Canning 101: How to Store Finished Jars

how to store jars

In an ideal world, we canners would all have cool, dry and dark basements lined with sturdy shallow shelves in which to store our pickles, preserves and pressure canned stocks. However, I’ve found that rarely does life cooperate with ideals.

I live in an 1,100 square foot apartment on the 20th floor of a high rise. I don’t have a basement, but I make do with an array of closets, cabinets and other out-of-the-way corners. As you scope out where the best nooks your home has to offer for canned good store, here are a few things to keep in mind.

–You want to keep your canned goods out of the sunlight. Over time, natural light can deteriorate your product, stealing color and quality.

–Cooler is better. I’m not talking freezing temps, but definitely don’t store home canned goods near heaters, radiators or electronics that run hot.

–Keep your storage space accessible. While it’s true that you want an nice, quiet spot for your jars, you don’t want to make it so obscure or hard to access that you end up forgetting about your peaches and applesauce altogether. Remember, the whole reason we can is to have tasty things to eat all year round.

–Make sure to remove the rings. I realize that this one gives a lot of newer canners pause, but I promise, it’s absolutely safe to take the rings off the jars once they’re sealed and cooled. In fact, it’s the best way to store your jars, because it allows you to know sooner rather than later if something is wrong with your product. If you’ve got spoilage occurring in a jar, storing it without the ring means that any growth taking place in the jar will dislodge the lid and alert you to the problem.

Where do you squirrel away your home canned goods?

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68 responses to “Canning 101: How to Store Finished Jars”

  1. 🙂 When I told my sister she should store her jam with the rings off she pouted- “But they don’t LOOK as pretty that way!” Made us laugh! I keep my jars in a closet in the kitchen.

  2. I have zero storage in the house I’ve lived in for a decade….no pantry, hardly any closets. I have one corner cabinet that is very deep but oddly shaped and narrow, so I use it for the majority of the quart canning jars. I keep all my Weck, pint, and jelly jars in a glass-front cabinet that is away from sunlight. I love being able to see the colors when it’s cold outside!

    My grandmother’s home had a fruit house…it was built in the same style as the main house, and painted the same color. Inside, there were shelves and shelves of her delicious canned goods. I would give my teeth to have some of those jars; they were brought over from Denmark when her parents immigrated to the US. I would just love to have them to display…I wouldn’t even use them!

  3. I keep my canned goods in the basement. I do have to remember to go down from time to time to see what I still have, but I can mostly the things that we love the most, like pickled peppers and salsas. I grew up in an old Victorian home that had a small room off the kitchen that we called “the back”, as in “go in the back and get me a can of peaches.” My mother used the jars with the rubber rings and bails. Not safe, I hear, but my mother never had a problem with them. I’ve kept a few, but I prefer to use the newer, safer ones. There is even a hardware store near me that still sells the rubber rings.

  4. Wish I could leave you a photo of my storage area. My partner build a wonderful shelf inside a closet for me to store all my canning supplies and goods. I am lucky we have ample space.

  5. I am so Thankful that I do have a cellar! I wanted one my whole life and when we purchased this place almost 10 years ago there was one already started here. My hubby finished it and it is wonderful. It still needs a little work, some more dirt pushed up around it and a few more shelves to be finished, other than that it is perfect for storing root veggies and canned goods.

    Thanks all the great advice!!

  6. I love your blog! I keep all of my jars in my beautiful, dark pantry which is adjacent to my kitchen. I designed it so that it would be fairly shallow (10 inches) so that nothing ever gets lost in the back.

  7. Adjacent to my basement and beneath my front porch lies the old coal storage room of my 1910s era home. It is in this room that I have set up old unused bookcases and shelves for the storage of my canned goods. The room maintains a cool temp (mid-high 60s) year round. For the units that would get “hit” with the natural light in that room, I have covered with old sheets. It’s not the prettiest, but it completely works for me. My deep freeze is also in this room (not next to the canned goods!). I take great pleasure in walking into that room to see all that I have squirreled away for the upcoming winter season….peaches, relishes, tomatoes, pickles, salsa, hot sauce, and preserves galore!

  8. I had two closets, one in the dining room and one in the hall. Then I about killed my back getting green beans one day. So, now we have canning shelves in the basement. We are going to end up with half a dozen of them. It’s so nice to not be cramped up into a semi walk in closet bent over and hitting my head to get a quart of applesauce.

  9. Thanks Marisa for Tip #4! I’ve been canning for a little over a year now (LOVING IT!) and I haven’t come across that advice anywhere. But it makes perfect sense, AND frees up rings for more canning.

    On another note, I think you would have loved my grandmother’s cold cellar in her home. No bigger than a small-sized walk-in closet, but lined with shelves for her jams and pickles. Such a cool space!

  10. I have 3 sets of shelves in the basement that I use for all my overflow food storage. This includes plenty of my canned goods. I love having plenty of storage space in my basement so that I don’t have to feel cramped and it’s easy to keep it all organized.

  11. I live in a 600 sq ft one bedroom apartment in Florida, so I seriously lack space for my canned goods. I have a big flat tray that I keep under my bed though, and I can slide it out when I need to add to the storage or take a few out for me! Cool and dry (as long as the A/C is on) and definitely darker than the rest of my home space.

  12. Well timed post — I’m in the middle of a major overhaul of storage space and how it’s used in my apartment (sadly, because the death of a pet meant I didn’t need space to store any of his things any more).

    I’m lucky enough to have lots of closet space in my Brooklyn apartment, but just needed to re-think its use, so I’m doing a lot of, “Okay, if I move the coats in my BEDROOM closet into HERE, then that frees up room IN my bedroom closet to move in the stuff from THAT hall closet, which frees up room IN that hall closet to move in stuff from the kitchen cupboards, and…”

    I’ve cleared out a couple shelves on a huge walk-in hall closet my roomamte and I share, and have now designated that the “pantry”. However, I haven’t yet done my “annual tomato-canning-thon” this year, so I’m just hoping I’ve left enough room for that…

  13. I live in Philly’s Blue Bell Hill neighborhood, where we’re lucky to have an old house with a basement.

    None the less, these are great tips. We’ve been canning just over a year now, and have finally gotten over our fear of removing the rings 😉

  14. I always remove the rings. It’s easy to grab one to put back on to store in the fridge. I am lucky enough to have a basement and an out building with a very cool basement.

  15. I consider myself very lucky to have a dedicated canning cupboard. We live in a 100-year-old house that’s been converted to multiple closets. On the stairwell, we have a small cupboard (my boyfriend christened it the Narnia closet) with super-deep shelves, where I keep all my finished preserves. The count so far for this year is 78 jars, which are now inventoried & organized (thanks to same super boyfriend) and labeled (as recommended by this very blog!). I feel very proud when I open that closet, especially when I think that 100 years ago, another family probably used that cupboard for exactly this same use.

  16. That’s a good point about not storing them with the rings! The only reason I’d ever heard before was that it leads to a quicker deterioration of the rings, but being able to notice spoilage sooner is a much better reason. So, I guess I shouldn’t stack my jars either?

  17. Hrrm. Well, I’ve been keeping them on the bookshelf that doubles as a pantry in my kitchen, but perhaps I’ll start keeping them in the living room closet with my canning supplies!

  18. Jenn A. I literally gasped when I saw your space! How great! I’m completely jealous of all of the coal rooms and cellars 🙂 I have a pretty large pantry in my smallish apartment that’s on an outside wall, so it stays nice and cool and dark. Unfortunately, only one of the walls has actual storage space. I have about 20 jars in there right now, and with the canner stored too, it gets a little cramped.

    My grandma had a basement put in the barn to store all of her canned goods. You’d go through a cellar door to find a massive space filled with home canned items. My great aunt also had a separate kitchen put into her basement just for canning! Can you imagine?!

  19. I am lucky enough to have a basement that is dark and fairly cool; and I bought some shelves from Ikea a couple years ago so I could store my canned goods to easily/visually keep track of what I have, and rotate older goods forward. Let’s just say if I had to go into lockdown for some reason, I think I’d have enough food to last a year, easily! I’m a bit overzealous in my canning but it has never served me wrong!

  20. Right now my canning jars are tucked away in a variety of corners. The plan for this fall is to hang some old cabinets in our fieldstone/dirt floor basement – it’s a little damp and full of spiderwebs but definitely stays cool. It will be much better than the kitchen that heats up significantly while baking and preserving!

  21. I’m a newby at this. My cans are in a cupboard in the basement. The cupboards used to be in the kitchen/ dining room of our house, so they’re a good size for canning supplies and the end result! My concern is dampness; I’m looking into a dehumidifier for the basement, for a number of reasons. Books. Food. Storage in general.

  22. We have jars everywhere! A friend made us some wooden boxes which hold 12 pints. These boxes can be stored and stacked just about anywhere and be protected from the light. Other jars are back in their original boxes. (I had canned many moons ago, but started from scratch a couple years ago, and have all new jars.) It’s really pretty disgusting! They are in the living room, the kitchen, the guest bedroom. A fall project is to get them corralled somewhere! Like – a very nice pantry area holds all the canning supplies, while the filled jars are out in the open. That just needs to be reversed somehow.

    We keep rings on a length of cord. Tie one ring at the end of the cord, then drop all your rings onto the cord. The tied ring will keep them from falling off, and they take up very little storage space this way. Tie a loop in the other end of the cord and hang it from a nail, a coat hanger, whatever, wherever.

  23. A dark and unheated stairwell that leads up to my apartment. I’m on the third floor, and it’s sort of a back exit, so it’s all mine (private). It has ledges going all the way up along the sides of the stairs. So walking up each day, I get to scan my inventory!

  24. Right. A very useful post! We used your sauerkraut recipe, and we are now storing the jars on a luggage shelf above our basement steps. I never even noticed the shelf until now, but it’s perfect for storing canned goods — and we can peer in at the jars as we descend to do laundry. A new perk!

  25. I have a piece of furniture that used to be a small entertainment center, from the looks of it, that we’ve always used for food storage. Since I started canning, I use it for that now. It has four different storage cubbies. I use one half of it for storing canned goods and the other half for my empty jars, bands, and old lids, since I often reach for a jar for storing other kinds of food. I drape a thick tablecloth over it, so no one even knows what’s behind there, which is kind of a shame because the jars are so pretty 🙂

  26. Happily, we have ample storage in the basement of our 1907 house. Sometimes we have to move Christmas decorations and auto parts and other sundries to get to it, but it’s there.

    ITA with the commenter who mentioned jars not looking as pretty w/o the rings, but we will remove ours for practical reasons. Yet I remember reading somewhere that certain canned foods should have the rings intact? Pickled things, maybe (was reading up on pickles today)? Can anyone confirm or deny?

  27. I have two complete walls, floor to ceiling, four quarts deep, in my 9×10′ pantry down in my basement. One wall has the door, the other wall has the water heater and my seed-starting shelves – delicious irony that they start their life on one side of the pantry and end up on the other side….. 😉 It’s my happy place when it’s all full of home-canned goodies and actually organized. 😀 It’s my security blanket, and I’m *really* going to miss it if our house actually does sell.

  28. i *am* lucky and live in an old craftsman that has a root cellar 🙂
    No shelves and its quite “rustic”, but being in SoCal, its a rare entity for sure. I nestle my jars (washed, without rings) in milk crates. Since they are our emergency earthquake food as well, i wanted them in something strong enough in case our old house fell on them!

  29. Eventually they’ll go in the basement, but it’s a train wreck down there for now. Jars fill a shelf of the least-useful cabinet, and the overflow is in the drawers of the china cabinet.

  30. I live in a house that was built in 1860 and the old root cellar was made into a canning room. It is lined with shelves at the right height for jars. Totally dark, cool and dry year round.

  31. We have a purple shed behind the house we bought when ‘the price was right’ with 3 doors. Door Number One, Door Number Two, and Door Number Three. Door Number Two is about 3x5x8 and holds most of our canned goods. It’s insulated by virtue of being in the center of the shed and there’s a bamboo screen outside that we lower on days when the western sun is unusually hot. We keep a thermometer out there to track the temps, but everything has been just fine. Dark, cool, and dry, as well as a wonderful walk through the roses and back again to the kitchen.

  32. I am new to canning bread and butter pickles…. I used the water bath procedure, I believe I did it properly but would still like to be sure. After add my pickles and juice to the jars , I put them in my kettle the water was not over the jars so I had to keep adding until I could just get it over the lid of the jars, not the required 2 ” I read, or it would spill out. I brought the water to a boil and boiled the jars for about 20 minutes. I set the jars on towels and waited to hear the lids pop which they did. Now how can I know that I did things properly and my pickles are safe?

  33. I just love hearing about all the canning storage areas you guys have. I’m really jealous of all those cellars and pantries!

    Amanda, you can do some stacking (like a half pint on top of a pint), but never go more than two jars high.

    Jenn A, your shelves are beautiful!

    Adrienne, most of the year I store my rings in big zip top bags. During the height of canning season, I use a couple of big old jars to use the ones that are in active service.

    Laurie, it sounds like you did everything right for your water bath canning, except you really need to use a tall enough pot so that you can have water actively boiling at least an inch deep above the jars. However, since you processed for 20 minutes and the jars are sealed, your pickles should be fine (is there any other reason you’re feeling wary of them, or is this just first timers uncertainty?).

  34. Thank you for your reply Marisa, it is first timers uncertainty and the fact that the water just went over the tops of my jars. I used a regular canning kettle with the wire rack and quart jars..

    • Laurie, they may not be as crisp because you processed them so long. Please do look into either a larger pot or smaller jars, so that you can follow processing instructions exactly.

    • Hi Laurie, Just wanted to let you know that I only water bath my dill pickles for 5 minutes. I boil the water in the water canner first, then add the pickles and time 5 minutes. I’ve haven’t seen a recipe that calls for 20 minute water bath. Unless mine is different from other recipes.

  35. Hi,
    I live in a two storey house in New South Wales, Australia. My pantry is a series of converted wardrobes in the downstairs garage area. Unfortunately, floods are not unusual because we live beside a river, and then its time to shift the jars up onto the verandah upstairs or they will get covered by 5 foot of floodwater! At least we don’t starve whilst we wait for the floodwaters to drop, and its handy because neighbours usually drop in in their boats, because its the only time that there’s absolutely nothing you can do on the farm!
    Love your blog!
    Heidi

  36. I am very fortunate to have an old house. It was built in 1926 and it does have its issues. But…. it does have this neat little half basement part with the most perfect shelves. I have just started canning but am now appreciating the “back basement” and its little narrow shelves.

  37. Thank you for posting this! I did some marathon canning last weekend and left everything out on my dining room table to rest. I was just looking at my loot yesterday, as the sun shone through the window onto my beautiful canned tomatoes, wondering what I should do with all of it! All my cans are now stored in my basement crawl space.

  38. I currently store mine on a 6 ft. steel shelving unit in my kitchen but I’m moving/building a house. The challenge will be moving over 150 jars, but I’ve already have a spot. My mother in law was looking for some shelves that would fit under some cabinets (52″ from floor) in her dining room. I had some nice 48″ bookshelves from Target that I wasn’t using. YEAH! Problem solved for both of us. I have made one demand in the house plans – a large utility room!

  39. I am new to canning. I started last fall, after we bought our first house at the end of last summer. (We had always had to share a very small kitchen with very sloppy housemates.)

    I’m still figuring out how to store my canned goods; I’d been using a small free-standing cabinet by our garage door. The cat food is on the bottom shelf, and my canning is above it. However, it’s not nearly large enough! I pickled cucumbers and okra last weekend, and had to stick most of the jars back into their box, which I stashed under my husband’s sheet music cabinet. (His cat will have to find somewhere else to hide when we vacuum!)

    No idea what I’ll do with the tomatoes I’m canning tonight!

  40. I share a kitchen with roommates, and there’s not enough storage for all of my jars. Everything but the quart jars go under my bed. (They don’t fit.)

  41. I never had anything to do with the little narrow shelves in the basement of my 1912 home until I started canning. though I have a “daylight” basement, they only get a glimmer of sun for a few minutes each day in the winter — so it’s hard to see what’s stacked there. of course, it’s full now with pints and pints and pints of peaches, jams, jalapeno pickles, green beans. the deep pantry shelves that used to hold prepared foods, storebought canned goods, and such? now holds tomatoes, jams, pickles, chutneys, sauces, of all sorts.

    I have so many rings, though, that I’ve had to develop a number of storage solutions. we have a couple of large screw-in hooks that used to hold winter coats, now overflowing with rings; there is a canning jar box full of rings right beneath them; and over here where I store my reusable tote bags, there’s one full of rings. and that doesn’t count the ones my kids used to make robot arms, that are scattered all over the backyard.

  42. Aaah, I’m lucky for a Brooklynite to have one deep (and very oddly shaped) corner cabinet in our kitchen. It’s one part crockpot and (coffee) grinder storage, one part pantry. I’m not quite sure what I would do without it, as all of a sudden, I realize I have over 35 jars of food in that little oddball cabinet.

  43. I use the rings! I like the rings.
    In defense of rings – if your jar pops, the rings will help keep the contents of the jar contained in the jar & not everywhere else. I also flag jars that seal late with “use first” as they are more likely to unseal in hot temperatures.
    You need to take them off, wash the jar, wash the rings & let them dry completely, before putting them on for storage. Your rings will stay nice.

    Storing rings for those of us with basements: loop them on metal coat hangers. I put white on one side &
    gold on the other.

    New to blog – love it.

  44. I live in a little carriage house, so, like you, my space is limited. I’ve taken over a closet in the downstairs bathroom located off the kitchen. That has become my go-to canning pantry. The remaining jars live under my bed on the second floor. I’ve jacked my bed up on risers to accommodate them.

  45. And all those lovely jars can double gorgeously as DECOR! I, too, live in a small apartment and I stack them in colorful arrangements on my ikea bookshelves (out of the sunlight)and people always comment on the unique decor.

  46. I was wondering… I have a shelf that rotates my cans for me can I put my jars on here also. It rolls them on their side, that is my concern. But if the jar is sealed then on it’s side might be ok right?

  47. I am so fortunate to have a cold cellar just like the one you described.
    I don’t know where I would store everything if I didn’t have that cellar. I am terrible at organizing.

  48. […] Approximately 12 hours after processing, remove the rings from the jars and test the seals by gently lifting the jar by the sealed lid. If any of the jars failed to seal, simply place them in the fridge and use within a week or two. Wipe off the rings and store until you need to use them again (you should not store your filled, sealed jars with the rings on). […]

  49. […] Approximately 12 hours after processing, remove the rings from the jars and test the seals by gently lifting the jar by the sealed lid. If any of the jars failed to seal, simply place them in the fridge and use within a week or two. Wipe off the rings and store until you need to use them again (you should not store your filled, sealed jars with the rings on). […]

  50. I have figured out a way to wrap my canning jars in corrugated cardboard so they will roll in my FIFO can racks. Apart from the obvious issue of a mess if one of them doesn’t seal properly, is there any safety reason for not storing home canned jars of food on their sides? This method also keeps them dark. Thanks!

  51. I have been very,very, blessed. I have the ideal canning pantry and this will be my 2nd year canning. I am so looking forward to this years canning.

    • Would u mind taking a pic of your canning pantry and send to me. What aspects do u like about it. I am trying to figure out the best way to store my canned foods using least amount of space. thanks so much. jess

  52. I’ve eaten home canned foods that were five years old even tomatoes and they are still tasty. Of course I do have air conditioning. Use your judgement if it is sealed and it smells fine and looks okay it probably is.

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