There’s a New Brand of Mason Jars in Town

May 6, 2011(updated on May 12, 2022)
Penley product line

Updated May 2022

The Penley jars discussed in the post below are no longer in production. This post is originally from 2011. If you are looking to purchase canning jars that aren’t made by Ball Canning, I recommend you look to a jar distributor like Fillmore Container. They sell a wide variety of mason jars.

Canning jars, at least as we know them now, have been around since 1868. John L. Mason developed the system of a threaded jar with a lid designed for sealing (he used lead lids with a rubber seal, not exactly the two-piece lid we know now, but very close). The technology hasn’t change much since then.

It used to be that there were a number of canning jar manufacturers. Ball. Kerr. Atlas. Drey. Mason. Globe. Mom’s. Knox. Golden Harvest. However, as so often happens, through a process of competition and consolidation, the number of jar producers grew fewer over the years.

Penley Mason jar

In 1993, the Ball Corporation (which by that time was the only domestic canning jar manufacturer) spun off their canning jar sector into the company that is now known at Jarden Home Brands. They make all the Ball, Kerr and Golden Harvest jars currently available in stores. One of the reasons that canning jars can be so pricey is that there’s been no competition in this sector of the market.*

However, thanks to the growing popularity of canning in recent years, we’re finally going to start seeing some new canning jars hit the market this season. Walmart has a line of mason jars called Mainstays, as well as a fancier variety branded with the Better Homes and Garden name. And soon, a variety of stores will be carrying Penley Mason jars (these are not the jars that Walmart is carrying). Those Penley jars are the ones I want to talk about today.

Penley lid

I recently had an opportunity to preview the line of jars made by the Penley Corporation. Up until now, they’ve been in the business of making and distributing clothespins, matches, toothpicks, plastic cutlery and drinking straws. Canning jars are a departure for them, but from the examples I’ve seen, they are doing an amazingly good job with their new product.

In most respects, they are physically nearly identical to the jars most of us currently use. They make pints and quarts in both regular and wide mouth and an embossed half pint in a regular mouth. Lids and rings are interchangeable between Ball, Kerr and Penley, which is fabulous for those of us who already have a stash of lids or who are planning on using Tattler lids this season.

When I met with the Penley rep, he pointed out the fact that they intentionally left the back of their pints and quarts smooth to better accommodate the labels that so many canners apply to their jars. I was happy to see that particularly since I’ve always hated the round of wheat and fruit on the back of the Ball jars (in researching this post, I learned that it’s been there since 1970).

made in china

As far as performance goes, I’ve canned in these jars several times now and they’ve been perfect, not a failed seal among them. What’s more, they just feel good in the hand. They are sturdy and solid, just the way I expect a good canning jar to be. As you can see from the picture above, there’s a water spot left on that jar from a run through the dishwasher, there because I’ve used this jar for leftover storage and the transportation of iced coffee to work. They’ve seamlessly become part of my collection of working jars.

Finally (and best of all), they are going to be less expensive than Ball or Kerr jars. While it will only be a dollar or two difference, if you do a lot of canning, that can add up quickly.

As far as I can see, there are only two drawbacks to these jars. The first is that they’ve left no space on the lid for writing. As someone who always writes on the lids of my preserves with a Sharpie, this is a minor annoyance. Second is that the jars are made in China. I pass no judgment on Penley for making this choice as in today’s market it is really the only way to make a lower cost product. If you are someone who avoids things made outside of the U.S. I wanted to make sure you were aware (and as you can see, they’ve clearly printed the origin on the bottom of all the Penley jars).

Disclosure: The Penley Corp. gave me an assortment of jars and lids to try. However, all thoughts and opinions expresses herein are my own and untainted by the free loot.

*There are the Leifheit jars, but they are so much more expensive (around $20 for six jars) than Ball and Kerr jars, that I don’t see them as a viable alternative for people who do more than the most basic recreational canning.

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633 thoughts on "There’s a New Brand of Mason Jars in Town"

  • One of my older jars is holding a curly light bulb that went out until I can turn it in on hazardous waste day.

  • I don’t know how unconventional this is, but I keep jars in my car, along with the canvas bags, for co-op trips. Then if I need to bring home some bulk honey, oil, vinegar, peanut butter, etc. etc., I’ve got a jar right there.

  • Whenever you make a sweetbread like banana or pumkin bread, seems like you always have a little batter left over that wont fit in the pan. I always take a wide mouth half pint jar or two, grease it, stick a small piece of parchment in the bottom and bake the remaining batter in the jars. A cupcake or two for the chef is never a bad thing!

  • I love the idea to make the solar lights for the yard. I think I am going to try that! I use my jars for glasses and vases and various storage vessels.

  • I use Mason jars to save my marinates, they keep for a long time and it allows me to make larger batches. I give them as gifts all the time.

  • I would love to try these! I use jars for everything: storing leftovers, taking soup or iced tea to work, keeping grains and rice at home, and vases!

  • When not filled with canned foods, my jars are often kept filled with dry goods and vacuum sealed with my FoodSaver.

  • I crush my eggshells in a food processor to use in my garden and store them in a quart canning jar. I remove the top of a round salt box (with the pour spout), which fits perfectly on a quart jar, and screw it down with a canning ring.

  • WoW what great info….would love to win new jars…

    i would use the new jars to can green beans this year. I give them to my closest friends for gifts!! ..love canning, love being in the kitchen, love opportunities to WIN!

    Thanks!!

    Melissa from Naches, WA

  • I put everything in canning jars, including snacks/yogurt/drinks in my kid’s lunches. My favorites are the half-gallon ones that I put goat milk in. My absolute favorite is my old, blue regular mouth half gallon because it looks cool and the smaller top helps it pour better.

  • I love Food in Jars and all of Marisa’s blogs and since we live in the USA and not China, thank God, she has the right to use and endorse any brand of canning jars she likes. However, the made in China for this brand of jars would give me second thoughts about buying them even though less expensive. Being the tightwad that I am, I try to buy used jars at yard sales and thrift shops. I know that these older jars have been manufactured in America.

  • I have some antique canning jars that hold our collection of mined gemstones from vacations in NC. All around Franklin and Highlands are places to mine with your kids. Who doesn’t love digging in the dirt with the possibility of finding a treasure? Of course, the dirt was red clay that colored our clothes and hands. Much fun for the kids and many happy memories!

  • I would love to win these! I also use jar throughout the year to store all kinds of nuts and dried fruit.

  • When out of milk in a pinch, I mix up my stash of powdered milk with water in a mason jar – it looks so cute and old-timey in the fridge!

  • What don’t I use canning jars for. When I moved into my first apartment, my grandmother gave me a box of wide-mouth pint jars and a box full of dishes collected from the family. Those jars were drinking glasses, lunch “boxes”, donation jars, avocado starters, candy cups, cookie jars, you name it, and oh yes, jam and pickle holders. Over the years, I have acquired many jars of different makes and sizes, and the empties sit on the windowsill in my kitchen waiting to be used. I have canned veggies from the garden, good buys on meat that wouldn’t fit in the freezer, jam, pickles, and the other day I tried a blueberry-cherry blend jam.

    I love the jars because they are both useful and beautiful.

  • Ick. Made in China? That’s disappointing. No need to enter me to win them. I just wanted to express my displeasure about their place of manufacture. ๐Ÿ™

  • Thanks for the honest review. My (quite conventional) unconventional uses include storing leftovers and a pen/pencil jar.

  • I’m a beginner at canning, so I’m glad to hear from you when you’re checking out a new product. I also give jar mixes in my quart jars at Christmas and special occasions. I cut old Christmas cards to fit the top; they make the jar a bit more festive.

    Thanks for the post!

  • This time of year, I use my jars for brewing iced sun tea. Set them in the sun with tea bags inside. When they’re brewed to perfection, remove (or not) the tea bag, add ice cubes and lemon…then drink and enjoy (or screw on a top and transport to a relaxing location, remove the top, then drink and enjoy!)
    I would love to try out new jars.

  • I’m also new to canning but would love to try my hand at it! I normally use these jars for storage of small beauty items like q-tips or cotton balls! Also a great pencil holder!

  • Great news about new canning jars! Other than preserving foodstuffs I use them to store my whole herbs, spices and the seaglass from our local beach.

  • I grew up in Muncie, Indiana, home of Ball State University and, you guessed it…Ball jars. I was born in Ball Memorial Hospital, shopped at Ball Department Store, learned how to can using the Ball Blue Book of Canning and I would love to try the new Penley jars!

    I didn’t realize that Ball Inc., through a spinoff, was manufacturing what seems to be all US-made mason jars now – and I can’t dis Penley for choosing China as the manufacturer for their jars until I know what practice Ball is following. Is their relative high price primarily benefitting worker salaries or executive salaries and profits. We know that Walmart workers are relatively underpaid. Although the point may be valid, I hate to see nationalism get in the way of critical thinking – US business practices aren’t necessarily geared toward the benefit of employees and consumers.

    Back to jars…if it’s not too late! I store everything in them, but my favorite use is placing vintage jars on a windowsill where the sun shines through the bubbly, blue glass – transporting me home.

  • One of our local bars serves their shots in 4 oz jelly jars, which I think is completely awesome. I also have a terrarium in a half-pint jar that I love. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I use mason jars for all kinds of things… holding pencils, bath salts, etc. I think my most unusual use of them was last Monday – bailing a clogged toilet that I had stupidly tried to flush leftover spaghetti down.

  • Wow! this is exciting news. I didn’t realize that were other canning jar companies out there other than ball. However, I like the look of the Weck jars. I hope to get my act together this year.
    My favorite use for the canning jars? Holding wine or beer. On knit night at a local knitting shop, we grab a “beverage” from pub next door and since you can’t bring their glasses out of the bar, you bring in your jar….knitting gets a little loose after that. LOL

  • I use canning jars for all sorts of things in the kitchen, e.g. Spices, storing bacon fat (don’t judge), bulk foods like arboreal rice, but my oddest use is in my studio. I use canning jars to store art supplies like stick colored pencils and paint as well as create inspiration jars for when I need an injection of non-linear thinking.

  • I use empty jars for storing dry goods (like lentils) or leftovers–they take up less space in the fridge, they are easier to reheat, and I no longer have to worry about tomato sauce etching the sides of a container (as I did when I used Tupperware).
    This was an especially wonderful way to transport meals when I was in college, and the coffee shop on campus was always willing to ladle soup into the jar instead of a Styrofoam cup.

  • Folks,

    Marisa is not a major corporation, nor a celebrity chef, nor even a paid blogger. She is an individual, like you & me, who must daily make decisions for herself and her family about what to eat, where to shop, how much to spend.

    I think we can agree that we all want to support our country, and we all want to buy US-made goods when possible. But matters of budget, quality, access and convenience impact everthing we buy, from cars & computers, to canning jars & dish soap. Marisa offered her honest opinion of these jars, and their origin: for the most part, the response has been positive. And for those people who respectfully declined, citing concerns over quality, a desire to support US manufacturers, and/or the environmental impact of shipping jars from Chine: I salute you. You joined the conversation without dishing out a guilt trip, showcasing your moral superiority, or SCREAMING IN ALL CAPS.

    For those of you who were not so respectful: do you know what is another great American quality? Common courtesy. Marisa reads this blog, you know: every comment. This is her home-away-from-home, her virtual living room, where she shares with us her love of canning, cooking, and most of all, jars. And because she is so good at it, because her love of food in jars is so infectious, this little site has grown and grown, to the point where she is regularly offered tools & supplies by manufacturers to giveaway on the blog. That’s right: give away. For free. To you. And in return for this kindness, as repayment of the diligent, thoughtful and consistent work that has made this blog grow, you come into her virtual living room, SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS about what a horrible person she is, how could she possibly endorse a product made in China, that you don’t like her blog anymore, that you are disappointed, etc., etc.

    Truly, no good deed goes unpunished. Let me be perfectly clear: I am all for dissenting opinions. A blog is not a blog without conversation, and lively conversation cannot happen if we all believe the same thing. But, I ask you, how can you possibly claim the moral high ground when you come into someone’s space, be it physical or virtual, and yell at them? There are ways to express your opinion that are neither snide, nor hurtful, nor personal. Not only does a polite comment show your respect for Marisa and the work she had done here, it has a much better chance of swaying the opinion of others: and you may find that the moral high ground is a very lonely place to be.

  • It will be interesting to see if the quality holds up because I am all for saving a dollar or two. I dehydrate lots of items and used the dried peels for making my herbal tea, these i store in quart bottles as well as the mix of grains that i grind for my bread…. Can you ever have too many canning jars?????? I don’t think so.

    Thanks
    Renee

  • Look forward to trying something new! I like to use canning jars to store my dry goods (beans, lentils, split peas, etc) and arrange them in various sizes and colors on kitchen shelves.

  • I have a vintage green/smoke colored Ball half-pint jar on my bathroom counter fitted with a custom made reproduction zinc lid that has four holes–for a toothbrush holder–sort of unconventional.

    It’s not clear in the picture what is embossed on the half-pint jar??? Are the quarts & pints embossed with measurements up one or both sides???

  • I use my jars for bouquets of farmers market flowers, to hold condiments at my bar (as well as plastic giraffe stirrers), and to house tea lights in my bathroom when I’m entertaining.

  • First, I would like to mention how much I enjoy your posts.

    In our household, the large quarter canning jars, wide mouths, in the summer are used for iced tea. The young adults in the household find the jars to be just the right size after mowing the lawn and they need a really large drink.

  • I have one set aside that i fill with leftover wax to make firestarters for camping trips it heats nice and I dont have to worry about it shattering when hot.

  • I use my canning jars for lots of things. The one thing people laugh about is when I show up to a party with my mixed drink in my canning jar

  • I used to soak rice in water overnight, boil the rice in fresh water in the morning, then put the not quite ready very moist rice in a canning jar and walk to a friends house for a miso soup and rice breakfast before our first morning class. The rice finished cooking in the canning jar and was ready by the time we sat down to eat.

    I now store bulk foods in canning jars, use them for traditional canning and best of all I use them to can the maple syrup I cook down from the sap of my maple trees. Thank you trees!

    I have a lot of older canning jars, including blue jars, waffle weave jars and my favorite Strong Shoulder wording on jars.

  • Those of us who can and make preserves especially for gifts can always use a gift of jars! With 4 boys growing up and now nearby grandchildren , a small canning jar was sometimes used for a ‘lightening bug’ home for the night by punching a used lid with some tiny holes and putting lid back on to keep bug in to watch until they fell asleep!

  • I don’t know how unconventional it is, but I save bacon grease in them. They’re strong enough to withstand the heat when I pour it off the skillet and I don’t have to wait around for the grease to cool.

  • I like the idea of smooth sides for labels that I can see at a glance..wish they could be made here in the USA to help our economy! Who knows! if they are that nice we may need a factory here at home to have them quicker and cheaper…I always seem to need more jars and I prefer the wide mouth if I can get them…

  • Can’t say I use my canning jars “unconventionally” but one thing I do do is keep a bottomless jar of hot peppers pickling in the fridge. Start with a quart jar, pickle a mess of peppers, then just keep adding more fresh ones. Great in the summer when more grow than you can use all at once but not enough for putting up a proper batch. Also, I ususally buy an extra jalapeno so in they go too. And then you mix other things too, a carrot now and then, some onion. A real witch’s cauldron.

  • I keep all my loose leaf tea in canning jars, which is a lovely display on my counter. I make sure, though, that it is facing away from the light so that it doesn’t get old too fast!

  • as most have done I have used my jars when they don’t have some delicious in season food in them , for just about everything from crayons , thread buttons, even dog food treats. I have even put cotton balls in them and any other thing Right now I have a very old Blue Ball jar with plastic lids for my granddaughter to take to her home school group for a girl who gets cancer treatments. But one of my favorites is to make homemade hot choc. mix for presents.I have even used them for my iced tea .
    ruth

  • I love jars. Other than food, I have two canning jars to store buttons. In the future, I’d like to use jars more widely.

  • First I would like to ask where Walmartโ€™s jars are made. I did not see that addressed or maybe I just missed it.
    As for the contest, over the years I have stored small things like my Barbie dollโ€™s shoes from when I was young (my momโ€™s jars), my babies diaper pins (in my twenties), buttons (during my sewing phase) bulk grains etc. (in my thirties and now)a catch all jar for screws, nails, and all other small farm type gear that finds its way into my dryer and the last use is storing fresh herbs in the frig with a freebie shower cap on top (the caps you get at a hotel to keep your hair dry while bathing)to keep herbs fresh.

  • Oh, funny you should bring Leifheit jars up as this is the first time I have ever seen them (Purchased at Sierra Trading Post?)I have not used thm yet. Any opinions on them?

  • I don’t use the jars for unconventional things as of yet as I am new to canning and everyone of them for food! LOL!!

  • My unconventional canning jar use is quart jars as feeders for new bee hives in the Lavender fields! But, I use a lot more of the pretty little pints for Lavender Lemonade Marmalade! The odd sized flat pints work great for Spiced-n-Sliced Pickled Beets.

  • I don’t know how unconventional is it, but we use canning jars for storing all sorts of other foods, both in the fridge and the freezer.

    These news jars look great — I’ll be keeping an eye out for them.

  • When I grew up my grandpa had a 1 acre garden and late in the day would drop off baskets full of produce and then my parents would can into the night after work. When we got up in the morning, there were all those beautiful jars lined up on the counter. I have always canned as an adult, and my two daughters were always part of the process. They used to complain in September when they’d go to school with “red fingers” because we had canned so many tomatoes. Our oldest daughter got married this spring, and what did we use for all the centerpieces on every table? My blue Ball jars of course!! I hope I get to try this new brand!!

  • Oh how I would love to win! My most unconventional use of canning jars is probably for making the mason jar chandelier!

  • i used to mix up lots of lemonade and put it in jars, until my boyfriend told me i looked like a crazy homeless person carrying a jar of urine ๐Ÿ™ boo, boyfriend.

  • I promised my boyfriend that I wouldn’t buy anymore jars but he didn’t say I couldn’t win any!

  • I share your discontent with no open space on the jar lid; for home use, I enjoy writing the date and contents on the jar lid and forgo the paper labels.
    This year, my garden and orchard is about an acre in size so I’ll be canning more than usual.

  • The most unconventional use of jars I have used them for is to hold gym chalk for my garage gym.

  • Thanks for the giveaway! The most unusual thing I use my canning jars for: weights for pressing cheese! I make my own paneer (fresh Indian cheese) and I like to fill my quart jars w/ water and set on a plate to press the whey out of freshly made cheese. Filled with water, they’re the perfect weight.

  • I am excited to hear about some competition in the market. I think my most unconventional use of jars is the one that holds q-tips in my bathroom medicine cabinet.

  • Just like everybody else, I use the chipped jars for holding knitting needles, q-tips and dog cookies. My grandma used to use her chipped jars in the garden, in the early spring, for rosebush starts – mini green houses.

  • I like to bring fresh flowers to friends in my old mason jars, but I always put sea glass or pretty shells and pebbles in the bottom. I think it looks so much prettier on the table that way.

  • Great article. We can alot every year, and even though these jars may be a couple bucks cheaper, we only buy made in the USA products, we are adamant about supporting fellow USA workers and farmers. If we don’t support our countrymen who will? With the economy like it is today, we all need to support the USA manufactures & keep our jobs here. Just my morals, values, and conscious talking.

  • I’m so glad that there are new players in the market in the canning industry. It’s too bad they aren’t made in the USA. It’s definitely worth a try though.

  • I’v been bitten bad. From marmalade to a 5 week Masters Canning course. All this because of a great B & B & some free marmalade. I could use the jars!

  • I use canning jars for EVERYTHING. We drink out of them, rather than having “proper” drinking glasses. I store dried goods in them. I use them to make salad dressings. Probably the strangest thing that was ever “canned” in one was when my daughter (who was 3 at the time), grabbed a half-pint jar and my funnel and piled her magnetic alphabet letters in, topping it off with a lid at the end.

  • Ooh, new cheaper jars — hurray! These look nice, although I do wish they were made in the US and not China! Anyway, I’d still love to give them a try. My fave unconventional canning jar use? Oh man, I don’t even know. I use canning jars for EVERYTHING — making salad dressing, carrying milk to work for my coffee, drinking bourbon, storing sewing pins / buttons / thread, storing vacation souvenirs like rocks and seashells, holding q-tips in my medicine cabinet. There are a lot of canning jars floating around this place!

  • Besides preserving food, i also make vinegar, brew tea, grow yeast and sprouts. Non food uses include storage for Sharpies, push pins, medicinal infusions, miscellaneous parts and terrariums. I happen to think they are all my favorite ways to use my jars.

  • Not so unconventional but I use jars for flower vases and growing plants/flowers in. It’s cool to see the roots through the glass. The cool thing is the jars last forever so when the plant outgrows the jar I can repot them!!

  • I’ve microwaved a sweet potato and carried it to work all in the same jar. Not as unique as some responses, all you readers of this blog are so smart!

  • I don’t have an unconventional use for my jars. I’ve never even canned before (although I just bought all of the supplies to do that this year ๐Ÿ™‚ ). I have old jars that I use for display and have put flowers in them.

  • Ooo! I definitely want to try these!

    I use canning jars for EVERYTHING! They are my favorite glass, I use them for left overs, I organize my food pantry with them, store things like cotton balls and q-tips, used 1/2 pints for my spice wheel (turn table from ikea and cheap canning jars makes an affordable spice wheel/rack), and so much more, including actual canning. The most unusual thing I used them for, however, is garden cloches. I use old jars that have seen better days as a cloche when seedlings are just getting started in my garden. It keeps them nice and toasty and protects them from wind.

  • I use canning jars to help sort my daughters art supplies, beads and such, they look like a beautiful display rather than a storage strategy!

  • While a bit gnarly I admit that I have been known to put a small jar over inexplicable holes in my old rown home floor to help with drafts and, eeks, mice!

  • The only non-food related use for my mason jars is when they do double-duty as flower vases. I’m pretty boring. But I now have lots of great ideas after reading all the comments!

  • I store dry goods in quart jars, honey, brown sugar, flour, flax seed. We use pint as drinking glasses. They are so tough, I use them for all kinds of things!

  • My fiancรฉe loves straws in his iced coffee, so I have a stack of them standing up in a jar on top of the refrigerator for him. It’s the little things that make his day!

    Cheers,

    *Heather*

  • There’s nothing better than a canning jar for a tea glass, although it’s not very unconventional in the country, lol. This is my first year to can and supplies are expensive for star-up, I would appreciate a good usable product. Finances prevent me from having high ideals, but I appreciate the concept. I am sad they are made in China.

  • I use quart jars for making instant pudding (shaking the milk and mix together), storing all of my dry goods in the pantry (you can easily see what’s inside, and they don’t need labels!), putting cuttings of plants in the jars with water to encourage rooting and storing extra soup in the fridge. I have a safety pin/ button jar, cotton ball jar and a jar that I use for paint stripper. I use a pint jar for cat treats and quarts for homemade chili seasoning and homemade taco seasoning. I have a jar with a few layers of cheese cloth under the ring the I use for dusting powdered sugar on baked goods, and another for cinnamon sugar on toast.
    I freaking love these jars ๐Ÿ™‚