Recycling jars for canning

Today I was soaking some empty food jars I had saved (peanut butter, mayonnaise) to get the labels off so I can reuse them for canning.  That’s the best kind of recycling, don’t you think? :)    Then I soaked several more that I was given last week – I got six dozen jars for free, and about six of them had labels on them.   When I glanced in the box and noticed that, there was a feeling of, ‘oh, not real canning jars, but they’ll come in handy anyway’.  But it was really interesting to see that after I soaked the labels off, they were literally identical to Atlas mason jars in every regard, including the name of the canning company on it!  Then I remembered reading something posted by a long term canner about this, who always buys the spaghetti sauce in a jar made by a particular company (wasn’t kosher) because she gets the sauce along with a free canning jar. So while these particular jars were about ten years old, it’s still possible to get canning jars after eating up the supermarket foods that they contain.

As long as the glass jars fit the standard canning jar lids, you can use them for canning, in addition to storing anything that you find helpful.  In addition to using them for canning, I also like using glass jars for storing my dehydrated foods, grains, and other pantry items, so they come in handy.  

Some will say that you can only use jars that were specifically manufactured for canning, and that it’s unsafe to use other jars.   When I read this a few days ago in a local newspaper, I also noted a recommendation from the same writer to never reuse canning jar bands – because it’s not safe.  I don’t like when people feel they have to err on the side of caution to the point that everything becomes off limits and has warnings on it, even when it makes no sense.  The recommendation to throw away bands after one use unnecessarily brings up the cost of canning and is wasteful – I commented to my kids that anyone following that advice would at least be doing their part to stimulate the economy, since the ones to benefit from the suggestion are the companies that manufacture canning lids/bands.  And the writer also commented that canned goods have to be stored with the bands on them, which is exactly the opposite of what you’re supposed to do. sigh.gif

Is it actually unsafe to reuse jars that mayonnaise or peanut butter come in?  Though this is frequently cited as a safety issue, I don’t believe it is.  I’ve seen a number of people who have been canning for years post online about their experience with used canning jars.  All of them have said they haven’t noticed a difference between the breakage rate of used glass jars and specially made canning jars. Some have noted that the canning jars are in some instances thinner than the recycled jars.  Some have said that they’ve taken the precaution of only using those jars for water bath canning versus pressure canning, which makes sense to me, if you feel the mayonnaise jars are made of thinner glass and wouldn’t be able to stand up to the higher pressure. 

I’ve had jars break in the canner during processing, but all of those that broke were standard canning jars.  That happened in my early days of canning, and it was my inexperience in canning that lead to that, not a defect in the jars.  So far I haven’t made any attempt to treat the recycled jars differently than the canning jars, and haven’t had any breakage issues with them. 

I also like the ‘twofer’ aspect of buying food in glass jars and then being able to use the packaging the food came in.  Unfortunately, so many foods now come in plastic jars that it’s not as easy to find glass jars to recycle! (And the kosher companies don’t use standard sized jars for the most part – all those gefilte fish jars weren’t helpful when it came to canning.  But I did use them to give Chanuka gifts in, so they were still useful. :))   These particular jars came from a health version of mayo and the others from organic and sugar free peanut butter; I think that the healthier items tend to be packed in glass rather than plastic.

After soaking off the labels, I spent a very long time in the kitchen kashering used canning jars that I either purchased or was given.  The jars I bought several months ago were mostly still unkashered, so when I got this latest batch of six dozen, it was an incentive for me to get myself busy to clear the backlog.  I was getting tired after seven or eight dozen, and then noticed that my ds16 had kashered 4 dozen instead of the two dozen I thought he did (he marked the boxes a few months ago when he did them), and washed another couple of dozen in preparation for kashering (washing them is a chore since they have to be spotless and that’s not always easy).  Tonight when I write him a letter (since he’s in camp) you can be sure I’ll be thanking him for that! 

I still have another four dozen to go, but decided to have mercy on myself and call it quits for tonight.  Tomorrow I hope to toivel them, along with a bunch of new lids.  (Rav Heinemann told us we have to toivel the lids, even if using them one time – and since I’m going with his psak on kashering used jars, I have to go along with that, too! :))  Since I have at least twelve dozen to toivel, that will be an activity.  Good thing it’s not a busy time of year for this kind of thing; can you imagine the line I’d cause if I was doing this around Pesach time?!

If you’re wondering how many jars I have by now (Julie, you’re keeping track better than me!), I really have no idea.  It doesn’t seem like so many.  But I decided today that though a person can say that they never can have too many canning jars, I have an excess of the half pint size (some of you may remember last summer when I bought more than 30 dozen in that size, all brand new)- it’s not practical for my family at all since it’s so small; it’s like a one person serving!  I think I’ll sell them or take quart or pint sized jars in exchange. 


8 thoughts on “Recycling jars for canning

  1. sadly, i lost count at 746. but if your kids do a recount, i would be glad to keep a new running tab! i like the tiny mason jars for giving to other people- so whenever i make a batch of something that will lend itself to small jars, i make a few tiny ones so i have them around to give away as thank you gifts when people do a favor or need a pick-me-up. or maybe you could use them as little tiny fish bowls :)

  2. Okay, now you challenged me to figure this out so I did some quick addition (you didn’t think I was going to count every single jar, did you??). It looks like I’m up to 105 dozen, which is 1260 jars. Of those, I got about 24.5 dozen free from several different people. This number takes into account the case that ds dropped and broke, and doesn’t take into account any jars that I saved to use (but that’s pretty minimal so far). I’m glad I added this up because I posted ten cases of 1/2 pint jars for sale on CL today, and now I can see that it’s really not going to make much of a difference to me.

    As far as the gifts – I also like them for that. But I have at least 36 dozen boxes of that size!! So I think if I sell some I’ll still have a decent amount for gifting!

  3. Ok, sorry for posting so many comments on all of your old posts today! So, how do you keep so many jars? Are some dairy/meat… or all pareve? Are they all in use at the same time, constantly being cycled? Or do you do tons of canning in the summer and then slowly use them up through the winter?

    1. I keep them mostly in boxes in my storage room. Most are used for meat; in my house everything is either meat or dairy. I have done some dairy canning, when I did butter. I marked those all separately. They’re not all in use at a time; this year I haven’t been doing as much canning as I did last year. We keep using the canned foods without replacing them so I have a high proportion of empty to full jars.

      1. Do you keep some things pareve? Like, a chopping board and really good knife, to make chopping veggies really easy? Or, do you ever boil rice or pasta or something like that and want to use some for meat and save some for another dairy meal? We recently became kosher, and I felt like we would need to have either pareve stuff, or else we’d have two of everything and that seemed to wasteful (not to mention where to keep it all).

        I just made three jars of lacto fermented veggies (one cucumbers, one cabbage) using boiled tap water. I’m very interested to see how they turn out. I’ve been very bored with our diet.

        Another idea for a post (or link me to a previous post, if its been done already)… how do you figure out how much of everything to soak each week? How do you know when to start the yogurt? Are you home at all hours keeping track of what has been fermenting/soaking/rising/etc. for how long? When I start to think of doing all those things, my mind goes a bit numb. 😉 I’m sure your meticulous meal planning helps a lot. Do your kids snack? My husband snacks a ton, and I never know what he’s going to eat up… often all the yogurt or nuts.

        1. Shira, I have two of everything, and virtually nothing is pareve. It’s just easier like that; it’s not so easy to keep things pareve, imo. So I’m not so helpful on that front.

          I hope your lf veggies are a success!

          I never did post about that, it’s a good question. I’d suggest not to focus on doing everything – that’s overwhelming. Just start with one thing and when you get comfortable with that, go on to the next thing. That’s what I did.

          My kids don’t snack regularly, but they generally ask before having a snack to be sure it’s not something I have plans for.

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