Jars and Lids

So many odds and ends have been piling up while I’ve been hiding my head under the snow (and an avalanche of manuscripts)!

First things first. The winner of the 4-oz jar of apple-carrot chutney is Ruth, a fellow canjammer. Check our her gorgeous Etsy site!

I also owe you guys an explanation about that interesting hexagonal jar and single-piece lid I used in that same post. About a month ago, I received an e-mail from a company named SKS Bottles and Packaging, asking me to link to their Web site. I was intrigued by the wide range of jars and lids on their site, but also a bit concerned, because—unlike Ball—they don’t specialize in the home canning market, and their Web site is careful to say that “We do not imply these products are fit for food products, or for any particular use.” This disclaimer is then followed by a page of jars recommended for specific canning and pickling products. So, to make a long story short, I wanted to try them out before recommending them to you. I requested a “Glass salsa jar,” advertised as a Mason jar; a “pepper canning jar,” decidedly not advertised as a Mason jar; and several one-piece lids.

The jars and lids are pretty cool, actually, and they work, so I have officially added them to the list of my “canning resources.” There are, however, some caveats. As advertised, the “salsa jar” was a Mason jar and the “pepper jar” was not. Contrary to popular belief, Mason isn’t a brand name—it’s a style of manufacturing that implies resistance to high temperature and pressure. In general, it’s not a great idea to use a non-Mason jar in a pressure cooker situation because they are not designed to withstand the pressure cooking environment. So, stick with water-bath canning for anything that’s not labeled Mason. I very much like the look of the jars, but be aware that they can be tricky to pick up using regular jar lifters, and removing air bubbles can be a challenge.

There are also pros and cons to using the single-piece lid. The most obvious thing in its favor is that a single-piece lid looks professional. They work just like regular canning lids in that they have a “plastisol” ring on the inside. Just heat them up and pop them on the jars, proceed as usual, and you’ll get a fine seal. If you’re considering selling your canned goods, this is a great choice. There are, however, drawbacks. I’m assuming that the lids are not re-usable, so they’re slightly less environmental friendly than the regular two-piece numbers. They’re also a bit tricky to work with. When you’re working with two-piece lids, the rings aren’t hot, which makes it easy to screw them on. In this case, since it’s a single piece, you have to use a potholder or some sort of paper towel to protect your hands.

So there you have it! Life beyond Ball jars.

But this post wouldn’t be complete without a congratulatory shout-out to Marisa over at Food in Jars. She’s been nominated by Saveur Magazine for their brand-new Best Food Blog Awards in the special interest blog category! Hightail it on over there and cast your vote for the Canvolution! And Congrats, Marisa—you deserve it.

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35 comments to Jars and Lids

  • Very interesting about the jars!

  • Anita

    I was under the impression that 1-piece lids were a no-no for home canning. storing jars with the rings (or clips, in the case of Weck) allows lids to pop off if certain types of spoilage occurs. Screw top lids can’t do this, so are liable to burst or at least not signal spoilage.

  • I actually have been drooling over that site for a while. I decided not to order from them ultimately because for the small number of jars that I needed the shipping was going to be as much or more than the cost of the jars. But they have SO many excellent options. 😀

  • I’ve yet to play around with the one-piece lids, but I’ve been very curious about them.

    And thanks so much for mentioning the Saveur nomination. I’m still a little giddy from it!

  • Thanks for the enlightenment! I’ve also been checking out that site for jars. I wonder why we are so two-piece-centric, if all along we’ve been able to use one-piece lids? It’s a somewhat hypothetical question, but I’m wondering nonetheless. I think soon enough there will be many more choices out there. Especially when Food In Jars opens the mainstream consciousness by winning that Saveur award!

  • dorisandjilly

    Hmmm. Note Anita’s (MarriedwithDinner) concerns. From the previous sugar exchange, I do know that she and I have a somewhat different philosophy about the importance of following USDA guidelines. Anita, I was under the impression that the soft spot in the middle of the lid would pop back up. Given that we see one-piece lids in commercial operation all the time, don’t you think there would be some indication if you had a spoilage problem? Have you ever seen a direct statement to not use one-piece lids, or just no mention of their safety?

  • If my two-piece screw on lid can pop off due to spoilage, can’t a one-piece do that as well? I think that if there’s spoilage, you’ll know it in some way. As for a burst jar–I’ve never seen it. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen, of course.

    Which leads you to wonder: if a jar explodes in your cupboard but no one is there to hear it…

  • I meant to say “storing jars with the rings REMOVED…” in the previous comment.

    I’m sorry that our previous discussions left such an impression. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe USDA is gospel. I differ with them quite often on issues like processing times for high-acid pickles, for example, and find many of their guidelines to be the equivalent of suspenders, a belt, *and* wearing your pants one size too small. 🙂

    The reference to screw-top lids preventing indications of spoilage is something I remember coming across while trying to figure out why you’d want to remove rings (or clips) for storage. It stuck in my brain because I’d been working under the assumption that ring removal was something you did to save money on rings, or to prevent the rim of the lid from rusting. (Both are true, but the spoilage issue never occurred to me.) Although the button would likely pop up, you still might have shattered glass in your pantry if the gas build-up were sufficient.

    In GoogleBooks, I found “Joy of Cooking: All about canning & preserving” and “Keeping the Harvest” mention that one-piece lids are not recommended; the latter specifically cites USDA as the source and frequent seal failures as the reason.

    Here’s something from the Ball site that’s in the same vein:
    (http://www.freshpreserving.com/pages/faq/42.php)
    “When you take it from the shelf, check each jar to see that it has retained a vacuum seal and that no visible changes have taken place during storage. Unsealed lids indicate the possibility of spoilage. Spoilage produces gases that can break seals and/or cause the lids to swell.”

    I’d love to see mention somewhere that one-piece screw-top lids are safe for home use. Most of the jars they fit are a lot more attractive! The Container Store sells very pretty Quattro Stagioni jars from Italy, which I love, but I can’t bring myself to can in them, even though they’re clearly designed for water-bath processing.

  • dorisandjilly

    Anita: This is very helpful, thanks! It sounds like there are two separate issues. (1) Do they seal in the first place? and (2) Do they make it more likely that the jars will explode, OR, less likely that you would notice if something went wrong. My guess it that the anti-single-lid recommendation is related to the second half of the second one–the USDA, as we both know, issues recommendations for the lowest common denominator. Since I’ve only used a single lid for a single jar, I can’t really comment on the first one. My guess is that this is yet another gray area, where it’s use at your own risk, with an awareness that you should probably check your canned goods for swelling/seeping lids on a regular basis.

  • For the record, I love discussions like these. I think they are very important! (Anita- should have known you were referring to storing jars without the bands! Of course.)

  • Now that I’m thinking about it, I have used one-piece lids once. Last summer, I canned a small batch of plum jam in some Quattro Stagioni jars I picked up at a local kitchen wares store. Two of the four lids didn’t seal, and noting that the lid material was more rigid than the lids we typically use, I wondered if that was what caused it (incidentally, the canning instructions that come with those jars are quite European and don’t offer guidelines for water bath canning).

    I’m of the mind that beginning canners should stick with two-piece lids. They are the most error proof and if you need to call your local extension office, they won’t give you a lecture about deviating from USDA guidelines. As one gets more comfortable with canning, I think it’s probably okay to branch out into the single-piece lids (the Amish and Mennonite canners out here in PA use them all the time). But as they don’t have all those built-in checks, they are just slightly more risky.

  • Daisy Mae

    For people who are interested in the one piece lids, and other jarring options – I’ve been looking at Fillmore Container. I love that they have cute little hot sauce bottles!

    I’ve yet to purchase anything since 1) I don’t have a need that many jars, 2) I don’t have the energy to try to figure out which of their “cute” jars are safe for home canning, 3) I’m not sure how comfortable I am trying different jar technologies and 4) I lucked out on Craiglist recently and picked up ~200 jars for $20

  • FWIW, I was under the impression that the USDA/Ball book recommendations for “2-piece lids” were really more of a descriptive like don’t-try-to-recan-in-an-old-spaghetti-sauce-jar type of statement. It seems that there aren’t so many one-piece lid jar out there, other than the ‘antique’ Ball jars with a glass lid, which they specifically do not recommend (but which we know seal just fine, it’s just a little trickier to *confirm* that you have a good seal).

    I too have tried the Quattro Stagioni jars, and I have yet to produce a seal after 3 different tries in 3 different recipes. The directions are a bit challenging, and I think there may be something lost in the translation (literally) but I can’t get those lids to seal for love nor money. Luckily 8-ounce-ish (500 mL I think) ones fit a standard Ball jar lid and ring.

    FWIW #2, I store my jars with rings on. (Alarm bells are going off at USDA as we speak. The Department of Homeland Canning Security is surely issuing a warrant for my immediate arrest and confiscation of my canner.) This is the first year that I am noticing my rings getting a bit rusty, so I suppose, moving forward, I may have fewer rings than jars, and some jars will get stored without rings. But otherwise; I’m pretty confident that I can notice food spoilage without the ‘clue’ of the lid popping off. And since my ‘pantry’ is mostly the garage, I don’t want lids popping off to feed all the neighborhood critters anyway!

  • I’m an experienced one-piece lid jam canner because here in Germany, if you don’t do WECK, that’s the only option you have. Most of the people here just use commercial jam jars and their lids, so they ARE reusable as long as you don’t cause any damage to the lids when opening the jar. Sometimes it’s REALLY hard to open them and I use a knife to lift the rim a little bit – I mark the lid with a cross then so that when the jar is empty I know I have to throw the lid away. So, you can re-use them, but you shouldn’t use lids when they are rusty. You can see if your jars are sealed when the lids have a little inward deng. Also, when you open the jars, there should be a noticeable “plop”. Btw, I have NEVER EVER heard of exploding jars – and I’m sure if there was a risk of exploding jam jars, the German press would know and publish it.

  • Rebecca

    I’ve been looking at these jars for the past year too and hoping I could find someone who’s tried them. As for the one piece lids being less “green”, I have to say I disagree since the lids of the 2 piece system can only be used one time and then tossed as well.

    As pretty as jams and jellies will look in these jars I think I’m going to stick with Ball jars for awhile longer until more info is in on how well the 1 piece lids seal. I’ve found two other sites that offer these jars and 1 piece lids:
    http://www.specialtybottle.com/index.asp
    http://www.freundcontainer.com/default.asp?bhcd2=1267622584

    I had no idea that Mason was a process for making canning jars and not a brand name. There’s always new things to be learned here! Thanks!

  • dorisandjilly

    Rebecca: Thanks for adding other suppliers! My comment about the “greenness” has to do with the size. While you can’t re-use the regular two-piece lids, the amount of metal in each individual lid is much smaller than that in the one-piece lid, which, obviously, has to go over the lip of the jar. Like I said, I had no trouble with the seal in this one, but I don’t know if I just got lucky or if this brand is particularly likely to seal. More testing needed!

  • Thanks for writing this up. I was checking out their site last summer while trying to find taller, narrow jars to pickle asparagus and beans. I just may try their 1 piece lidded jars for that since they are pickles, after all. I’ve had olives curing in brine on my kitchen counter for 4 months so I’m feeling ok with the pickle thing.

  • MK

    If you want a jar lid that looks professional, I use the regular 2 piece lid and remove the band, and cover it with a white Ball plastic screw on lid. When the eater opens it, she can discard the medal lid and it looks great in the fridge with the screw on cap. Also, I never use a jar lifter….I use a heavy pair of elbow length thick latex gloves lined with cotton work gloves, both of which I bought at the hardare store. You can reach into boiling water and pick up your jars with your hand – jar lifters are too unwieldly. Give it a shot some time – you’ll really like it. You can get a good grip on your jars. I also use them to pick up peaches and tomatoes out of boiling water when removing the skin. Works great!

  • Bonnie

    This info is just what I have been hunting for. I want to make my jam for gifts, and bought 6 oz. hexagon jam jars with 1 piece twist metal lids with the plastisol seal. Nervous, I’m hoping they will seal. I was told they should. I’ve always made my jam by just inverting the hot jars for 10 minutes. But I will water bath them if need be. HOw long to water bathe them for, and do I screw the lids on really tight? And how can you tell,by sight, if they have sealed? Any insight, tips, hints will be greatly appreciated.

  • dorisandjilly

    Bonnie: What lucky recipients! First things first: I’m sure you’re aware that the USDA advises against the inversion method. I used to do it that way, but I eventually got on board with the more conservative water bath method when I was having trouble with my lids (regular lids, not one-piece lids) sealing. I may skimp a bit on the time, but I always do a water bath now, even for jams, and especially if using these one-piece lids. If a recipe doesn’t list a time for a boiling water bath and just says “process in a hot water bath,” you can assume 10 minutes. Other things, like tomato sauce, take longer. You want the lids on pretty tight, but not impossibly tight, as air needs to escape during the heating process to create the vacuum that will create the seal. An indication of seal in these lids is the same with two-piece: there will be slight dip in the center, and it shouldn’t pop back up. Good luck!

  • Kim Beck

    I live in Honduras and I’m wanting to can, however the only jars to can with here have the one piece lids. I could order some from the states but the shipping is so costly. Here I can find the jars for about 65 cents for both jar and lid, for any size.

  • dorisandjilly

    Kim: If one-piece lids are the only reasonably riced options, I would use them. Just remember that you need to use a fresh lid each time, as the rubber ring is only guaranteed to seal once.

  • Heather

    So, let me get this strait. Using the water bath method with a one piece lid is exactly the same as using a two piece lid. You sterilize jar and lid, add your food content, screw the lid on hand tight, place the whole jar in boiling water for 10 minutes (or whatever the recipe calls for), remove and let the cooling create a vacuum.

  • dorisandjilly

    @Heather: Yup!

  • Cortney in Az

    Thanks so much for this thread! I’m living overseas, and can only get the one-piece lids. As long as the seal-check is the same, I think the one-piece lids will be fine. I’m totally capable of checking a seal! And also the info on Mason jars and what that means. I was about to pressure-can my jars, and now realize I should just water-bath them, as they’re locally (aka shoddily) made.

    Thanks again!

  • dorisandjilly

    Cortney: If you’re working with something high acid, great! But if not, remember that you can’t preserve low-acid food in a water-bath canner. It’s not hot enough.

  • julie s.

    I just came across the very jars you are talking about on the SKS website and have been researching like crazy to figure out if it is safe to use them for my waterbath home canning (I just canned for the first time a few months ago, so don’t know a whole lot yet). They do have some very nice looking jars to use for gifts. This post was exactly the info I needed, super helpful! Thank you!!

  • tom r.

    i have recently experimented successfully with used one-piece jar cap/lid.i re-used commercial cap on standard mouth ball jar in water bath (pickles & hot sauce). the jars sealedwith proper vacuum and was fine .the plastisol lining (from my research)is NOT for 240*+ pressure canning, water bath only.new lids should work just fine, the key is to find the proper tightness before bathing.

  • dorisandjilly

    Tom, I’m glad that’s working for you. For the record, this is not a practice that is recommended by the USDA or the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Personally, I prefer to use new lids (either one-piece or two) because they are more reliable.

  • Kaylee

    Thanks for this helpful thread. I’m making 200 6oz. hex jars of jam for my wedding this summer and loved the look of the jars but was worried about the process.

    @heather, thank you for laying it out so simply!

  • Ian on the Trent

    Very useful thread…thanks to all.

    I’ve been canning for years, both boiling water and pressure. The high price of lids for a 2-piece setup has always ticked me off but I’ve played by the “rules” and kept to the two-piece recommendation. (I reuse the lids often. Maybe 1 in 30 don’t seal and that jar goes into the fridge for immediate use.) But I’ve always wondered why commercial canners use single piece lids with no problems.

    Yes, I understand that by removing the rings the home canner can quickly discover a mess from a blown lid. But in 25+ years of canning, and hundreds and hundreds of jars processed, I’ve had maybe one or two that blew a lid and that was years ago in my beginner period. I guess it’s okay to say that my hygiene has been sufficient.

    I don’t want to steal this thread but can someone point me to a discussion of practical processing times for pressure canning. The recommended USDA times get longer and longer and the quality goes down and down.

    The choices of non-mason type jars is extensive. Are these jars typically as robust as our Ball or Bernardin jars? In other words, can they be reused time and time again? And are they less expensive? I lose about 3 dozen jars a year through gifting. In Ontario, a 500ml widemouth jar with tax is close to $1.00ea so the jar losses add up.

    Thanks.

  • Norma Johnson

    I have converted to one-piece jar lids for my jams. They are available through kitchenkrafts.com I have yet to reuse them, but I have some jam I have to re-work which I made last week (it’s a soupy mess), and I’m going to reuse the lids as an experiment. I’ll keep them in the refrig and eat them pronto if it doesn’t work, and even if it does (the button goes down and pops), I won’t give them as gifts. Life is, as always, an experiment!

  • sue

    hey there, great thread. Can someone confirm for me: would The water bath time be the same for a canner load of 2 oz jellies as it would be for 4 or 8 oz jars of the same jelly? Seems like it should be less…

    and does anyone know where I can get lifters for various sized jars? I have a lifter for quart jars. It will accomodate pints but only barely. Often the slide around and even tip over, making a mess. I can only imagine that my little 2 ounce jelly gift-jars would float, or over process…

  • Autumn

    @Sue – I put the metal canning rack from my pressure canner on top of the water bath canning rack. You have to put quite a bit more water in the canner to cover the jars, but you don’t have to worry about your jars slipping through the cracks! Just be careful in removing the hot jars – I always remove the ones in the middle and by the handles last so it doesn’t tip.

  • Melissa

    I’ve been canning for a while, but am looking at a small business to sell canned pie filling locally…
    I’m really wanting to do a 1 piece lid, but I have always used the standard 2 lid process with my Ball/Kerr jars. It’s clearly been a LONG time since anyone has written on this thread… just curious to hear someone else’s thoughts. I don’t pressure can- just water bath… but it’s all fruit based filling. Also- I’m a believer in the 1 year shelf life… does this sound legit to all of you?
    Thanks for your help in advance! 🙂

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