September 27, 2009

Jars Jars Jars and more Jars

Jars Jars Jars Jars and more Jars

Recently a reader inquired about the jar in my raspberry jam post prompting me to write a piece on jars, a subject sometimes overlooked. While ingredients and taste are  the most important aspect of canning its container should not be ignored. I realize this is only of importance to some of you but I personally am obsessed with finding the perfect vessels for my preserves. Having spent time and effort in their creation it only seems right that I find them a suitable jar and label. I like to have a collection of jars to choose from, a closet if you will, from which I can select the perfect jar for each preserve.

Below is an over view on home preserving jars and my personal opinions on them, not in order of preference.

Home canning jars in the United States are generally referred to as Mason jars or Ball jars, which are catchall phrases for any number of old fashioned looking jars. Today’s jars are comprised of three components, the glass, the lid and the screw band.The glass container is manufactured specifically for repeated cooling and heating. Never use chipped or cracked jars, and never reuse commercial jars. Bale jars (also called kilner or clamp jars) are unsuitable for home canning.

The lid, which is the flat part, sets directly on top of the jars opening. It is coated with a special (more on this later) rubber like substance that adheres to the jar during the vacuum process. The second part is the screw band whose real function is to keep the lid in place during processing. The lids are designed for  single use only, but you can reuse the screw bands if they are undamaged, no dings, rust etc.

Jarden Home Brands manufactures Ball, Kerr, Bernardin, and Golden Harvest jars, which are all available in North America. Bernardin is only available in Canada. A representative at Jarden told me that all their brands use the same glass and lid manufacturers.

                                     BALL ELITE COLLECTION

Ball, the gold standard in home canning is Jardens most widely available brand. Providing the greatest variety of shapes and sizes, they manufacture everything from a dainty 4oz jelly jar to half-gallon canning tankers.

Ball also manufactures the boutique Elite Collection, aimed at the gourmet canner. The wide mouth jars, which come in two sizes, eight and sixteen ounce, have a contemporary look with brushed silver lids that scream gift.
 When I first saw these jars I was thrilled, “finally” I thought, “someone has designed a cool looking jar”. Cool looking yes, functional no.
The eight ounce, jar with writing on all four sides leaves no room for a label,which means you have to put it on the lid. If you are stacking your jars (essential with these jars as they have an overall height of only two inches) you cannot see, at a glance, what their contents are, which is very annoying.
The 16-ounce jar fares better in this department as, as there is only writing on one side. This  is a pretty jar that lends itself to any number of applications. For my money this is hands down the best pint jar available.

That said the Elite Collection has an essential design flaw. They do not stack. I can’t tell you how many of these I have broken when trying to stack them. So while I like the look of these jars,  I can only recommend them with reservations.
I love the Elite Collection lids which come in boxes of twelve with or without the screw bands. These fit on any Ball wide mouth jar and add a polished look to any jar.

Golden Harvest:
Jardens lower priced brand is available primarily in the South and the Midwest.It is often found at Wal-Mart, Big Lots and Dollar stores. The jars, which are less decorative, have plain lids and come only in quart and pint sizes. I have never used this brand, nor have I  seen it for sale in California. I am eager to try it, as I prefer a plainer jar.

                                    Kerr Quilted Jelly Jars

This brand is available primarily west of the Mississippi.  Many people associate this brand with the quilted jar.  I personally am not a fan of the quilted jar (it looks like a fake Chanel bag) as they too have limited space for labels. In addition to an 8 ounce quilted jar both Kerr and Ball offer a 12-ounce size and an adorable 4-ounce size, great for gifts, or small batch preserves.

Kerr has an eight ounce wide mouth, available primarily in the northwest for canning salmon. I have not personally used thisjar but they look like they would be nice for preserves particularly when topped by an Elite lid.


Bernardin is Jardens Canadian division and they produce many of the same jars I have described  here.  But they do have a few products only available from Bernardin.
They make the 250 ml (approx 8 oz) Preserve and Serve jar, which is my hands down favorite all around jar especially when topped with an Elite Collection lid.

It's a wide mouth jar with  a European look, a flat side for a label and it stacks nicely.

They also have an Elite Collection which makes these charming round pots with gingham lids. They have a country look which is perfect for fruit preserves. Strawberry Jam in one  covered with a red gingham lid is especially fetching. You can order just the lids and put them on regular 8 ounce  Ball or Kerr jars.

I have ordered jars from Canada a number of times without problem. Golda's Kitchen can be accessed directly or through Be sure to calculate the exchange rate and shipping.

Check back in the next couple of weeks, as I’ll be posting another piece on jars. I’ll cover the European jar brands available and as well as other canning resources.


  1. Wow! thanks for all this good info , I have always wondered about this subject. You answered alot of my questions. More please.

  2. About the Golden Harvest jars you mentioned. . .I bought a case of 12 quarts from WalMart. I was very frustrated with them. You would never know by looking at them, but the are just a little too fat. They would not fit into my (standard size) canning rack.

  3. Please tell me more about them. I have never seen them available anywhere. How is the quality otherwise compared to Ball etc?


  4. Ahhhh, I knew I would find something about jars. Great resources. Thank you!!!

  5. I live in Canada, and LOVE the SHORT FAT 250ml BERNARDIN JARS! I use them for apple butter, plum butter, blueberry-lemon jam, peach-rose compote and zesty zucchini relish. Very easy to fill and then process in a large roasting pan, as i do not have a large deep canner.

    These jars are tough! I have used them to hold lunch things-then throw the jar in my lunch bag and ride to work (yogurt, macaroni salads, dressings and whatnots) without any chipping or breaking.

    These jars a staple in Canadian kitchens!

    I have been curious about the clamp style or glass lids that clip on with little clips, like the Weck jars. I know they are a really old style jar our great gramas would have used I am sure. I only use them for storing dried fruits, grains, beans, rice and things.

    Thanks for some great ideas, the lemon curd will be next on my list of summer projects.

  6. This is just the article I was looking for, Nina. Thanks for publishing it.

    I grew up in a fruit growing area in Canada. My mother canned till it hurt and I've seen every kind of jar. She had a jar fetish, truth be told.

    Myself, I never liked the decorative styles and prefer a plain jar, just like you. My jar tastes are city, not country. (I am a designer.)

    Commenter Tara loves the "short fat 250ml Bernardin jars", but I am not sure if she means the Elite type, which are really squat, or the Preserve and Serve type, which are more cylindrical.

    I am just weighing in to say I have found it hard to find the 250ml Preserve and Serve for sale in Canada. It's frustrating, because they are perfect for jams and relishes and fussy foodies alike.

  7. This was a great find. I have at least one of each brand. In fact I was surprised at how many jars I have once I started counting them. Living in So. Cal. I find it had to find jars in the "off" season. I will bookmark this and when I am back o. A computer look more at your site.

  8. After reading and understanding this article. in my opinion this is very useful