Canning 101: A Field Guide to Jars

January 4, 2012(updated on October 3, 2018)

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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206 thoughts on "Canning 101: A Field Guide to Jars"

  • While doing a quick pickle on some cucumbers, I cleaned the jars, added my cucumbers and stuff to make garlic jalapeno dill pickles. I then added my pickling liquid, put on the lids and screw tops. Shortly thereafter, I heard a pop of the lid indicating it had sealed without placing them in a hot water bath. If this is the case are these jars now properly sealed and safe without the hot water bath and can be placed on a shel for storage until use? Or, do I still need to a hot water bath?

    1. If you want them to be shelf stable, you need to process them in a water bath. The seal you have gotten is a weak one. Additionally, for jars to be safely shelf stable, you need the sterilization that they get through the boiling water bath.

  • Mason jars have these lines on them. I believe they indicate measurements of 1/8th of a cup, line above 1/8th of a cup, 2/16th of a cup, (1 cup), 3/24th of a cup, and then a line above 3/24th and what I am trying to figure out is what measurements are these? And How do I use them?

    1. In my experience, mason jars sometimes have cup markers on them, but that’s it. I’m not exactly sure what you’re referencing.

  • I bought some 1 1/2 oz jars with red/white checked tops on Amazon ( they look like the Bonne Maman jam/jelly jars). Can I use these jars for jelly and jams if I waterbath them? The lid is one solid piece. Thanks.

    1. They are canning jars, the same as any other. You do process them as if they were pints, but otherwise there aren’t any limitations as far as I’m aware.

  • Do you have any knowledge about applesauce jars that come from North Coast? I’ve recently been using the applesauce in the jars look substantial, like they might be good for canning.

    1. Those jars look like they use lug lids rather than continue thread ones. You’d need to get new lids from a jar distributor and get comfortable with that manner of seal. It’s not an impossible feat to reuse them, but it’s not one that would be recommended typically.

  • Hi,
    Thank you for detailing information regarding the jars. I’ve never canned before but I want to. Do you have suggestions on lids? I’ve found online, either “forjars” or Ball. Also, if there is a sight that takes you step by step through the process. I’d like to start off with a stew, but am fearfull that I may not get the seal and have to disgard all that work. Any info you can provide would be helpful. Thank you so much. Cindy V.

    1. I prefer Ball products, especially for beginners. And to can stew, you need a pressure canner. That’s the first step.

  • I have a couple of pyramid shaped Ball jars that I am trying to find info on. Do you think you can help if I send you photos?

  • Where can I find Ball glass jars with the word Ball near the bottom 1/3 of the jar? Bought some crafted jars online and want to craft some but can’t find that style. Placement leaves room for words

    1. For awhile they were making smooth sided jars, but I’m not sure if they are still producing them.