Well, the gardening season is officially over with the early arrival of winter. Dag nab it. I’m already receiving seed catalogs for spring 2015, and only the fact that I already have more seeds than I can plant waiting for the arrival of milk jug season keeps me from thumbing through them like I just saw my first Trans Am.
Well, that’s probably not the best metaphor, since I’m not fond of the Trans Am, but it is an excellent reference to one of my all-time favorite movies, and we’ll leave it at that. The phrase does, after all, indicate the intense scrutiny and the thrill that comes with your first sight of a true love. Anyway.
As happens with growing far more food than you need to eat during the season, plenty of things had to be preserved, and I’m still not done. However, I’m stupid sick–and nothing pisses me off like wasting paid time off on being ill–so the waiting pineapple jam and quince chutney and other delicious things will be waiting a few more days.
So I guess this is the perfect time to talk about my experience with canning using clip top jars.
Now, I love me some latch top jars, and during my research into canning jars other than Jarden Incorporated products, I discovered Kilner, Weck, Le Parfait, Leifheit, Global Amici, and Bormioli Rocco. These are all brands found in the European Union. I also discovered jar wholesalers, but I don’t see myself buying a forklift’s worth of pint canning jars anytime soon, despite the fact that it would, by far, be the cheapest option. That’s okay, there’s plenty of those to be found in thrift stores.
Almost all of the above brands have some kind of latch top jar, and Weck produces jars that require clips. The similarity between the systems is pretty clear: they are all two-piece glass jars that require rubber gaskets and some kind of metal clip to create a vacuum for food storage. I found a Weck jar in the thrift store, and a vast array of Kilner latch top jars at my favorite Ace Hardware. The most immediate difference between screwtop canning jars and clip top canning jars is the price. I could’ve bought 12 new screwtop jars for the cost of one 5-ounce and one 7-ounce Kilner clip top jar. Those two jars set me back aplenty.
Well, I exaggerate, because I’m extrapolating the cost of everything I water-bath-can put into the Kilner jars instead of plain old screwtop jars. I decided that, since I just wanted to experiment with canning in this style of jar, two jars were more than enough. Most of the latch top jars that I buy in the thrift store are too big for me to use for caning. They’re better for doing things like storing dried vegetables or preserving fruits in booze.
On a trip to the local Farm and Fleet, I discovered a crap-ton of 5-ounce latch top jars by Anchor Hocking. The best thing about these jars is that they were only a $1.50 each. So I decided to buy one more brand spanking new latch top jar to see how the inexpensive Anchor Hocking compared to the expensive Kilner.
In terms of the quality of the jars themselves, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference. The metal assembly on the Kilner seems a little tougher, and that would be about it. They’re both made in China, so there’s no advantage, however you define advantage, to one manufacturing base versus another. I have to imagine that the primary reason the Kilners cost so much more is simply because they’re Kilner jars.
So, I wash them up and selected a recipe from the Kilner website. I figured British recipes should go in British jars, right? I looked for something I wanted to try, watched all the videos I could find on to water bath latch top jars, did all the math necessary to convert the recipe from metric to English measurement, cooked up the ale and onion chutney, prepped the jars, filled the jars, and processed them in accordance with the directions of the videos. The last instruction of the Kilner canning videos is to leave the jars in the water to cool down. And this is where I had my first sealing fail of … ever.
That’s right, first failed seal ever.
That would probably be more impressive if I have been a high production canner for 40 years*, but it still says something that someone who has been canning on and off over the course of two decades and never had a problem should suddenly discover that, hey, even after you finished processing it, water can still leak into the jar.
As soon as I noticed that the 7-ounce Kilner jar started to have water inflow, I took all the jars out. I moved the product from the 7 ounce jar into a half pint jar, and processed that, and that sealed nicely.
The two 5-ounce jars sealed appropriately. I’ve been watching them on my shelf for the past, oh, five weeks, and they appear to be holding the seal. The recipe calls for the chutney to rest six weeks before you eat it, so it will be interesting to eat them.
I have to admit that I was considering using my beautiful old lightning-type jars** if the Kilner clip tops worked out. The lightning jars are from the 1930s, and they close with a wire assembly. In digging around through thrift stores, I have found regular screwtop jars from the 1930s to the 1950s, and I would like to can in them. However, all the canning ladies and gentlemen I know stop using their really old jars. I’m not sure why, perhaps the expectation is that the glass has weakened. So I keep spices and dehydrated foods in those. The Kilner clip tops will join all my other latch tops and lightning jars in storing food that doesn’t need to be water bathed.
The Weck jar? It performed perfectly. So perfectly that I feel completely comfortable not even bothering to talk about what it was like to use them. If I could afford a bunch of them, I would get them and use them for special preserves. They have a lot of really pretty shapes. They would look beautiful. As I said previously, I cannot help but love the way the food looks in the jars, and the more beautiful the jar, the more beautiful the food.
*That seems like a fair place to start counting, since it was 40 years ago that I first helped my mother can something.
**The whole site is interesting, and I would love to obtain reproduction cathedral jars. Holy man, those are the most beautiful canning jars ever.