All About Canning Jars And Jar Lifters

Introduction

Canning Jars

Clear glass jar with metal lid on white background

We used classic glass canning jars and two-piece screw-top lids from Ball during all our testing; they are widely available. The USDA discourages the use of latch-style jars in boiling water canning because they don’t form a consistent seal. Beautiful-looking antique and Weck jars are fine for recipes that will be refrigerated for short-term storage, but they are not suitable to use in boiling water processing. There are several reasons why we don’t use Weck jars in the test kitchen. First, they use the metric system, so their sizes will always be slightly different. Second, the jar walls are made of slightly thicker glass, so the company recommends always processing for 5 minutes longer than your recipe states. And third, the USDA has not geared any of their safety protocols toward them. The recipes in this book call for jars in five sizes: 1-cup jars for small batch jams and jellies; 1-pint regular- and wide-mouth jars for smaller pickles and fruit in syrup; 1-quart regular- and wide-mouth jars for larger pickles, fruit in syrup, and tomatoes; and regular- and wide-mouth half-gallon jars for fermenting sauerkraut and kimchi. Quince Paste calls for ½-cup jars.

Lids

Because your processed food is only as good as your seal, we recommend using the classic two-piece screw-top lids for boiling water canning. (The screw-on variety is the only type recommended by the USDA.) Other lids use the combination of a glass top and rubber gasket which can yield an inconsistent seal, resulting in unsafe canning. Once a jar is filled, the flat metal lid is placed on top and the ring is screwed on before it is lowered into the canning pot. For this reason it’s important that the ring not be screwed on too tightly; screwing rings on fingertip-tight is sufficient to keep the lid on and allow just enough venting. The heat of the water softens the sealing compound found on the bottom of the lid. After processing, the food and the jars cool and the steam inside the jars condenses; any residual air dissolves back into the jar’s contents creating a vacuum. The vacuum pulls the lid down tightly onto the jar, forming a seal, and allows the compound on the lid to adhere to the jar. The sealing compound will only form a reliable bond once so never reuse the lids. It is perfectly fine, however, to reuse jars and rings. Two-piece screw-top lids are available from Ball, Kerr, and Golden Harvest.

We recommend removing the rings before storing your processed jars. That way you can easily tell if there is a problem with the seal. You can buy plastic storage caps to use once you’ve opened a processed jar and removed the lid. You can also use these caps on unprocessed jars stored in the refrigerator. You have to know about food safety basics, food safety is very much important to all human life, read more about food safety basics.

Jar Lifters

Pantry shelves with labeled jars of dry goods

Jar lifters are an essential tool for moving glass jars in and out of boiling water during boiling water canning. Standard kitchen tongs don’t work: They’re too narrow and flat to get a secure grip on the jars’ rounded sides and they make it easy to burn yourself. To find the best jar lifter—one that was comfortable, secure, and strong—we tested four models, priced from about $6 to $11.

We used each lifter to move loaded, sealed 1-cup, 1-pint, and 1-quart jars in and out of deep canning pots full of boiling water. To test for durability, we repeatedly opened, closed, and washed the lifters, leaving them damp overnight to check for rusting.

The lifters ranged from 7.5 to 8.75 inches long; the shortest one felt a hair close, but it still managed to keep us safely away from the boiling water. Security and comfort proved paramount. All jar lifters essentially consist of two elongated metal loops attached in the middle. The loops hinge open and closed like scissors to grasp and release the jars, handles at one end, jar grips at the other.

Our highly recommended winner, seen in action below, is the Ball Secure-Grip Jar Lifter ($10.99), which shows several small yet smart improvements on the classic design. It never rusted, and was more comfortable and secure because it has broader, more well-designed grips—on both ends. Its ergonomic handles were easier to hold, even with full, heavy quart jars, and its wider, molded jar grips increased the surface contact between the grip and the jar for an exceptionally secure grasp.

Lastly, the Ball jar lifter has a spring-loaded hinge that pops its arms back open whenever the user releases the handles. This turned a two-handed job into a one-handed one: Instead of the user prying the lifters back open to grab the next jar (either using two hands or one very agile one), this lifter popped right back open, ready for the next jar. This added up to less time spent over a pot of boiling water, a boon considering that the best time to preserve is typically the warmer summer months. Find out more about controlling botulism and the importance of proper canning techniques.

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