When canning with vintage equipment and methods, its important to set yourself up for success! Building your own collection of vintage jars with lids and preparing them for canning is different than purchasing ’em from the grocery store shelf. Throughout the rest of our mini-series, I attempt to set you up for success, so from here on out, make certain to follow the guidelines in detail! Together, we will follow modern food safe rules and up-to-date approved methods for canning with all glass.
Let’s talk about the requirements for set up and next post, we’ll talk about the canning procedure. It’s time to address the basics of collecting, inspecting and preparing!
Vintage Jars: Labels & Sizes
If searching for these jars at thrift stores, in garage or estate sales, they can be easily recognized by their thicker glass, medium sized lid and distinct labels. Among the common inscriptions you’ll see “Improved Gem,” the “Dominion Gem” or plain old “GEM.” Jewel jars have a standard “Jewel Jar” and “Canadian Jewel” as their inscription. Really, if you see “Gem” or “Jewel,” anywhere on a jar, you’ll want to buy it for vintage canning (to the best of my knowledge)! Most of the inscriptions include “Made in Canada.”
I suspect most of you will love the size and shape of the vintage jars as much as I do! The entire hand can be slipped inside, yet unlike the wide mouth, there is still enough of a shoulder to hold goods down.
Both the Gem and Jewel jar were made in Imperial measurements and you will find the basic modern sizes: the 2 quart (8 C), 1 quart (4 C) and pint (2 C).
The Gem jars come with two variations of the pint. I think they are adorable!
Vintage Glass Lids
When searching for glass lids, there are several types to be on the lookout for! The older varieties are made of a thick glass and will include an inscription on the topside of lid. Within the label you’ll find the word “Gem” or…
…you’ll find the simple inscription of “Jewel.”
There’s also a newer kind made of thinner glass. The only inscription they carry is ‘MADE IN CANADA.’ The underside of these lids are arranged in the sunburst pattern pictured below. While it makes ’em charming to look at, they are more difficult to clean! You also ought to know that these lids chip and crack easier than the older type.
Inspection Before Purchasing…
Unless using these old collections for storing dry goods you should always inspect the parts for damage before (if possible) and certainly after purchasing.
Inspect the mouth of the jar with your eye and then (only then) if no blemishes are visible, inspect with the finger. Run it over the rim of the jar’s mouth. Notice any cracks or chips?
How ’bout the jar’s body? If there are cracks, most often they are found in the lower half. Inspect the bottom of jar as well. If blemished, don’t use for canning! I wouldn’t recommend using ’em for fermenting either.
The old glass lids are heavy-duty! I’ve discovered more broken jar mouths than I have blemishes in the old lids. A tiny nick or ding on the topside of a lid isn’t such a big issue, but should there be large chips taken from the glass (pictured below), do not use for canning! Thoroughly inspect the edges and underside where seal will be resting. If cracks or chips are found, don’t use ’em for canning!
Cleaning ‘Em Up…
Upon bringing your examined prize home, I recommend washing ’em up by hand for two reasons: 1) a dishcloth will often snag on hairline cracks your fingers couldn’t find and 2) they are often dirty from sitting in a garage or basement and need a good wipe down! The jar pictured below (the worst I’ve seen) has rust spots from an old canning band and needs more cleaning than a wipe down can offer.
A toothbrush does wonders for getting at the fine angles of your treasure. In some cases you’ll discover that abrasive materials are your best friend! Steel wool, sand or baking soda will help remove the built up residue. It takes time! Keep reminding yourself of the end result: you’ll have a canning set to be proud of!
If you have found glass jars and glass lids, you’ve made it! V-I-C-TO-R-T-Y! From here on (thanks to the Canadian homesteaders) you’ve got the Canadian companies on your side!
Metal Screw On Bands
You’ll have to purchase a separate size of band for your Gem jars! Not only are both standard and wide mouth bands the wrong size in diameter, but they are too short for the tall threads of the vintage jars!
Yes, we need to chat about vintage bands! You may be able to find the old 78mm vintage bands that are made of zinc. These are lovely, antique-like, and add to the charm visually (oh my yes!). Designed for the glass lid and thick rubber ring, their height will amaze you.
But…should you be unable to source ’em, there are new & currently manufactured 78mm bands intended for use with tin lids. These new bands would not be in production if it wasn’t for the insistence of the Canadian Homesteader! If you love history and haven’t read that story in Part 1, do so now! These new band works with both the tin and glass lid, while the vintage band works only with glass.
If you can’t find the wide-threaded old canning bands, trot down to your local HomeHardware store and buy a box of the 78mm GEM lids with the canning bands! The practice of selling both within the same box is a common. If unavailable, try ordering a lid/band set in. You won’t need very many as bands should always be removed from freshly canned goods once they have cooled and sealed.
You are almost set up for canning! The only thing left is the rubber seal. These can be bought newly packaged off the shelf of any HomeHardware store in western Canada. Go in and pick ’em up! If perchance your local store doesn’t carry these fruit jar rings, they can order ’em in for you. Shucks, you can even order these online from your home and the hardware store will call you when they arrive!
The necessary items collected, the safety steps covered, scrubbing and sterilizing complete…its time to do some canning!
Join me next week for Part 3-Preserving the Harvest!