How to find the right canning jars
A canning jar buying guide
Canning your own fruits, vegetables, soups and other foods is becoming one of the more popular ways to cook, save money and avoid wasting food. By using the proper canning jars, you can easily preserve foods and begin to amass a collection of delicious preserved foods to be used throughout the year.
The USDA has a number of canning recipes that have been tested and approved. Following these recipes is a good way to familiarize yourself with the process if you are new to canning. You might also want to invest in a good digital pH meter, so that when you begin you can easily make sure that your foods are safe. Various models of pH meters should be easy to find in any kitchen storage and organization web site or department.
The most important factor, however, is buying the best canning jars for each project. If you buy canning jars in the appropriate sizes for each project, you will both obtain the best results and maximize your storage space. Also, while many canning jar brands can be reused, be sure to use new lids, bands and rings for each batch. This will help to ensure that you get the most secure seal so the foodstuffs are in an airtight container.
>> What types of foods will you canning?
When you buy canning jars for a project, be sure to pick the appropriate jar for each canning session. The most popular home canning items are sauces, fruits, vegetables and juices. However, other canning jar uses include meats, stews and soups. You will need larger jars for these foods.
>> Which sizes will work best?
When considering size, the best canning jars are the ones that will hold the amount of food you need. You can find cool canning jars in a wide variety of sizes. New canning jars are sold according to the amount of food they will hold. The most easily obtained canning jar sizes are:
4 oz, 8 oz, 12 oz and 16 oz: These glass canning jars are good for small batches of foods, or as gifts. They are ideal for jams, jellies, pickled items and similar foods. You may also find designer canning jars in sizes that are perfect for gifts. When you buy canning jars in these sizes, you will often find that they are embossed with images of fruits and vegetables, and have a place to put a pretty label.
24 oz and 1 quart: These jars are the workhorses of canning jars and will hold enough sauce for a pot of pasta, or enough vegetables to provide a side dish at a family dinner.
Half-gallon and gallon: These canning jar sizes are perfect for holding soups, stews and other large-batch canning items.
>> Choose between standard and wide mouth
Just as you want to ensure that your canning jar dimensions will let you store all the food you plan to can, you also want to be able to get your food into the new canning jars. Choosing the best canning jars for your needs is easy. Regardless of the brand of glass storage jars you choose, there are two sizes of openings. Standard is the ideal canning jar size to use for sauces, juice, chutneys, jams and preserves, while wide-mouth jars work best for pickles, beans, whole fruits and vegetables, meat and stews because it is easier to get large items into them.
>> Consider the canning methods
There are two main methods for creating canned foods. When choosing the best canning jars for your project, which of the two main canning methods will you be using? The canning method you select should be the one appropriate for the food you wish to store.
Pressure/water bath: Water bath canning is the way to go for high-acid foods like vegetables, pickled vegetables, fruits, jams, jellies and preserves. Pressure canning is the preferred method of canning for lower-acid vegetables and cooked foods such as soups and stews.
Freezer: Freezing is the recommended method when canning items such as greens.
>> Which look is most appealing?
Whether you are planning to use your canning jars in your pantry or as gifts, take into account the appearance of the canning jars. To please those who give canned fruits and such as gifts, some designers have created canning jars that have unique textures, colors and handles. Some of the best canning jars for gifting purposes are the plain, smooth-sided jars, because they present a homey touch, but you can obtain a number of pretty jars in standard canning jar sizes. These canning jars may have sides that resemble cut crystal, or they may feature different shapes to fit into a basket of goodies. Again, choose canning jars that are best for your project - either short and wide or tall and thin - with an eye toward what you are planning to put into them.
>> Consider lids, bands and rings
The most important part of the entire food canning process is obtaining an airtight seal on your jars. All of the different types of canning jars provide or create this seal. The most common kinds of canning jars utilize a two-part closure. This closure consists of either a flat lid and a band that you screw down over the lid (Mason or Ball Mason jars), or a rubber ring that goes around the neck of the jar, with a glass lid that goes over the band or ring and is held in place with a wire harness (Ball canning jars).
Should the type of food jars you choose have the flat lid and band closures, be sure to buy new lids for each set of canning jar uses. Whatever types of canning jars you use, lids and bands that have been stored for even a year can easily become damaged or compromised, which will prevent the proper seal from forming. You also need to ascertain that the rings are rust-free, since rust would impede the proper sealing of your jars.
If your new canning jars utilize rings, be certain that the rings are free from wear and have no dents or cracks. Check that the wire harness that holds the lid in place is rust-free.
Canning foods is easy to learn and economical. It allows you to store food safely so it may be enjoyed after its growing season is over. Likewise, finding the finest canning jars for your project is simple. Remember to base your choices primarily on the type and amount of the food you wish to can and which type of canning jars and methods will best suit your purposes.