I know it’s the dead of winter, but I’m already thinking about gardening. I just sent away for more seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds than I will be able to plant unless I expand my garden again this year. This means I’m also thinking about canning.
This is kind of a long story, but last spring, my generous neighbor, owner of two very old and prolific rhubarb plants, told me I could go over and take as much rhubarb as I wanted. So I started doing some research about rhubarb treats besides pie, crumble and my usual rhubarb jam. I was inspired by the story in the New York Times recipe for strawberry rhubarb compote (even though I’m usually a rhubarb purist) and I also came upon this one: Rhubarb Shrub at Wellpreserved.ca, a preserving site based out of Canada. It turns out that Shrub (which is fruit juice with apple cider vinegar and sugar) is amazing (I also made one with peaches) and I would highly recommend you try it.
Right now you’re probably asking, what does this all have to do with Mason jars vs. Weck? A link from the shrub recipe (seriously, you should try shrub) lead to a rhubarb cordial recipe (rhubeena) at Hungry Tigress. The post featured a photo of the cordial in some simple carafes that she used for preserving it. The Weck label is clearly visible on the jars, and I immediately wanted some of them.
Internet searches and price
comparisons ensued. I ended up ordering two sets of jars from six of the canning bottles, and six of the wide mouth one-cup jars from Kaufmann
The Weck jars are beautiful objects. They are thick glass but have a nice proportion of thickness to weight. The glass lids have a nice feel to them. But when I began to think about actually using them to can and preserve things, doubts crept in. Could I really switch from my beloved Mason jars to fancy Weck? (Just a note to clarify – I use the name Mason to mean Ball, Mason and Kerr since they are all now made by the same company Jarden Home Brands).
The answer, in short, is NO, for the following reasons:
1. Cost: Weck jars are expensive. I paid $29.90 (free shipping!) for six wide-mouth half-pint jars. Though Ball/Mason doesn’t seem to make this type of jar anymore (unfortunately) you can get 12 half-pint wide mouth Kerr jars from Amazon for $10.49. Even the “Elite Platinum” line from Ball costs $5.72 for 4 half-pint jars. Granted, neither Ball/Mason nor Kerr make anything similar to the carafe/jar that Weck makes.
2. Availability: I had to order the Weck jars on the Internet. Though this is convenient in many ways, I know that I can pretty much always go to my local hardware or grocery store and get Ball/Mason jars - in many different sizes. I also know it’s really easy to find the flat lids and rings at my local hardware store.
3. Convenience and re-use: I use Mason jars a lot in my kitchen. I have a drawer full of flat lids and rings and a cupboard full of jars of different sizes that I use every day to store food - in the freezer, the fridge and the cupboard. Although the glass lids feel nice, I had a picture in my head of being in the middle of a steamy water processing session, and dropping one of those nice glass lids on my tile floor where it would shatter into many pieces – something that could never happen with a mason jar lid. I also figured that I would at some point lose at least one if not several of the metal clips that hold the lids on. You need at least two per jar to hold them on securely. Without them, you basically just have a nice juice glass.
4. Usability: This is the category where Mason truly surpassed Weck. Part of it is because all of my tools – jar lifter, lid lifter and canning racks – were purchased with Mason jars in mind. For example, even though I really appreciate the shape and visual appeal of the wide mouth Weck jars, it was really difficult to handle them with my jar lifter and one hand (which I can easily do with the Mason jars) and lift them in and out of the boiling water bath. I actually dropped and spilled one of the Weck jars on it's way to the canner.
I also had a difficult time with the seals and lids. All of the Weck jars have a flat rubber ring with a tab, a glass top and two metal clips that hold the lid on until the jar is processed and sealed. They promote this system as one that it’s easier to tell if the jar is correctly sealed – you simply undo the clips and try to lift off the glass lid. If you can’t take it off, it is sealed. The problem with this is that it’s actually difficult to align the rubber ring on the rim of the jar and place the lid correctly so that it will seal properly. In a few cases, the rubber ring slipped when I was putting the clips on, and I had to take everything off, wipe the jar rim again and try again. I did get the few jars I processed to seal correctly, but I was very unsure about it. If there’s one thing you want to make sure of during the canning process, it’s doing everything that you can so that your jars seal properly so you don’t have to process them again, or worst case, your food spoils and you make someone sick.
For example, in this photo, you can see where the seal isn’t quite over the edge on one side of the jar. This jar DID seal properly, but I don’t know how close it came to not sealing. I never have issues with Mason jars sealing correctly as long as I use new lids each time and make sure to wipe the jar rims.
One thing that is easier with the Weck jars is unsealing them whenever you are ready to eat whatever is inside. To unseal the jar, you simply pull the tab on the rubber ring and the lid pops off. This is actually easier than it is with Mason jars where I usually have to get a can opener or something to break the seal and pry the lid off.
Even though I like the look of the Weck jars, good looks is simply not enough for me. I’m going to stick with my Mason jars for their versatility, usability and economy.