Canning Jars 101

Canning jars (also called Mason jars) are molded glass jars. They are made of thick, sturdy glass and are designed to be used in home canning. They can be used in a pressure cooker or a hot water bath. They can also be used in the oven when dry canning. (Some or all of these methods of preserving foods may be a mystery to you, but just know that canning jars are a useful and basic tool when it comes to preserving food.)

canning jars

Basic Facts for a Simple Start

Which Jars Do I Buy?

I encourage you to buy jars from trusted companies. Kerr or Ball jars have been around a long time and are known for quality. Tread carefully when it comes to off-brand or discount jars and lids. Store jars (like the kind you get when you buy mayonnaise) are not a good choice because they’re not sturdy enough to stand up to a home pressure cooker. Be safe. Buy good quality jars.

This article contains affiliate links. If you click and buy, I make a commission. Thank you for helping me stay supplied with canning lids. ❤ - Shop Pantry Foods


Canning jars come in a number of sizes.

The smaller sizes are good for jams, jellies, dipping sauces, and anything you use in smaller amounts. It helps to ask yourself, “When I open and refrigerate that food, how much of it will I eat within a reasonable amount of time?” If it’s on the small end consider using one of these smaller jars.

  • quarter pint (4 oz)
  • half pint (8 oz)

The next two sizes up are the most commonly used because they hold a fair amount. Pretty much anything works in these – pie fillings, veggies, fruits, sauces, etc. They’re large enough to hold chunks or whole pieces, depending on what you’re canning.

  • pint (16 oz)
  • quart (32 0z)

Jar manufacturers and health folks will fuss at you for using jars any larger than a quart (except when canning apple and grape juice).

  • half gallon (64 oz)
  • gallon (128 oz)

There’s a concern that you won’t be able to get enough heat throughout a larger jar. (In the past it was not uncommon to use half gallons, especially with things like pickles. However, because of current thought, this is one of those “do so at your own risk” warnings.) Mostly these jars are used as storage for dry goods or “quick pickling” (vegetables that are pickled in vinegar, water, sugar, and salt and stored in the refrigerator, no real “canning” involved).

produce and canned goods
Harvest time is canning time!

Open Wide

Jars also come in two different mouth sizes.

  • regular mouth – 2 3/8″ inner dimension
  • wide mouth – 3″ inner dimension

The regular mouth jars work fairly well for liquids and small bits (use a funnel). Anything chunky works better with the wide mouth jars. I personally recommend the wide mouth jars. Period. They are easier to use and easier to clean. (I can put my hand in the jar with room to spare.) If you have larger hands, they are a must.

Yup, They’re Pricey

They are fairly expensive, but if you treat them kindly, they will last you a number of years. (Sometimes you can find jars on sale at the end of canning season. It’s sort of like buying discounted candy the day after Valentine’s Day.) :)

Always check your jars before canning and remove any that have cracks or chips. Wet the lip of the jar and carefully run your finger around it feeling for anything rough. You want a nice smooth level surface for the lid to adhere to. (If you purchase jars at garage sales or thrift stores you are taking a slight risk because you cannot know how old they really are or how they have been used. Watch out for cracks or chips.)

Lids and Bands

When you buy new jars they come with round flat lids and bands (rings) that screw on over the edge of the lids.

bands and lids for canning jars
Bands and lids.

The bands can be used again and again (when you’re done with a batch and the lids have sealed to the jars, you can remove the bands and use them on your next batch). The lid inserts, however, are a one-use item. Use them and toss when you open the jar (or use them in crafty ways). Each canning season, you’ll need to buy new lids (be sure you buy the right size lids for your jars, regular or wide mouth).

Another option is using reusable lids. My sweetie and I are experimenting with them this year (I’ll let you know how it goes.) Price-wise they are not much more expensive and reviews look good. I try to go reusable whenever I can.

Tools Used to Handle Jars

There are a number of tools that can help in the jar filling process and with canning (when the jars will be too hot to handle). This set is the one my sweetie bought and he’s very happy with it.

And these plastic lids are for when you open your jars later to use the contents. They come with a silicone ring insert that helps seal the jar and keep contents fresh in the fridge.

jar toppers
Jar toppers for your fridge.

Canning jars do an amazing job of preserving foods. If you are interested in putting food by, canning is a good option. (This is my go-to canning reference book. ↓)

A Few Fun Extras

Canning jars are so practical that folks have created an array of jar toppers. There are drinking toppers, pumps, sprayers, and more. There’s even a coin bank lid to turn a canning jar into a savings jar. The Mason Jars Makerplace carries a number of these jar toppers and accessories. Very fun. ↓ - Shop Original Products For The Home and Garden

Just had to include this picture of an antique jar lifter. My friend, OMIL (other mother-in-law), loaned it to me for a picture. She’s also my go-to person for answers when my sweetie and I are canning anything new.

antique jar lifter
Such ingenuity!
Did I mention that canning jars have many
practical and decorative uses aside from canning?
Pinterest: Canning Jar Creativity


Pinterest image for Canning Jars 101

Image credits
canning jars © Lori / Dandelion Hill Homestead
product & canned salsa © PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay
lids & bands © Lori / Dandelion Hill Homestead
jar toppers © Lori / Dandelion Hill Homestead
Pinterest image / jar © Tluke / Pixabay

Hi, I’m Lori and I’m delighted you stopped in for a visit. Pull up a chair and let me introduce you to NEWTON

Lori & Newton


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