The humble Mason jar holds a special place in the home canning tradition. The thick walls of these jars, makes them ideal for canning, and has made it the preferred method of preserving food in many homes.
A Brief History of Mason Jars
Mason jars are the most popular canning system in the U.S. and have a rich history dating back to the mid 19th century. In 1858 John Landis Mason patented his sealing method for jars, and the Mason jar was born. The screw on lids of these jars creates a small vacuum that keeps the seal tight and protect food from spoiling.
Different Uses for Various Sizes
Mason jars can be bought in a great variety of sizes and styles. The mouth of jars can vary from the standard opening (2 3/8 inch diameter) to the wide-mouth (3 inch). So why would we need different sized mouth openings?
Well, there are a few reasons. Since you can preserve a very wide variety of foods, you will be dealing with different sizes and shapes of food. Actually filling the jars can be tricky or time consuming depending on what you are canning. A larger mouth makes it easier dealing with larger foods, and anything you don’t want to cut into smaller chunks. A larger opening could be required to make it possible to preserve fruits or vegetables intact and whole. Other times a small jar mouth is sufficient, especially for preserving smaller portions.
Mason jar sizes and the best uses for them.
- ½ Cup (4 ounces). These small jars make for ideal gifts. Canned food in a nicely presented Mason jar will be a well appreciated gift. Because of the size, you probably want to give a few away as part of a gift. You don’t want to use a small 4 ounce jar for general canning, as it would be a very inefficient way of storing the food. The exception would be for any foods which you only need very small quantities.
Ball and Bormioli Rocco produce a number of different jars at this size. You can find these 4 ounce jars with both standard and wide mouths. Bormioli also make some taller and more squared-off jars, in addition to the standard shorter and rounder jars. Most of the jars are clear, but some have patterns and decorations.
- Cup or half-pint (8 ounces). This sized jar also works as a gift. Many people like to use an 8 ounce jar for storing sauces and spreads. Half the fun of home canning is about experimenting with different ideas. Use a cup sized jar to test your ideas and perfect your home canning methods.
Kerr, Ball and Bormioli all make 8 ounce Mason jars. You have the choice of regular and wide mouth openings. Also Ball produces some deluxe jars with a quilted pattern.
You can purchase 12 ounce jars from the same manufacturers mentioned above. BarConic produce some nice Mason jar glasses at this size, though they are not suitable for hot liquids.
There is a great Mason jar drinking mug made at this size by Libbey. Both Kerr and Ball produces some excellent pint jars in very affordable packs, in both regular and wide mouth variants. Also be on the lookout for the heritage collection from Ball. To celebrate their 100th anniversary they produced this set with the traditional blue color.
For high quality quart size jars, you should go with the ones made by Ball or Kerr. Just like the smaller sizes both Kerr and Ball give you the choice between regular and wide mouth varieties.
- Half-gallon (64 ounces). Any food that you will be storing in large quantities will be suited to a half-gallon jar. This could be anything from freshly made fruit juice to different types of soup. Also consider carbohydrates (such as pasta) which are usually consumed in large quantities. Large families will get the most use out of these larger jars.
As one of the top Mason jar producers, you are most likely to find half-gallon jars made by Ball. You can usually buy these in sets of 6 jars and they have a wide mouth opening.
Mason Jars aren’t made just in a standard jar shape. If you so some searching you can find some really interesting jars. You can get wine glass shaped jars made by Southern Homewares. Rednek manufactures margarita glasses which even come with the screw on lids. There are also lots of Mason jar varieties made with a handle which can be used as a stylish drinking mug or glass. While not strictly a Mason jar, Ball does make some great looking salt or pepper shakers shaped exactly like their classic canning jars.
It is always a good idea to have a selection of the different Mason jar sizes to be used in different situations. This allows you to experiment with different types of food and improve your home canning skills.
While Mason jars were invented specifically for the purpose of preserving food, there are other creative uses for these high quality jars. Of course they work great as a general purpose storage solution, but other uses include:
- Save any leftover food for the next day
- Create custom spice mixes
- Store premade dry mixes for pancakes or breads
- Use as a drinking glass
- As part of the home décor (e.g. candles)
- A vase for flowers
Mason Jar Colors
The older variations of mason jars were produced in a multitude of colors such as emerald green, milk glass, rare cobalt blue, amber and aqua. It was thought that the different colors could help preserve food for longer, as less light would reach the food. However, these days most Mason jars are manufactured using a clear glass material.
Rare Mason Jars
Antique mason jars have become something of a collector’s item. Jars with the right age, condition and rarity are highly sought after by collectors. Identifying the age of a mason jar isn’t as simple as you would think. Many jars will carry a date of 1858, but jars with this date were made up until 1920. You need to do some research to correctly identify and value a given jar.
A Home Canning Essential
Mason jars should be a part of everyone’s home canning kit. Not only do they offer the best quality system of sealing your food, they are a great value for money. You can easily purchase Mason jars in bulk and save yourself a good chunk of money. Online retailers usually offer the best prices. If you aren’t using Mason jars for your home canning, you really ought to. They really are an indispensable part of the home canning process.
Check out other blog posts to learn more about:
- How to choose the right type of canning jar
- Everything You Need to Know about Labels for Canning Jars