processing, but are amazing when you want to use a jar to stash dinner leftovers or store dry goods. One thing to note is that they aren’t watertight, so if you’re using a jar in place of a water bottle, reach for a standard lid/ring arrangement. Right now, just the wide mouth ones are in stock, but check back tomorrow for the regular size.

Later today, I’ll have my May Can Jam recipe up. Curious about what I made? I have just three words for you. Orange Rhubarb Butter.

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April Can Jam: Rosemary Rhubarb Jam

rhubarb/sugar/rosemary

Despite having known about the April Can Jam challenge for more than a month (I helped pick the topic, after all), I still waited until the VERY last minute to make my jam. What can I say, I’m motivated by deadlines (although I do sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a bit of daylight with which to take my photos).

rhubarb stalks

Happily, all the time I invested in delaying the actual making paid off, because when I finally went to the kitchen, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Rhubarb. Rosemary. Sugar. A bit of lemon. Oh yes.

I’ve been smitten with the flavor of rosemary since I was in high school. We had several large bushes in our front yard and I would often grasp one of the fragrant fronds as I walked down the driveway on my way out of the house, to carry the scent with me. I’ve often wished that I had followed the lead of our neighbor, who would snip an armful to float in her bathwater.

squeezing lemon

I know that a lot of people struggled with this particular challenge, because it was at once very specific and yet totally open. However, I’ve loved seeing all the ways that people have applied herbs to their pickles and preserves. I do hope this will lead to further herbal experimentation (pure thoughts, kids) as we move into the heart of the canning season.

jarred jam

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A DIY Canning Pot

Nintendo Enthusiast swag

About two years ago, out of the blue I got an email, asking me if I was interested in becoming a “Nintendo Enthusiast.” As someone who harbored a fairly significant Game Boy addiction back in the day, I said yes. Additionally, when a very earnest stranger offers to throw a party and give you and a bunch of your friends Nintendo DS Lites, you say okay.

new stock pot

Part of the deal has also been that they occasionally send me games to try out, which has been a decidedly fun perk. Once in a while, they also send a thematic gift along with game. Well, last week, I got a box that absolutely blew my mind. They’re trying to build a little buzz about the new America’s Test Kitchen game (it’s quite fun!), so along with the game, they sent a really nice bamboo cutting board, goggles for chopping onions, a bright red apron and an amazing 12 quart stock pot (it’s the this one, if you’re curious).

stock pot becomes a canning pot

Of course, being me, the minute I saw the pot, I thought, “canning!” Most of the time when processing pint or smaller jars, I use my trusty Ikea stock pot (I am just too darn lazy to get my graniteware canning pot out of the closet). However, if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, it’s about an inch shorter than ideal (I get a lot of boiling over during processing). This pot has a couple of inches and two quarts on that pot. I am totally thrilled.

It’s easy to turn a regular stock pot into one good for processing. As long as it’s deep enough, you’ve just got to add a rack of some kind so as to lift the jars off the bottom of the pot. I use the rack that came with my Presto pressure cooker, however any shallow rack that fits into the pot will do (I also have an old cooling rack that works).

Now that I’ve made my canning pot confessions, I’d love to hear a little bit about the processing pot set-ups that the rest of you guys use. Do you have a classic graniteware pot? Are you using your great-aunt’s old gear? Or are you still in the market for just the right situation? Let me know!

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