Friday, January 19, 2007

Canning update--an answer to some of your questions

Since so many comments on line and off about bail wire jars (for and against) here are some other things I have found for your reading pleasure. Also---I added a small update at the bottom of my original post. As always--this is my research and any choice to use them is based only on my opinion. This is not written to encouragement or induce usage of bail wire canning jars.

comment from on line canning forum dated from 2003:

There are a couple of 'bail' type jars...The oldest kind had the bails held on with a wire harness that goes all the way round the top of the jar...The wires rust quickly and the bails become loose and will not hold the lid tightly compressed against the rubber seal...This kind may or may not seal well depending on the small wire condition...

The Later version of the bail jar has only the thicker metal bails and the ends of the bail sits in a moulded depression under the rim of the jar itself...These are 'newer' and usually will hold the lid securely with new rubbers...

When you go to use the jars, boil the rubbers for 15 minutes before using and put them on hot...

If you are water-bath canning, then you need to apply the rubbers and lid, swing the bail up and over the lid, but do NOT snap down the bail till after they have been removed from the water while still as hot as possible...Can't remember about pressure canning, but I know it can be done...

After your 'canned' goods have completely cooled, and with the bails snapped down, turn the jar over so some of the liquid is up in the rim...Then with the jar back upright, grab the rubber tab that sticks out and give a gentle tug...if There are no small bubbles forming inside the glass lid above the rubber, chances are that the jar is sealed and will stay sealed for years...

I just canned near 20 gallons (in pints) of my syrup in old bail jars with only a few failures...That's around 160 jars from my attic with only 3-4 jars that did not seal...

Hot pack above 180 degrees F, and after you snap the bail, SLOWLY invert the jar and it will sterilize the insides of the lids...

From May 26, 2006 Backwoods Home Magazine:

Old canning jars

I am a new subscriber and look forward to reading you every month.

We have hundreds of old style canning jars. (The kind with glass lids and metal wire fasteners to hold the lids down)

I found them in the basement when I married my husband and moved into his country house.

Are these safe to use? My local hardware store carries the rubber seals and can order as many as I need. If they are fine to use, why were they replaced by the newer screw top jars? Also would they be ok in a pressure canner?

I have canned jam and other water bath foods for years but want to buy a pressure canner for my veggies instead of freezing everything. Thanks!


Lucky you! You might not realize it, but you have a small fortune down in your basement, in your glass topped canning jars with the wire bail. You can water bath can in these jars safely, but you should not use them to pressure can. So you can put up pickles, fruit, jams, jellies, preserves in them, as well as using them to store such things as dehydrated foods, spices, baking supplies, etc. They ARE gorgeous on a shelf!

But these jars should not be used in a pressure canner as you will be unable to tell if they are safely sealed. High acid foods may mold or ferment if they don’t seal but low acid foods such as green beans, meat, corn, etc. could possibly have botulism toxins in them and not show signs of spoilage, should the jars not seal.

If you have more jars than you can use, why don’t you sell off the extras and buy something you need for your family or home preservation endeavors…..perhaps that new pressure canner and several cases of jars to start with? You can always find more Mason jars at rummage sales, auctions, the Goodwill or thrift stores in the area. Also ask around; you’ll be amazed at how many neighbors have cases of jars lying about unused and just begging for a new home.


Another opinion found:

 To insure a
quality product and prevent loss from spoilage
(like molds on jelly and
softening in pickles) I like to go by the book.
The only exception I make to
this is using the old wire bail jars for sweet pickles with a
hot water bath
and inverting jars to be sure seals are complete.
With good jars and lids, no
chips anywhere, a good safe seal can be had if
you pay attention.

Last but not least

The jars with wire bails and glass lids are still in use, although they haven't been manufactured for many years. A wet rubber ring is fitted over the neck so that it rests on the glass ledge of the jar. The glass lid is placed so that it rests on the ring. The long wire bail is set in place in the groove on the top of the lid, and the second bail is left in the up position. After processing, and while the jar is still hot, you should push the second bail down against the side of the jar. When the jars are cool, test the seal by tilting each jar.

When using any of these jars, do not attempt to open them to replace any liquid lost during processing.

Addition Jan. 22 here's one for weck brand canning jars MaryJanesFarm canning chat room---posted by Klara from Texas

When I grew up in Germany, there was just no other system but Weck. Actually, the very common German expression for "putting up" food by water canning was "Einwecken". That's like if you would say "Balling up" or "Kerring up"
The rubber ring is not really very different from the method used in the USA: it is the same as the rubber seal on the metal lids, except it is much thicker (and should, just like the Ball or Kerr lids, not be reused). And you used a metal clap to hold the glass lid to the ring and the jar until the vacuum was complete (I don't know if they still do that but I assume they do.)
I can not replace research, but let me tell you that my whole family has always used the Weck system for decades. My mom has photographs of great-grandmothers standing proudly infront of basement walls covered with shelves full of canned food, before and through WW II. That way of food preservation saved quite a few people's lives. And I don't recall anyone even knowing what botulism was. When they took a jar of the shelf to use it, they would simly pull at the little tab that is part of the rubber ring and when it slipped out easily, they would discard the contents of the jar. I have watched all the women in my family do this little "ritual" for more that 20 years and I remember it was a real exciting event when one jar actually had to be thrown out! It practically never happened.
But, like I said, I'm not the resaerch.

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