Glass Canning Jars
Glass canning jars are the only jars you should ever use for canning. You may have noticed that there are several brands - Kerr, Mason, and Ball. There is really no notable difference between these three brands and either of them will work fine for any food you plan to can.
It's best to start at the beginning - take a look at the different parts of a canning jar (also called pickling jars) to get familiar with them.
The parts of a canning jar
When you are ready to can, you will fill your glass canning jars with food, leaving at least a 1/4 inch
Headspace is a way to measure how full you fill your jars. It's pretty important, because if you fill your jars all the way to the top, the food will interfere with the lid sealing. If your jar does not seal properly, air will seep in and spoil the food. Most canning recipes will tell you how much headspace to leave, so don't stress out about this. When you fill your jars, make sure you use a canning funnel to make this job easier and less messy.
The lid is small, thin, and disposable.
Don't ever try to re-use a lid.
There is some controversy on this issue; but it is most commonly accepted that re-using canning lids is pretty dangerous. The compound seal on the lid is designed to soften when it is heated and provide an air-tight seal - once. Some claim to have had 100% success in re-using their lids, but it is better to be safe than sorry. If you want to play it safe, do not re-use your lids!
Because the compound seals on new lids are designed to soften under heat, it is sometimes helpful to run your new lids under warm water before placing them on your jars. This will help it seal most effectively. But only for a few seconds; you don't want to ruin your lid.
The ring (also called screw-cap, band, or rims) is what you screw onto the jar after placing the lid on top. When screwing on your rings, they should be "finger tight"; not too loose, and not too tight. The job of the ring is to hold the lid in place while the jar is being processed. Once your jars are processed, and have cooled for 24 hours, you can remove the rings for storage.
Where to buy glass canning jars
Glass canning jars are sold in flats. You can find flats of canning jars at most any food store. One flat will come with ten to twelve jars, and lids and rings are included.
Jars and rings can be re-used multiple times; in fact, you can use them until they wear out. If a jar is even slightly chipped, you should not re-use it, as it can affect the seal. Sometimes, when a glass canning jar gets old, it will break while it is being processed. This is not dangerous and is simply a matter of cleaning up the mess.
Glass canning jars come in 1/2 gallon, quart, one and a half pint, pint,and half pint sizes. The mouth of the jar is threaded for lids to screw on. Jams, jellies, relishes, and special sauces are normally canned in the pint or half pint sizes, simply for convenience. Vegetables and fruits are normally canned in the quart sizes. Of course, this is competely your preference, and you may choose to can in smaller or bigger jars to fit your needs.
There is also the option of wide mouth or narrow mouth jars. This has to do with the diameter (or width) of the jar mouth. The narrow-mouth canning jar has a diameter of about 2 3/8 inches. Wide mouth jars have a diameter of 3 inches, which makes it easier to fill, empty, and clean. This is most convenient when you are dealing with bulky foods, such as green beans, beets, or pickles.
Sanitizing your jars
Sanitizing your glass canning jars is a very important part of canning. Before each use, wash your jars either by hand or in the dishwasher, and then boil them in water right before use. Although washing them by hand or in the dishwasher will get your jars pretty clean, boiling them sterilizes them completely. It also heats them up, which is an important part of hot-pack canning. Filling cold jars with hot food may cause your jars to crack or break, so heating them up ahead of time is a good idea.
Antique canning jars
Because the technique of canning began way back in the early 19th century, you can imagine that there are quite a few antique canning jars! They can be quite valuable, depending on the type of jar.
The color of the jar can say alot about its value. Obviously, the clear or blue canning jars are widely used today and are not worth much in the way of antiques. However, canning jars with these colors may be considered valuable:
*Colbalt and a variety of blue colors
*Citron - a yellowish green
Canning actually began with a man named Nicolas Appert in 19th century France. He invented the system of filling bottles with pre-cooked food, and then processing them. His pint bottles were fitted with hand-cut corks and sealed with a compound of lime and skim milk, and then processed using the water bath method. Obviously canning methods have improved since then - but it was the start of a very useful skill that has affected people world-wide.
For more detailed information on different types of antique canning jars, click here.
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