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Mar 7, 2010 09:14 AM

Drowning in fruit, looking for local canning suppliers; are vintage jars a no-no?

We're drowning in oranges and mandarins and I'm trying to keep up by making gallons of jam... I've finally run out of jars; anyone know the most economical place to buy supplies locally? (Oakland area best; SF OK.) I'm talking buying upwards of 100 jars, so a dollar or two here and there per box makes a bit of difference.

Also, in the past I've picked up a few boxes of 20-year-old Kerr and Ball jars that work fine, but would love to try using some of the beautiful blue-tinted jars for sale all over eBay, etc.

I can think of all sorts of potential problems: screw threads don't fit modern lids, cracks I might not see that result in a broken or leaking jar, jars not withstanding prolonged heat of a water bath...

But that's being a pessimist :) Has anyone successfully used really old jars for canning? All I ever make is jam and chutney and I can them in a water bath on my stove.


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  1. Here's a thread from the summer on where to find cheap canning jars - looks like Walmart won out.

    1. Unfortunately, it's off season for canning, so some places that carry them seasonally won't have them. I think your best bet is a good hardware store. I think Ace hardware stores -- there's a big one on Grand Ave. in Oakland -- carry them year round. As for using decorative jars, for low-risk items like jams and chutneys, you might look into skipping the water bath and using sterilized jars sealed with paraffin. They don't officially recommend it these days, but as far as I can tell, the only danger is that if the seal isn't perfect it might get moldy, and the mold might create a toxin that might be carcinogenic and thus might cause cancer. That's a degree of risk that I'm comfortable with, but everyone is different.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Thanks! Some places I hadn't thought to look in that list.

      2. CVS in Rockridge usually has a good supply. You might call Smart n Final in Oakland and Walmart usually has them. There is no problem with old jars as long as you know you can get lids to fit them...for the reasons you long as no chips on the rim which would alter the seal. Glass is glass as long as it's intact and can be sterilized. If on ebay maybe ask the seller in advance the size opening so you can research lids before you bid. I can hundreds of pounds of fruit each year and am always on the lookout for old jars so good luck. You might also think of vinegars or vodka/sugar if you run out of jam jars and need some variety. Tangerines would do well in both.

        2 Replies
        1. re: cakebaker

          Thanks, cakebaker -- do you mean spike the vodka or vinegar with the fruit? That sounds good. What sort of vinegar do you use?

          1. re: bgbc

            Some great info on infusing vodka and vinegar with fruit has been moved over to our Home Cooking board so more of our Home Cooking hounds will see it. You can follow that discussion here:

        2. when I was a kid we would boil older jars and sealed our jam with parfin wax. It worked for problems with seals, rings etc.

          1. Any ideas on the vintage jar part of the question? I'm using quite a few myself (with domed glass tops) to store dried goods - but in theory i'd consider canning some tomatoes in them this summer.

            8 Replies
            1. re: boris_qd

              Unless you know your jars will seal properly, don't risk using them with tomatoes.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                but you can tell if they seal right? I mean the tops don't come off if they're sealed. Are there any other problems (lead in the glass perhaps?).

                1. re: boris_qd

                  Can you describe the actual jars? when you say "domed lids"...does that mean glass domed lids with a metal bale and rubber gasket? or what do they look like? I would be concerned using them for other than dry storage unless the have a replaceable lid with a ring that can be sterilzed.

                  1. re: cakebaker

                    They are glass domed lids that come completely off. Between the lid and the jar is space for a rubber gasket. There is wire to hold the lid on but the lid still comes off entirely. They look more or less like this:


                    1. re: boris_qd

                      Good news and bad. You can't use the jars like you pictured for anything needing heat processing. They are no longer considered safe for canning and are only recommended for dry non-perishable storage. I wrote to Ball and will post their response if I get one but I know I'm right. However, you can use them for whole fruit in vodka/sugar as previously mentioned (moved to the HOME COOKING board) or for liqueurs. Anything with alcohol which would not be processed and would stand at room temp could be used for those jars and would be a pretty display. hope this helps.

                      1. re: cakebaker

                        Right. Just to clarify, when we say "sealed" for canning purposes, we mean a vacuum seal. Those rubber gaskets are nowhere near a tight enough seal to store perishables.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          oh. i thought that as the cooled the tops we sucked onto the rubber bands forming a seal to preserve the food. Otherwise - what did my grandmother do? She used to perserve stuff in there from her garden. And she did boil them - so i'm confused as to why they can't be heated anymore.

                          But i will take your advice nonetheless and look for some modern glass jars (not as pretty!) for my canning needs.

                          Looking forward to the reply from Bell (But mine are actually Atlas brand. I haven't seen that around).

                          1. re: boris_qd

                            Both types of lids using rubber gaskets were widely used but also were somewhat prone to seal failures. Furthermore, telling whether you have a good seal after processing was also a problem. Lots of canned goods had spoilage problems years ago. I am old enough to remember the situation in the late 1940s on, and some parts were not pretty. People were more accepting of food poisoning back then albeit pretty fatalistically.