When my mother-in-law recently gave me all her old Kerr jelly jars, I knew the last thing I'd be putting in them was home-canned jams and jellies. Even though those vintage glass jars are beautiful to look at, they are very unsafe for holding preserved foods despite what Gram may tell you.
These older jelly jars with one-piece metal lids were designed to be used with paraffin which is no longer considered to be a safe method of home canning. The problem with paraffin is that it has a high rate of failure and is practically impossible to test for the quality of the seal. The USDA now recommends home-canning those preserves and jellies using a two piece lid system and processed in a hot water canning bath.
So how can you use Gram's old jelly jars? As long as the tin lid is rust free and still fits tightly, these vintage jars are fine for making freezer (not home-canned!) jams and jellies. They can also be put to use elsewhere in your home.
Refrigerated Food storage. I'm lucky that the jars I recently inherited still have clean tin lids which makes them fabulous for short term refrigerated food storage. I'm using some of these old jars for storing single serve portions of dinner leftovers, fruit and vegetable salads, and other healthy eats in the refrigerator for a quick grab-and-go meal. Remove the lids, and the jars are microwave safe for reheating.
Custard cups. During the fall and winter months, my kids eat a lot of pumpkin custard. They love the taste; I love that they are getting a full serving of vegetable, dairy, and eggs in every serving. Gram's old 4 ounce canning jars are just the right size for preparing baked custards. I use the Libby's pumpkin pie recipe on the back of the can, substituting skim milk for the cream and pouring the custard filling directly into the jars before baking.
Food prep. Vintage jelly jars are very helpful with food prep, especially when part of the prep includes preparing an assortment of chopped veggies. Old jelly jars are also a fantastic way of serving up condiments and dips at a family barbecue or holiday meal and in a pinch, can be put into use as soup and chili bowls.
For those of us who like hanging onto antique glass, these are just a few ways that our family re-purposes old canning jars into useful containers. As long as we're not using them to put up jelly or jam with a paraffin seal, these tiny treasures are safe to use.
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