Jars and Lids
Food may be canned in glass jars or metal containers. Metal containers can be used only once.
They require special sealing equipment and are much more costly than jars.
Regular and wide-mouth Mason-type, threaded, home-canning jars with self-sealing lids are the
best choice. They are available in 1/2 pint, pint, 1-1/2 pint, quart, and 1/2 gallon sizes. The
standard jar mouth opening is about 2-3/8 inches. Wide-mouth jars have openings of about 3
inches, making them more easily filled and emptied. Half-gallon jars may be used for canning
very acid juices. Regular-mouth decorator jelly jars are available in 8 and 12 ounce sizes. With
careful use and handling, Mason jars may be reused many times, requiring only new lids each
time. When jars and lids are used properly, jar seals and vacuums are excellent and jar breakage
Most commercial pint- and quart-size mayonnaise or salad dressing jars may be used with new
two-piece lids for canning acid foods. However, you should expect more seal failures and jar
breakage. These jars have a narrower sealing surface and are tempered less than Mason jars,
and may be weakened by repeated contact with metal spoons or knives used in dispensing
mayonnaise or salad dressing. Seemingly insignificant scratches in glass may cause cracking
and breakage while processing jars in a canner. Mayonnaise-type jars are not recommended for
use with foods to be processed in a pressure canner because of excessive jar breakage. Other
commercial jars with mouths that cannot be sealed with two-piece canning lids are not
recommended for use in canning any food at home.
Before every use, wash empty jars in hot water with detergent and rinse well by hand, or wash in
a dishwasher. Unrinsed detergents may cause unnatural flavors and colors. These washing
methods do not sterilize jars. Scale or hard-water films on jars are easily removed by soaking
jars several hours in a solution containing 1 cup of vinegar (5 percent acidity) per gallon of water.
Sterilization of Empty Jars
All jams, jellies, and pickled products processed less than 10 minutes should be filled into sterile
empty jars. To sterilize empty jars, put them right side up on the rack in a boiling-water canner.
Fill the canner and jars with hot (not boiling) water to 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Boil 10
minutes at altitudes of less than 1,000 ft. At higher elevations, boil 1 additional minute for each
additional 1,000 ft elevation. Remove and drain hot sterilized jars one at a time. Save the hot
water for processing filled jars. Fill jars with food, add lids, and tighten screw bands.
Empty jars used for vegetables, meats, and fruits to be processed in a pressure canner need not
be presterilized. It is also unnecessary to presterilize jars for fruits, tomatoes, and pickled or
fermented foods that will be processed 10 minutes or longer in a boiling-water canner.