Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Weck Jars - Revisited


Quite some time ago, I wrote a post about Weck canning jars and my love/hate relationship with them.  We bought a pallet (literally) of Weck jars in 1998 and used them exclusively until 2010.  I loved many features that the Weck jars had to offer, such as reusable rubber gaskets and shapes that lent themselves to easy cleaning and filling.  Although I loved a lot of things about the Weck jars, two complaints made me reconsider using them.  The first was not a deal breaker, but definitely a consideration.  They are larger in diameter than standard American canning jars, which limited me to canning 8 liters at a time in my pressure canner rather than 14 quarts.  This may not seem like a deal breaker, but when you are in full-on production canning at the end of a long, hot summer, it can be enough to make one wish for the tried and true Ball and Kerr jars of our Grandmothers.  But, by far, my biggest complaint was the Weck sealing failure rate.  On average, when pressure canning, I would have a sealing failure rate of 40%!  Water bath canning faired better, with only about 20% of my jars failing to seal.  Even this was unacceptably high, especially compared with a near zero percent failure rate in Ball and Kerr canning jars.

Over the past year, I have accumulated a number of American canning jars, and have invested in Tattler reusable canning lids.  I have been perfectly content with my return to old fashioned American canning - only briefly sighing in disappointment when gazing upon my beautiful Weck jars.  While eminently practical, the Ball and Kerr jars leave something to be desired in their aesthetic appeal.  The Weck jars are just so beautiful!  They feed this romantic soul of mine.

Yesterday, a friend blessed me with two large boxes of green beans ready to be prepared and preserved in jars.  I love to can my beans whole, so I sent the kids out to get as many wide mouth jars as they could find.  Much to my chagrin, they came back into the shouse with about 9 wide mouth jars.  Knowing that would never do, I sent them back to search out more jars.  The report was desperate - we had no more wide mouth jars!  You just can't can whole green beans in a regular jar - if you got them in, you would never get them out - and I couldn't bear the thought of cutting up all of my lovely beans.  In desperation, Master Hand Grenade suggested the Weck 1 liter Tulip jars.  "We have a ton of these Mom - would they work?"  There is no better jar to can whole green beans than the 1 liter Tulip.  The mouth is positively huge and they are just the right height.  Remembering that a reader had suggested using the clamps differently than I had previously, I thought to throw all caution to the wind and pressure can the beans in my beautiful Weck jars.

Filling jars
Everybody helps
We snipped ends, washed and packed green beans.  Everybody worked together and we quickly filled 28 liter (or quart) jars to the brim with fresh green beans.  After capping off the Ball jars, I turned my attentions to the Weck jars.  I sandwiched the gasket between the lid and the jar and carefully placed three clamps on each jar.  Rather than seating the clamps hard against the surface of the jar, I eased each clamp down over the rim but not tight to the jar.  The idea in this is the clamp will allow the air to be expelled from the jar rather  than spitting the gasket out, ending in a failed seal.  First, I processed the Ball jars, and of course, they came out perfectly.  Next, the Weck jars filled my canner.  After the processing was complete and the canner had cooled, I cautiously lifted the lid and inspected the jars.  All four jars on the top rack had sealed.  Lifting the rack off the other jars revealed another four perfectly sealed jars!  Eureka!  It worked.  Every jar had sealed.  I put another batch of jars on to process and they, too, sealed wonderfully.

Properly clamped
Weck jars full of beans and jam
Jam is in the Deco jars (belly pots)
Twelve years - lost to ignorance!  I cannot believe that I missed something so obvious and caused a huge amount of loss of our canned goods in the process.  And, if that wasn't bad enough, I mistakenly blamed the jars when it was, in fact, user error.  Sir Knight always says that you have to be 10% smarter than any tool to use it.  I guess I failed that one!  I am so thankful that one of you wonderful folks took the time to set me straight.

Anyway, I wholeheartedly recommend Weck canning jars.  They are beautiful, they are tremendously easy to wash (you can fit your hand in them to scrub them out) and they stack very nicely.  The rubber gaskets are reusable (I used mine for 12 years) and they have convenient plastic lids that snap tightly on the jars once you have opened them.  Weck jars come in a variety of shapes.  I love the Tulip jars for beans, veggies and meat.  The Deco jars (I call them "belly pots") are perfect for jam, jellies and lemon curd.  They also have juice jars (both 1 liter and 1/2 liter) which are lovely on the table and the plastic lid makes them nice to put in the fridge with your leftover juice in them.  We bought our jars from Glashaus (you get a price break when you buy a pallet load) and they also carry extra gaskets, clamps and plastic lids.  For our friends in Canada, your Weck jar souce is WeckCanada.  Glashaus carries an electric canner specifically made for Weck jars, if you are inclined to use electricity.


Ball and Kerr jars are an American institution.  They are reliable and easily obtained.  With the advent of Tattler lids, Ball and Kerr are an economical canning choice.  If you have a little extra money to spend and want a jar with a glass lid rather than metal or plastic, then Weck is the way to go.

30 comments:

  1. I really like the look of the Weck jars and the reuseability of their seals. I have a few Tattler lids (thanks to you and Patrice recommending them). When I can afford to I would like to pick up some Weck jars though, as well as a whole LOT of Tattler lids.

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  2. I have never seen jars that looked like that before! I just stumbled upon your blog, it looks like I have another blog to follow! :)

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  3. Curious how you would check seal besides pulling up on the lid.

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  4. great looking jars! I also invested this year in the Tattler lids and was lucky enough to find a 50% off sale for the Ball jars, so I'm pretty much set for now.

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  5. Thanks for the tip! The Wecks do look like they would be easy to work with. I'd never heard of them before.

    I've been putting just about everything in Ball jars lately, using the screw on lids and large jars to hold weekly amounts of wheat, rice, pasta, etc.

    The new blog design looks great! Very fresh and pretty. :)

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  6. That top picture of the love seat in front of the jars...beautiful. Excellent use of space while (in my opinion) being decorative. Love it!

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  7. Crustyrusty;
    The lids "suck" down on the jars, just like the metal lids "suck" down on ball and kerr jars. When a jar is sealed, the gasket tabs points down. It is really very slick.

    Anonymous 6:02;
    Thank you! That is actually our kitchen. The wood cookstove is on the left of the loveseat, the sink and cupboards on the right. We have a small coffee table in front of the loveseat and a rocking chair facing it. We spend all of our time in the winter sitting in front of the cook stove enjoying our cozy shouse.

    Enola

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  8. I just wanted you to clarify. Not that this matters that much in the end. So, You exclusively used Weck for 2 years? (1998-2000) In 2000 you started to use American and Weck?

    Here is my user error story. I haven't liked any towels I've bought. They didn't absorb the moisture. Then my mom once saw me do a load of laundry, and noticed I put fabric softener in my towel load. She told me that fabric softener repels water. Why didn't I know this??? I'm 27, so I've been doing this wrong for about 10 years! At home I mostly washed my clothes. I just had to laugh at myself. What more can you do? Beating myself up about it only gives me low self esteem. Jesus forgives me, so I forgive me. And this mind set and attitude is applicable to more than canning jars and towels. Take care.

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  9. Megan;
    Thanks for the heads up! I used the jars from '98 - 2010. Twelve years in all. And yes, I use both now.

    It is amazing who many things we make it through life without knowing. I found out about the fabric softener thing about ten years ago, but I hadn't know it before either. I am thankful to have gotten that information. You're right. We have to go with the information we have at the time and not kill ourselves over it. I'm just thankful to know now and move forward.

    Enola

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  10. @ CrustyRusty - when the jar seals, the tab will point down - sometimes a little, sometimes a lot - it will look like it's sticking its tongue out at you! :)

    A a second & better way to know for sure is several hours later or the next morning (I usually can at night) when the jars are fully cool, to take the clamps off and try lifting the jar a little above the counter by the lid. If you can, the jar is sealed, if the lid comes off, it did not seal and you should re-process or use right away.

    The clamps are not meant to stay on long-term; only during processing and the cool-down period.

    @ Enola Gray - I'm so sorry for your frustration!! I use Weck jars (& sell them: www.WeckCanada.ca) and have never had one fail - but I was told upfront about needing extra clamps for pressure canning. :/

    I'm glad the three clamps work; personally I tend to use four, especially on the larger-mouth jars, but I like to be extra cautious. :)

    And it's not as though those clamps are "gone" - I can re-use them on the next batch the next day! :)

    Thanks for the post! And beautiful pictures!

    (: Sydney :)

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  11. My grandmother had a boatload of all-glass jars,with a red rubber gasket and integral metal bail to seal/hold the glass lid down. Some were blue, others clear, some looked greenish to me. Iwas told,later on, that these things were older than Time,but you could still get the gaskets locally(in the 1980s anyway). Other than the gaskets,there wasn't much that would ever need replacing.

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  12. Enola, Your canning work in those Weck jars is also a beautiful art!

    I understand perfectly about making the MAX use of jar capacity in your pressure canner when in production mode! For that sole matter of sizing the pot to maximize processing, when I am using all Mason Ball pint canning jars, I opted to invest in another prepping tangible I rush ordered and had delivered of a 941 All American Pressure cooker and canner to add to my arsenal of processing equipment.
    The canner's larger diameter base will require me to sit it over two close set burners, or one large propane burner.
    But, that still leaves me with 2 another burners to run a second or third canner simultaneously. Now I can process in it at max capacity - 41 1/2 Quarts (Liquid),
    32 Pint Jars, or 19 Quart Jars
    Inside diameter - 15 1/4 inches
    Inside Height - 14 1/4 inches
    Overall Height - 19 inches

    And with the simultaneous use of one or two of the 925 AA Canners,(which I already have and have been using for 25 plus years without any product failures)
    it's full capacity is - 25 Quarts (Liquid),
    19 Pint Jars, or 7 Quart Jars
    Inside diameter - 12 5/8 inches
    Inside Height - 11 7/8 inches
    Overall Height - 16 3/4 inches
    * The Jar capacities are based on using round regular or wide mouth standard Mason jar sizes.

    When you calculate the cost of your time versus the canner, My precious time won hands down!
    I can get more done and also take advantage of the use of the freshest out the garden harvests.

    I don't know about you Enola, but no matter how I try to plan to time stagger plant my harvest for when I am ready in the kitchen to put them up and away, God has a tendency to give them ripened to me when He wants! And, that's usually all at one time!

    We're battening down the hatches in preps for the incoming hurricane. That meant I had to go pick everything that was ripe enough to process today and get it all canned BEFORE the wind whips all the plants and fruit trees and hurls the produce across the fields.


    notutopia

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  13. What a delightful post. I cannot really get past how beautiful all the photos are. The children helping makes me think upon when mine were younger.

    Love the information, and now am going to do some searching on my own!

    Thanks
    Jennifer

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  14. your "user error" problems made me think of patrice learning the ins and outs of the tattler lids....several years ago, during a huge canning marathon we came up short on our jars...seems i was the only person in the county who still canned in mass quanities..but, no one threw out their jars..i went through many a barn and storage shed that summer looking for jars..and wow did i ever find some too...several treasure troves!

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  15. I enjoyed this post a lot because my husband always says things that dont work are operator error instead of user error. I get annoyed at that but it is usually/almost alway true.
    I used the tattler lids for the first time the other day and I made sure to find out exactly how to use them because I had heard of failure rates with them. I love the weck jars and maybe someday I can try those as well.
    Thank you for sharing your life with us.
    debbieo

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  16. I had never heard of Weck jars or Tattler lids until I ran across your site. Thanks for the info. My mother and grandmother have used Ball jars exclusively for as long as I can remember. They used to be cheap, but this year the price has gone through the roof (almost $10 a box). I would recommend anyone anticipating canning in the future should stock up on jars now. With all this crazy weather we're having, you never know when your electricity will go out and you might need to can what's in your freezer.

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  17. I have been using Tattler and have been very happy with them. I love that they are BPA free. Thanks for this post.

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  18. I found your post and loved it-am I understanding correctly that your 40% failure rate was with using only 2 clamps? I spoke with someone at Weck last week and he recommended using 3 or 4. Re: space in the canner, have you looked at the weck cylinder jars? Tall and narrow, I'm tempted to completely go that route. I will be ordering my jars this week-I was wondering if you could clarify about setting the clamp on but not tightly, I am not quite clear as to what you mean and don't want to fail. My husband is over-exposed to BPA at work, and I have three boys that I don't want to give any more toxins to than necessary, so the glass lids are very appealing to me.

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    1. Our failure rate was due to clamping the clamps too tightly on the jar. We found that 3 or 4 clamps definitely work better than two, but our biggest problem was pushing the clamps all of the way onto the jar. If you look closely at the pictures, it will show you how the clamps should be positioned in order to ensure proper sealing. Hope that helps!

      Enola

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  19. Enola, when I attempt to loosely clamp my jars, the clamps snap into place . . .but judging by your photo, it's how I've always clamped my Wecks. (I have a low failure rate but only use the Wecks in to water bath). I'm canning this weekend in the pressure canner and thought I'd give the Wecks a try, but of course, want to ensure I'm clamping correctly.

    When you place your clamps, are they snapping into place?

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  20. Thank you for this very informative post!!

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  21. My understanding has been that the rubber gaskets are single use. It makes sense, and because I only use mine once, I have a failure rate of nil. I have gone all year with only a single failure, and it was because the gasket sucked too far into the vacuum, creating a leak. That was my own failure for not resting the gasket properly in the groove on the lid before placing both on the hot jar. Gaskets are in expensively replaced each season, and I only buy about as many as I expect to use. Real rubber. Unstable over time.

    As a rule, I boil my glass lids in a small bath alongside the jars, and just about half a minute before I'm ready to place the lid, I drop a gasket in the same sauce pan and then pick them up together with sterile silicone tongs, arrange the gasket on the edge of the lid and quickly set them on the CLEAN jar. No finger tips allowed. Then TWO clips, no more. That's because I want to be sure the maximum amount of air can escape in the bath as it's displaced by steam without the clips interfering. This is opinion, only, but I strongly suspect more clips cause the pressurized escaping air forces the gasket to bulge out if it is constricted by too many clips.

    I suspect your massive failure rate is caused by a combination of re-using gaskets and too many clips.

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  22. My shipment just arrived of Weck jars. I got the smaller cyclinder jars, the small tulip jars and the smallest mini mold ones. My one complaint is that the cyclinder ones have imperfections on the glass like it was blown unevenly or something. Did ask about imperfections and was told this is normal. Just wondering if any of your jars were uneven. Also I was told for pressure canning you need 4 clamps. My will be used for bath and body products which I make.

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    1. Michelle;
      I haven't noticed any of my jars being uneven or having blemishes and imperfections. I mostly have the Deco and Tulip jars - I don't have any of the cylinder jars. I use 4 clamps for all of my canning and now that I know how to clamp them properly I have very few failures. They will be perfect for bath and body products! They are beautiful.
      Enola

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    2. Enola,

      Thanks, thinking it's just with the cyclinder jars. I'm looking forward to using mine.

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  23. @Michelle--I ordered several Weck jars this summer and many had what I would call defects. I called Weck and they said that it is normal and can not be prevented. She said it is the nature of glass. Well, time will tell. If they break, then I will call Weck and let them know that those were defects. Mine had clusters of bubbles and double seams on 1 side of the jar. I think that companies that makes glass items, do not have quality in mind like they used to. Such a shame!

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  24. Can I ask a somewhat foolish question? how do you use the Weck jars for storage of dried goods - i.e. how do you get a seal if the contents aren't hot to begin with? I've seen people store grains and even coffee beans in the jars, but i can't figure out how they get them airtight...

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  25. @Shelley From what I have seen on the internet, people just use the clamps to keep the jars closed when storing dried goods.

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  26. Some people use jars to warm up dry goods in oven at 200 then put lid on. It vacume seals a little bit. I don't do this yet but a lot of people dry can goods like flour, salt, rice, pasta. I love my Wecks!

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  27. Some people use jars to warm up dry goods in oven at 200 then put lid on. It vacume seals a little bit. I don't do this yet but a lot of people dry can goods like flour, salt, rice, pasta. I love my Wecks!

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