Pickling jars, typically used for pickling or preserving food, come in various types and sizes. Mason jars and Ball jars are two very popular types. Lightening jar and Atlas jars come in as a close second in popularity. Each of these comes in a number of sizes and shapes, and the type of food being pickled usually dictates the proper jar to use.
Mason jars, named for their inventor, date back to the mid-1800s. These jars were the first to have threads and grooves along the rim and lid so that the lid could be screwed on and off. Prior to their invention, canners held lids fast with sealing wax, a time-consuming and often unpleasant process. In place of sealing wax, Mason jars have rubber rings that form tight seals once the lids are screwed on. These types of jars generally have wide mouths and are consequently ideal for pickling larger cucumbers or other vegetables, such as tomatoes.
Ball jars are very similar in style to Mason jars and, in fact, over time, the two have become nearly synonymous. These pickling bottles, first manufactured by the Ball brothers in the late 1800s, also have screw-on lids with rubber rings inside. The jars are generally a little thicker than the original Mason jars and are less likely to break or crack under extreme hot and cold temperatures. Some styles of Ball jars are even freezer safe.
Another popular choice among pickling bottles is the lightening jar. This particular style container has a lid that is clamped in place by a metal hinge on the outside. The lid also has a rubber ring that keeps the seal airtight. People can find this style of pickling jar in a variety of shapes and sizes. For instance, aside from the much-desired wide-mouth version, they also come in tall, thin shapes, suitable for liquids, or short, squat styles, perfect for pickled relish.
Atlas jars are also an excellent choice for pickling bottles. This particular container is very similar to a lightening jar except that the rim has a raised lip. The raised lip is designed to help prevent the bottle from cracking during the pickling and canning process.
While some canners might consider using recycled jars from grocery items as pickling bottles, it is generally not recommended. Reused jars from jelly, salad dressing, other pickles, and the like are sometimes referred to as packers’ jars. They might not form the proper seal necessary for safe and healthy canning or pickling.
Some old-time canners still use sealing wax for their pickling bottles. Although not considered necessary in light of the available styles of jars, certain individuals still use the wax to form an extra seal. The paraffin wax used for this process can be purchased at most canning supply or hardware stores.