Weck: Fancy Pants Canning Jars

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

Since the harvest season has got underway I’ve been doing quite a bit of canning. Canning in a small, claustrophobic apartment kitchen can get a little gnarly at times but I actually enjoy the process quite a bit. I feel like I’m getting one over The Man with every jar that seals. I always appreciate the effort come winter and have been surprised to find myself sitting on the floor on more than one occasion fondling the multi-colored jars of this and that tucked into the bottom shelves of a kitchen cupboard. As a kid I never could have dreamed it would come to this. That so many years later I would become someone who grows food AND puts food by. And who understands the meaning of the term. And uses it in sentences. I haven’t reached that hyper-perfectionist Fall Fair level yet but I can see giving it a go one day in the future. For the kicks!

My first forays into canning began about a decade or so ago with dill pickles and has since expanded into chutneys, jams, jellies, ketchup, salsa and just about anything that is safe to preserve in a regular boiling-water-bath canner. I don’t have a pressure canner but I’ve found myself day dreaming about getting one recently. I just don’t know where on earth I would put it! The big canning kettle is taking up enough space as it is.

This year I decided to splash out and buy some fancy canning jars. Why are all of the standard hardware store brands so UGLY? I especially dislike the cluster of fruit motif stuck on most small 1/4 pint jelly jars. You can cover the lids but those designs are debossed right into the glass. Any proper home canning jar will get the job done but aesthetically pleasing jars are just a little bit more satisfying to behold.

And so I looked around for the prettiest jars I could find, settling on a couple of boxes of expensive but gorgeous German made Weck jars. And they are gorgeous. But boy are they hard to come by. I was only able to find them online at Lehman’s, a store that sells all sorts of incredible old fashioned gadgetry. The catalogue is really fun to browse. Just yesterday I found myself getting excited about a bottle capper even though I don’t drink soda. It caps bottles! Imagine that.

Anyways, back to the Weck jars. The frugal in me refused to chance expensive shipping rates and so I tried looking around locally for a time instead. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything in the city but when I went back to place an order canning season was already in full swing and they had sold out of some of the sizes and shapes I had hoped for. Lesson #1: Get your canning supplies WAY before canning season starts. Every year I say I will do this and then every year I underestimate how much I will need when the time comes which inevitably leads me to run out to my local hardware store where they have jacked up the rates preying on desperate canners and where the selection is down to the tackiest jar designs. Lord I am picky.

In the end I managed to purchase 4- 1 litre deco jars and 4- 1/2 litre tulip jars. I really wanted the petite jars for my jellies but only now realize that Lehman’s had them in stock but I overlooked it on the site. Dang it!

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

My jars arrived yesterday afternoon. They really are beautiful. My first thought was to determine what was good enough for them. They’re so special and I only have a few. I wanted my inaugural canning session with them to be something special that will be best suited to the shape and size. The goal of canning couldn’t be more practical yet I’ve gone and shifted it into the realm of vanity making what goes in the jars less important than what looks GOOD in the jars. That’s one step closer to anal retentive Fall Fair ribbon winner.

I eventually decided to try canning up another batch of heirloom tomatoes in the larger 1 litre jar. I figured that the rich color and simple pear shape of ‘Japanese Black Trifele’ Tomato would be beautiful through the glass, matching the curves of the jar. I also thought it best to do my trial run with something I’ve got some experience with so I can make comparisons. I have some fidgety old blue glass Masons that I’ve been using for years but the Weck system is still a bit different. There is no screw lid. The entire jar is glass, including the lid. It is sealed with a rubber gasket which is held in place with two metal clips throughout the heat processing steps. The clips are then removed once a vacuum seal has been created inside the jar, leaving you with a very sleek and simple shape devoid of any metal that can potentially rust on the shelf.

The canning procedure wasn’t unlike canning with old glass Mason jars but it was a bit trickier. I found the shape of the jars and the lids harder to pick up with my standard jar lifting equipment. The jar mouths are a lot wider, which is great for cleanly getting food into the jar but not so great for lifting. The deco shaped jar was especially difficult because it did not have a real lip for the jar lifter to grab onto. The jars did not fit into my standard size rack so there was a lot of worried fumbling with jar lifters and tongs getting the jars into and out of the hot water bath. Like the vintage glass Mason jars I found it difficult to determine if a proper seal has been achieved. With no two part metal system to make that familiar POP, you can only really go on intuition, the position of the rubber lip (which should face down) and the strength of the lid once the clips are removed.

For those reasons I would not suggest these jars for beginners but I think the smaller petite jars would be easier to manage. Still, if you’re new to canning and are nervous about safety I would recommend sticking to the metal lid jars. And if you’re an intermediate or advanced canner the only other issue is the prohibitively expensive cost. I figure I will have to can with these every year for the rest of my life to get real value from them. Canning isn’t just about saving money but that’s certainly a pretty big factor and at over $6.00 a jar plus shipping these are not what I would consider a frugal or thrifty choice. They would make nice gifts although I have to say I think I will be saving these for myself.

What foods are you putting up this year?

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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34 thoughts on “Weck: Fancy Pants Canning Jars

  1. You can pick up way cheaper bottle-cappers locally at wine making stores or Magnotta Winery stores ($10 – $25). And you can get the caps there too – even for use on twist-off beer bottles. Maybe an interesting way to can syrups?

  2. We actually have a bottle capper, as my husband makes beer, but it’s not as nice as that one! Those are beautiful jars! I’m definitely in the just beginning category, so I just bought some regular jars and metal lids the other day. I just need a proper jar lifter now!

  3. Liz: Do get yourself a jar lifter. Juggling jars with a pair of tongs and boiling hot water can really bring down the whole experience.

    iwouldn’tlivethere: Canning syrups. yes. Did you see the Weck juice jars? I considered them but didn’t have plans. They’re just so pretty.

  4. These are so adorable! Now that I’ve figured out that planting determinant tomatoes is probably the way to actually be able to can something, I’m all jazzed about trying it next year. I’ll remember this post when it comes time for jar ordering!

  5. Pear ginger preserves, peach freezer jam, apple butter, applesauce, fig ginger jam. Next is Pear Honey. My favorite purchase this year is the lid lifter!
    I was enchanted by the Ball Elite jars, as they are so different shaped. They won’t fit in the canner! I may have to take out the rack and use a dishtowel in there. I can’t find my Weck jars. I love canning jars in any shape or form, and I collect old ones.

  6. Those jars really are gorgeous, growing up I always thought the big clunky jars we canned in were ugly but I know come winter we sure were glad to have such fine food avaiable. I still remember once when a friend stayed the night my mother had prepared some of our canned tomatoes and my friend thought they were the best on Earth, we made it a point the next year to have her try one fresh heh I think we made a gardener for life in that moment.

    Also does anyone have any good recipes for making jams or jelly very low in sugar?

  7. *Sigh* those are very beautiful jars (I’m with you on that whole embossed-flower issue). There are a few antique stores that have an old jar here and there with the old fashioned glass lids, but the only place I’ve seen them sold new is Lehman’s. How was the shipping experience with them? I’ve been eyeing their stoneware fermenting crocks (for saurkraut! to then be canned) but fear the across-the-border shipping costs for one of those suckers…

  8. I think preserves made from your garden’s harvest deserve the best glass jars and you can reuse them again and again for many seasons to come. A wise investment.

    This evening I bought The Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving, partly because of reading your post earlier today. I quickly flipped through its 400+ pages and it looks like an excellent reference. I still haven’t decided which recipes to try…although just now I opened the page to Pear Mincement which sounds quite yummy.

  9. We always, always grow far too many tomatoes to eat, cook or give away. ;-)

    We’ve made chutneys in the past. I always feel a little bit of a thrill getting my own jar of chutney out of the fridge when I’m making a sandwich (maybe admitting that puts me in the running to win the Fall Fair ribbon…).

    This year we’re growing some Principe Borgheses to try sun drying. I think I’d also like to make some basic tomato pasta sauce with some of our other tomatoes, and of course, more chutney.

  10. Ciao Gayla-

    I know how you totally dislike being compared to Martha, but did you know that Weck jars have always been her favourite? Now, I can see why..they fit right in with her high-end Connecticut budget. You are too funny, Gayla. I predict I’ll be seeing your canned goods at the Royal this year. With rounds of gingham fabric cut with pinking shears on the lids. And raffia bows. And home-made labels.

    Now you may not like the style of Bernardin jars. Personally, I’m too practical to give it much thought, which is probably why my abode is almost devoid of artwork. But, the frugal in you might like to know that Value Village oftentimes has individual jars for 25-50c each. I give my canned stuff as presents, so I look there to replace the jars I give away.

  11. They’re beautiful jars, but since I got my jars for free from my mother and my grandmother, and I can get good ol’ Mason jars for a nickel at rummage sales or free with one particular brand of spaghetti sauce, I’ll be sticking with good ol’ Mason jars, unless I want something fancy for gift-giving.

  12. I canned for the first time this year. I made 5 pints of pickled beets.

    I must be doing something wrong because it was the most annoying process ever. Everything has to come together at the right moment. The jars are supposed to be kept heated right until you fill them, the lids have to be heated for 10 minutes prior to filling, the beets have to be heated, then everything canned.

    I had every pot in the house in use because not one of them was big enough to hold all 5 pint jars. The canner itself while enormous doesn’t quite fit them either. I had to fill it to the rim to get the water to cover the jars and they do stay sitting properly in the rack (they knock together).

    It was really frustrating and I really wanted this to be something I enjoyed.

    Any tips for keeping jars hot until filling? If I could make that part easier, I’d be a happy cammper.

  13. Keep the jars in the canning pot until you’re ready to fill them. Fill every one of them and THEN put them ALL back into the canner at once. That’s something they never tell you to do but trust me, I’ve been canning for 30 years and it won’t fail you to do it that way.

  14. Jen: I do the same thing Sorellina mentioned… keep them in the warm water right until you go to fill. I pull them out 1 or 2 at a time. I have also tried putting them in an oven set to the lowest temperature but I find that unnecessary and just one more thing to juggle.

    Another tip: Use smaller jars. The biggest I go is a pint jar now since the larger jars don’t fit well in my canner either and I have a big pot that is supposed to accommodate 7 jars… it fits 7 pint jars perfectly and anything smaller than a pint. The Weck jars are wider and therefore much less accommodating. Smaller jars are just easier anyways and I find they are a good portion size.

    It does get easier but the first time is always the hardest. Don’t give up!

  15. Bridget: Actually the shipping was reasonable because they sent GROUND which was supposed to take 4-6 weeks but ended up just showing up on my doorstep far before that. I would order from them again.

  16. I love canning…mostly dill pickles and jam. I always end up canning on the warmest day of the summer which is terrible. I also tend to burn the crap out of myself (I am very clumsy) but I love to do it. Those jars are beautiful!

  17. I have gazed at these jars and longed for the skill to use them. I am using the basic ones and canning tomato sauce and relish – but I feel great giving them away.

  18. I actually went on a canning spree this year… I’ve done 3 types of strawberry jam, blueberry, raspberry, cherry and blackberry jams.

    In the veggie category I did tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, bruschetta, oven-dried tomatoes, gherkins.

    Last night I put up a couple quarts of homemade chicken stock, and I have a few more to do when I get home from work tonight.

    This weekend we’re doing some carrots and beets too fresh from the garden. Once those are done that should be it for the year.

    I find that during the process it’s not that enjoyable (what with the heat and mess), but afterwards when you look at it all it just feels so rewarding and worthwhile!

  19. Wow, those are pretty! So far I’ve canned an assortment of pickles, peaches, and made this huge dill crock (which has turned out quite tasty). This weekend or early next week I am making pear butters. Hopefully in a couple weeks I will do canned tomatoes, ketchup, possibly spaghetti sauce.

    Happy canning!

  20. I just got the October issue of Bon Appetit and they have a section on canning! They found some cute jars I might look into for next season. Although they look just as pricey as the ones you found. The link is really long, but just search “jars” on the Sur la Table website. They are made by Leifheit.

  21. Renee: Thanks for mentioning those! They were on my list to get and then I got focussed on the Weck jars and forgot. I like those because they are stylish and have the metal lids.

  22. I canned strawberry jam, 3 kinds of salsa, and tomatoes. I hope to do peaches, but I think I may be too late for the peach season here in Wisconsin. I am doing applesauce in a couple of weeks (love my inlaws’ “orchard” for as many apples as I can handle:)

  23. Great jars, Gayla! I’ve been canning tomatoes & soups.

    Jen: I will put my jars, lids, etc in the dishwasher and put it on the “dry” setting. The thing fills with steam and keeps everything heated until I need to use them.

  24. Oh Gayla, so beautiful these are! I was gifted last night with 2 boxes of canning jars, some old, some blue glass, and I’m just in awe of their beauty. To think these would make my heart swoon, well, I would never have thought it a few years ago. I’ve been canning jams, preserves, salsa and tomato sauce this year. It’s a whole new world.

    Your jars are lovely.

  25. It’s winter here in Australia, and we just ate some of last summer’s canned tomatoes for dinner yum yum. I put up tomatoes (plain and sauce) and jam (2 types of plum, quince, apricot, raspberry and blackberry). Plus we can apricots, some with cointreau for when the kids aren’t interested in dessert! I use Australian Fowler’s jars, straightsided with metal lids. I found two dozen more jars dumped in a rubbish collection last summer – talk about free food! The canning process is a pain, but I reckon it’s totally worth it to have beautiful local food stashed away.

  26. Ciao all-

    With all the bountiful nasturtiums in my garden this year, I decided to make nasturtium flower jelly with my favourite colour this year, Salmon Caribbean Cocktail. It turned out quite lovely and it has a delicate watercress flavour that I think will be very good with cream cheese and chives.

  27. I’ve been putting up little bits of things here and there this year. I did some poor man’s capers (from nasturtiums), pickles and mixed vegetable pickles in crocks/gallon jars, pickled beets (and then pickled eggs from the pickled beet juice after emptying a jar), oven roasted tomato sauce, “banana” pickles (a sweet yellow cucumber pickle), pickled green beans, mixed asian pickle (zukes, cukes, daikon), applesauce…
    Harvest season is so overwhelming! It sounds like I’ve done a lot, but most of it was small batches and some things were just frozen. There’s SO much more to be done! ::sigh:: I really need to ditch the over-time job so I can focus on my dear domestic pursuits!

  28. I canned for the first time ever this year. Granted, I couldn’t shake the fear that first-timers probably all have (ack! botulism ack!), but I ignored the nervousness and pickled pepperoncini peppers. And ketchup. I used 5 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and a recipe from the Bernardin canning book that Elaine mentioned. Bliss!!! Homemade ketchup is so good, that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat the commercial stuff again. Seriously.

  29. I am definitely a novice canner — I just made my first batch of Texas peach jam, and it turned out wonderfully — which of course got me thinking about all of the wonderful things I could make and then put up. For example, I have a basil plant that is growing like gangbusters on my porch, and I love making (read: eating) fresh pesto. Is it safe to can pesto, even though the recipe calls for parmesan cheese? I also have a glut of Meyer lemons and would love to put up some homemade lemon curd, but that involves eggs. Is that safe to can? Pardon the wordplay, but what can you can, and what can’t you…can? :)

  30. Erin: Anything with oil in it is not safe for a regular canner. I’m not sure about lemon curd but I don’t know anyone who does it so I would guess not safe. just freeze the pesto.

  31. Usually with lemon curd you make it in small batches and keep it in the fridge. Best used up within 6 weeks or so. My mother usually makes it and gives me some, but since my chickens have been laying frantically I might try my hand at it this year.

  32. I found my 1/5 liter little Weck jars my sister gave me and canned five jars of pear butter. they fit OK in the canner rack. I am a little nervous about the seals. The hardest part was getting the glass lids out of the hot water.

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