Since the dawn of time, people have always been looking to make their lives somehow a little more convenient to make daily life a little more comfortable than it was the day prior. This never-ending quest for opulence has led to the invention of new things on a regular basis.
With an abundance of new products flooding the modern market, it’s easy to take some of the simpler tools for granted. One such example is the canning jar.
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The best canning jars are durable and come in many sizes. There are different types of containers, and over the years they have been known by many names. Many of these are jars people recognized just by their name such as ball jars, lightning fruit jars, mason jars, or more generically, glass canning jars. While these are versatile tools, everyone predominantly uses it for storing preserved food.
- 1 How Our Ancestors Stored Food
- 2 The Best Canning Jars on the Market
- 3 Popular Canning Methods
- 4 Glass Jars vs. Canned Food
- 5 Peaches, peaches, and more peaches!
- 6 More on the Canning Processes
- 7 Wrapping Up
How Our Ancestors Stored Food
Let’s rewind a bit and go back to the time of our ancestors. Storing food is as old as humankind itself. Back then, the options were few and far in between, so they had to make use of whatever was at their disposal.
For hot climates, drying them out in the sun was standard practice. It’s similar to making jerky. The colder climates relied on ice for preservation. Eventually, they moved up to more advanced techniques such as salting and fermentation.
Fast forward to today and very little concerning function has changed since its inception, but glass storage jars have become more popular than tin-like glass jars that most people initially used. The primary reason for this is that tin or plastic jars tend to have harmful chemicals such as BPA. Luckily though, some plastics are BPA free should you decide to go that route.
Over the years, demand for home use of these jars has increased significantly. Notably, the use of mason jars for food storage is prevalent because it allows you actually to know what is in your food is an excellent alternative to merely buying canned goods from store shelves. 
The Best Canning Jars on the Market
Thanks to a myriad of companies that have joined the market, different types of glass jars are plentiful and available for purchase almost anywhere. For now, let’s go through some of the best canning jars available on the market.
16 Ounce Ball Jar by Jarden
The first on this list is the 16 Ounce Ball Jar by Jarden. This one is a 16-ounce jar that features a regular mouth and a lid and comes in a pack containing 12 pieces. This particular container is one of the best-selling mason jars on the market right now, and for a good reason. Its beauty lies in its simplicity, and that they work for what it was intended. Jarden made this particular one, so you know that you’re getting the quality stuff.
4 Ounce Ball Jar
If you’re looking for something with a smaller stature but more regarding quantity, don’t worry. Mason jar sizes can vary, so you know there’s always an option for you. Ball Jelly Jars also come in 4-ounce sizes. This one comes in 2 packs, each containing 12 pieces for a total of 24 bits. Jars of this size are perfect for jams, jellies, sauces or anything that requires small batches in multiple containers.
Golden Spoon Mason Jars
When you talk about the best canning jars available on the market, Golden Spoon Mason Jars is a name that pops up often. Golden spoon jars are not just high-quality jars, but they are dishwasher safe and BPA free. It can house up to 16 ounces of food or liquid and are perfect for things like cocktails and smoothies.
Paksh Novelty Glass Jar
If you’re looking for some of the best mason jars for drinking, look no further. The Paksh Novelty Glass Jar comes in a whopping 1 gallon, perfect for brewing tea or storing dry food like pasta, beans, or oats. Its size is especially useful when you want to preserve food and drinks in more significant than usual batches, such as larger fruits.
Another advantage of having a full mouth design of this size is that the opening is large enough for your hand to reach in and give it a good cleaning. Though it is dishwasher safe, the size makes it safer to wash it by hand.
Anchor Hocking Montana Glass
The Anchor Hocking Montana Glass Jar comes in an even bigger size. With 1.5 gallons available for use, you can be sure even the most abundant foods will fit inside. This reliable option is for people who are looking for a right mix of durability and function. The Life Durable Glass will not stain or absorb odors, which is especially useful when you expect to use it to store fermented food such as kimchi frequently. While the glass itself is dishwasher safe, everyone should hand wash the metal lid.
Ball Wide Mouth Half Gallon
With the popularity of ball jars, it should come as no surprise to you that Ball has three more contenders for the title of best canning jars. Among those three, this first particular model is the Ball Wide Mouth Half Gallon Jar. This jar features a glass body with a metal lid and can be frozen for up to three weeks and can keep food for about a year.
Ball Pint Mason Jar
The Ball Pint Mason Jar is a handle-less jar that has a BPA free body and has the functions you have come to expect from this brand. You can use this jar for a multitude of ideas besides canning. Be sure you research arts and craft using canning jars.
Ball 252 Wide Mouth Quart Jar
The last canning jar on this list is the Ball 252 Wide Mouth Quart Jar. This container is similar to the others in almost every way and differs in size.
Popular Canning Methods
We’ve established which of the canning jars are most popular. Now let’s dive into the process itself. In general, there are two popular methods of canning. The first is the water bath and the second is pressure canning. So how do these two differ?
Water Bath Method
The first thing you must know here is that not everything can be canned using the water bath method.
As a rule of thumb, the water bath method only correctly preserves foods that are high in acid. Examples of these are most jams, jellies, syrup infused fruit. Most fruit preserves should work here, as should many kinds of pickles.
The only real exception here is tomatoes, as they can be turned into a high acid fruit by adding components like lemon juice. Everyone should preserve non-acidic foods such as meat, fish, or vegetables through the pressure canning method.
You will need a few things for the water bath method. These include the following: the food to be canned, spoons and knives, towels or pot holders, pots and bowls, a jar lifter and canning funnel, canning jars, a water bath canner, lids, and rings.
While the specifics of the method may vary from canner to canner, the general steps are mostly the same. At its core, the boiling water bath is just a large pot with a rack situated at the bottom.
Once that is prepared, the first thing you need to do is to immerse the canning jars filled with food inside it. Don’t worry about spillage, as the canning lids are there to secure the contents. It is also good to note that covers typically cannot be reused, whereas the rings can.
The duration is where it gets a little bit trickier. These vary from recipe to recipe, so seeing as how this is a relatively complex task for people who aren’t used to it yet, it would be best to get your recipes from reputable sources.
During the boiling process, you have the option to add hot water while it continues to boil to make up for the evaporated water. Just turn the heat off when the recipe dictates that you’ve accomplished cooking the food.
Please note that when you lift the rack containing the jars, it would be best to wait for a minute or two before taking the pots out of the canner. For safety purposes, you can use a jar lifter for removing it. Once done, just set it down on a dry, thick towel in a draft area.
Another critical thing to note is that, as much as possible, you should leave about 1 to 2 inches of space in between to ensure the circulation of air. The heat creates a sort of vacuum, which is what seals the contents securely inside during the cooling process.
After it finishes cooling, you should press on the lid to check the seal. It should have popped inward as a result of the vacuum effect we mentioned earlier. All that’s left from then on is the clean-up. As you can see, it may seem daunting at first, but it is reasonably doable. 
While the water bath canning method uses reasonably standard equipment, the pressure canning needs something a bit more specialized.
As you may have guessed, that piece of equipment is called the pressure canner. As the name implies, it is one heavy-duty equipment. It typically has a pressure gauge, a vent, and some screw clamps.
The limitations of the water bath canning method lie in how hot they can heat the food. Since it is expected to submerge them in boiling (and scalding) water, the peak temperature in which it can burn its contents is limited to the boiling temperature. The pressure canning method is capable of temperatures far exceeding the boiling point.
Remember, you can use only alkaline foods for pressure canning. Using low acidity food for the water bath canning method and vice versa is just asking for trouble.
If you’re wondering why that is the case, the short answer is that something called the botulism bacteria cannot survive in temperatures equal to that of boiling water. Though that is the case, botulism spores can. Because of this, we can only exterminate botulism spores at temperatures exceeding those of boiling and scalding water levels.
In a way, the pressure canning method is merely a method that creates extreme levels of pH.
Another thing worth noting that causes confusion among the uninitiated is the term itself. Canning doesn’t precisely use tin cans that tend to come to mind when using it. Nowadays, we commonly use different types of glass jars in place of the more traditional tin can.
Aside from the pressure canner itself, you will need a few more things to get started. Examples of these are canning jars, the jar lifter and canning funnel, canning lids and rings, the food you want to can, pots and bowls, towels and potholders, and your usual array of kitchen utensils.
With the brief introduction of the equipment out of the way, let’s discuss the process, and how the pressure canning method differs from the water bath method.
The first thing you need to do is to fill your canner with about three quarts of water. As the name suggests, the pressure is the most important thing when it comes to safety. The pressure build-up causes the high heat necessary for the success of this method.
Unlike the water bath method, you do not need to cover the jars. Next, set the rack on the bottom of the pressure canner. It is good to note that the water should be hot, and not boiling. Then, wash the jars and lids.
Because of the high temperatures involved in this process, you don’t need to manually sterilize the pots, because the heat naturally purifies it. However, you are required to start with clean jars.
As with the water bath method, the specifics of the duration will vary depending on the recipe you are following. All that’s left to do is to fill the jar leaving the headspace recommended by the method. A good option is to use a non-metallic spatula and move it around the pot to remove the air bubbles. Lastly, wipe with a towel then store.
Remember, these are the basics, and slight differences in the process vary in a case by case basis.
Glass Jars vs. Canned Food
While glass jars have become extremely popular over the last several years, how do they differ from canned food? What advantages does one possess over the other?
First, let us address the elephant in the room.
If you have ever done your grocery shopping before, you will notice immediately that canned food will be cheaper than food found in glass jars, for the most part. This occurrence applies to vegetables, fruits, sardines, you name it.
While it is indeed cheaper, canned food poses a slight risk for consumers. Specifically, some of the metal linings in products like canned goods use epoxy resin. If you have ever shopped for a water bottle that does not have the label “BPA free,” the chances are, you’ve already encountered BPA.
This particular resin contains bisphenol A, which is a BPA that is used to make products like plastics. The reason why this is in use fairly often is that it is long lasting and sturdy, and more importantly for companies, more feasible due to its affordability. While the food and drug administration does claim that low levels of consumption are relatively safe, the fact that it is in there at all is a concern to most people.
While BPA is a bad thing, studies have shown that low levels of it can seep into food. If you wish to avoid it altogether, there are a few precautions you can take. Like the water bottle example mentioned earlier, opt for plastic products that are BPA free. They may cost a bit more up front, but it doesn’t hurt the pocket as much when you think about the long-term benefits.
Aside from its affordability and accessibility, canned food offers virtually no other advantage over buying food contained in jars. If buying your food from glass jars is too expensive to maintain, you may want to consider canning your fruits and vegetables. Not only does it save you much money, but it is also considerably healthier.
The only trade-off is the time it takes to do it. It isn’t so terrible if you end up enjoying the process. While we are about canning your fruits and vegetables, you may want to try canning peaches as your first project.
Peaches, peaches, and more peaches!
Canning peaches is an excellent first option since it is relatively easy to do, and it tastes good to boot. Since peaches are a high acidity food, use the water bath method. As such, you can do away with the sophisticated, specialized equipment needed for pressure canning methods.
You can opt to can them in halves or slices, which makes it a bit versatile depending on what you feel like doing. A tip that is good to remember when canning peaches are that full mouth jars are preferable when doing this since it allows you to easily position the peaches cavity side down in case you decide to can help them in halves.
As you may know, the highest quality peaches will yield the best results. Preferably, they should be ripe and mature.
The syrup is where you can play it by ear. Light or medium syrup both work great. If you’re not familiar with it, it is merely sugar dissolved in hot water. Light syrup is 2¼ cups of sugar to 5¼ cups of water whereas medium syrup is just 3¼ cups of sugar added to 5 cups of water. As long as you follow this ratio, you shouldn’t go wrong, regardless of how much you want to make.
In preparing the peaches, all you need to do is to peel the skin by dipping the peaches in boiling water for about 30 to 60 seconds. Once that’s done, dip it in cold water to prevent it from cooking any further. Dipping it should loosen the skin enough to peel without much effort. To avoid the browning of the peaches, keeping them in acidified water is recommended.
An easy way to do this is by adding around six 500 mg vitamin C tablets in a gallon of water after finely crushing. The syrup plays a more significant role than just sweetening your peaches. They keep the texture of the fruit firm, so that’s another excuse to go all out. All that’s left after doing this is to package them and clean up the mess.
More on the Canning Processes
We’ve covered much information, so it’s understandable that this might be a bit confusing. Let’s go over some of the more commonly asked questions about the canning process.
What is the shelf life of canned food?
Assuming it was done correctly, keeping them in a cool, dry place should give them about a year. Placing them somewhere hot will provide it with a few months at best, while holding them in a damp place may corrode the metal lids.
Do You Need to Leave Headspace in the Jar?
We’ve mentioned this before, it varies depending on the recipe, but the straight answer is yes. It is an absolute requirement for the vacuum seal to work correctly. If there isn’t an appropriate amount of headspace, the food has the possibility of bubbling out and expanding when the air is being forced out from under the lid while the processing stage is ongoing.
Is it Okay to Reuse Jar Fittings Like the Lids and Bands?
Like we mentioned before, tops should not be used more than once, while groups can. The reason for this is because the sealing compound becomes indented during the first use. What this means is that this same occurrence prevents it from sealing during the second use.
To conclude, despite the somewhat steep learning curve, canning is a cost-efficient and healthy way to store your food. You will never forget the satisfaction you get when you make your first batch of food. While it is relatively simple when you get the hang of it, the best canning jars will only improve your experience.
With so many options, you’ll never run out of things to can! So pick up your first batch of ingredients and get to it! Who knows, you could find a life-long hobby that benefits you in more ways than one.
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