How to Freeze Food in Canning Jars

Canning jars are the best way I know to avoid using plastic when freezing foods. You’ll want to use wide mouthed canning jars like the one above, that come in pint and half pint sizes. Don’t use jars with shoulders–these jars will break due to the expansion that happens when food is frozen.

Kerr and Ball jars are marked with a freeze fill line that’s about an inch below the rim. Don’t put food you intend to freeze above this line.

Avoiding plastic lids is more difficult. Two piece Ball lids have a BPA coating (which, I’ve heard that they are considering phasing out). I suppose you could use a BPA-free Tattler lid, though I haven’t tried them. For freezing I use food grade plastic lids sold by Ball. Food is not in contact with the lid, so I’m not too concerned about the plastic, though I understand that some people won’t agree. At least the lids are more easily reused than ziplock bags. It looks like Ball now has BPA free lids.

But jars won’t work for freezing a pork chop–see an interesting thread on Chowhound about this issue that Root Simple reader Peter Shirley alerted me to. Long story short: home freezing is a product of the post WWII era of plastics and refrigeration, so there’s not a lot of alternatives other than the jar option and less than optimal aluminum foil and heavy paper. It’s hard to beat the moisture retaining and freezer burn excluding properties of plastics. The plastic-free meat freezing alternative is to bring back the corner butcher shop and buy fresh.

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42 Comments

  1. Hmmm… science will have to look upon it. When I find a decent job, I’ll consider buying fresh again from a local farmer. But until then, since I live on a very tight budget, I’ll have to manage one way or another. Thanks for all the research !

  2. I love freezing in glass jars, if only because they look so awesome in the freezer. I’ve been known to open mine up just to gaze at their beauty. basking in smugness, and happy I’ll have tomatoes from my own garden even in winter. I use the plastic lids, too, without worry since I don’t fill the jars up completely.

  3. How about wrapping the meat in butcher paper and putting the whole thing in a food saver bag and doing it that way? Then the food never touches the plastic yet the plastic is keeping it from freezer burn? I have a Food Saver and it is really handy. But since I have cut way down on my meat eating I have not tried this personally.

    • Yes, I have the stainless steel ice cube trays… Love them. Just have to let them sit for 5-10 minutes to soften so you can crack it.

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  5. Thank you for reminding us not to freeze in jars with shoulders, even narrow ones. Been there, cleaned up a lot of glass. If I’m freezing something largely water (soup, broth) which expands greatly when frozen, I fill the jar and set it in the freezer without a lid until it is nearly solid, because on occasion I’ve found a wide-mouth jar cracked in the freezer. Since they hadn’t been overfilled, I have to assume that I put the lid on too tight and whatever air was in the airspace above the broth could not vent.

    Regarding Tattler lids: I splurged on several dozen to try them out and so far I have used them for water-bath canning and they work like champs. (Will try them with pressure canning soon.) They are indeed BPA free, but they bear the recyclable “7″, which is supposed to be a problematic plastic for other reasons. Nonetheless, I was pleased with their performance. One note: if you, like me, listen for the satisfying “ping” of your canning lids and check for the depressed center to indicate sealing, you won’t get that with the Tattlers (in the old days, you didn’t get that with the zinc lids, either). What I do is after processing I remove the ring, carefully grasp the sealed jars by the sides of the lid and pick them up by the lid. If the seal is not complete, the lid will come off in your hand.

  6. I freeze in canning jars- all sizes- all the time- everything from soup, tomato sauce to cooked beans and nuts, flour, shredded coconut… I have only ever had one jar crack, and it was in the microwave when I was thawing it- So, I have learned to thaw slowly in microwave- 3-5 minutes on 20% power, then 2-3 on 50% and so forth.
    I figure the food does not touch the lids, and is a way better alternative to plastic.

    I just wish I had a better way to store my baked goods- breads and muffins. I do put cookies stacked in large mason jars, and pull out to pack in my kids lunches (in lunchbots tins!)

    Also, to keep my cast iron pans seasoned nicely, I keep a small bit of rag- a cut up undershirt- with oil on it in the freezer in the smallest glass canning jars. Pull it out when I start cooking. When it is time for clean up, rinse out pan with water, wipe dry, warm back up on burner or in oven, and use oiled rag to wipe down. Let it warm on the burner for a few minutes to let the oil soak in. The rag stays fresh in the freezer, and eventually I replace with new one after few months when it gets to that point. My pans all look great and cuts down on waste of paper towels (which I no longer buy- paper free in the kitchen!) or oily rags.

    • I really like that rag trick. I have cast iron, too, and also try not to use paper towels, so that leaves me with greasy rags.

    • I freeze muffins and cookies in repurposed tin boxes, the kinds that spendy tasteless “biscuits” come in at Christmas. I collect the square ones so they stack. With wax or parchment paper between the layers and a piece on top I find most things freeze well. I run a piece of masking tape around the lid if I want to freeze for more than a few weeks. No good plastic-free solution for loaves, but a tinfoil wrap inside a ziplock bag works really well. I reuse parchment, foil and ziplocks several times.

      I’m going to borrow the rag trick. Seasoning pans and draining bacon are the only things I use paper towels for these days. Well, and cleaning up cat messes.

  7. Of course, you may use the plastic storage lids in the freezer, but the caps do not provide an airtight seal. I use the canning lids/flats with the canning rings for a seal that will not allow air to get into the jar in the freezer. The rubber seal is what makes it airtight.

    • I meant to say the plastic caps are not airtight, so not suitable for the freezer if you want to keep the food airtight.

      The flats/lids used with a ring are airtight and what I use in the freezer. It is the rubber in the flat lid that makes the jar airtight.

  8. I’ve been using Tattler lids for 2 years now. I have not tried freezing with them but I can water bath can and pressure can with no problems. They really are a good way to go. Just buy some extra gaskets, those will wear out long before the lids will.

  9. Don’t forget weck jars! I have one frozen right now with cranberry sauce in it. It’s all glass and has straight walls, so it’s quite perfect for freezing and is bpa free. The sealing rings are made of rubber. They’re pricier than normal jars, but honestly, they’re terrific and worth it imo. https://secure.cnchost.com/weckjars.com/productsDetail.php?category=3 Not to mention they look great. I’m surprised to hear about the “7″ on tattler lids, doesn’t this indicate a large amount of leaching of unpleasant plastic chemicals? I forget, so don’t quote me on that one..

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  11. I love freezing using wide mouth mason jars- especially love it for tomato sauces and chicken stock.
    I do use the plastic lids as they don’t contact the food. And given that I only have a top freezer in my frig, I don’t have room to freeze much or for that long, so air tight lids are not an issue. Although, if I use a jar to pack peaches or pears in juice for my husband lunch, the sealer lid is necessary to prevent leaking.
    If I need to portion meat, I use a reusable vacuum bag from Home Hardware (in Canada). It has a small hand pump for removing air through a valve in the bag. Love it for the cooler- I pack cheese, meats, and veggies in separate bags and vacuum seal. No worry that I will have soggy cheese or the meat juices will leak out and contaminate the cooler. Because it’s a hand pump, no power required at the camp to reseal the bags as we return food to the cooler.
    Also, reuse bread bags or produce bags to wrap the meat in first to reduce the mess inside the reusable bags.
    Thanks for the information- it’s fun reading other readers’ contributions.

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  15. Oooo. My grandmother used to freeze everything in jars. I’ve been thinking about transitioning from non-BPA plastic containers (and admittedly, some regular plastic ones) to glass jars but have a vague memory of them cracking. I’m going to give it a try, thanks!

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  17. I plan on freezing my tomato sauce in mason jars. Should I put the hot sauce directly in the jars in then in the freezer? Or cool them first in the refrigerator then in the freezer to avoid them cracking. I’m thinking the refrigerator first but what have other people done?

  18. I recall my mother pouring a layer of melted wax atop cooled jams and jellies she’d put into wide mouth jars before putting the lids on. Those, of course, were not frozen or processed in a water bath. The huge amount of sugar was the preservative.

    Of course, I wouldn’t use paraffin. Does anybody know of any source of wax? Beeswax would be really expensive…hmmm…Is soy wax ok to use on food????

    • Sealing jars with wax is not considered a safe preservation method according to the USDA. I use two piece lids but their are a number of alternatives including glass lids and reusable lids. For anything that will be kept at room temperature you also need to process it in a water bath (high acid foods) or a pressure canner (low acid foods).

    • Oh,yeah….she put the rings and lids on too.
      We had 10 kids in our family. It was eaten very quickly and kept in the refrigerator.

      But, yes, I agree with you. It should not be sealed just with wax.

  19. I use heavy duty alumium foil instead of lids. This pevents the jar from cracking if u overfill. Esp. good when u make big pots of soup or sauces.

  20. can u take dry beans in baggies out the freezer and put them into jars and then store on shelf rather than taking up so much freezer space??

  21. If the beans (like lentils, great northern, pinto etc) are dry when you buy them, there’s no need to freeze them. They can just go into a lidded jar.

    After you soak or cook them, they have to be refrigerated or frozen.

    If you’re talking about green beans or wax beans then, no. They have to be refrigerated or frozen also.

  22. Has anyone had experience with using the Foodsaver jar sealer with frozen soups/sauces? I am considering using the 1 1/2 pt wide mouth freezer safe jars and I am wondering if I would seal then freeze, or freeze then seal.

  23. I have learned the rules of freezing in mason jars the hard way. It never acquired to me that water would expand the way it did to shatter the glass. I decided to freeze fish in quart masons a couple of years back. I didn’t consider the expansion and lost 3 jars. Still shaking my head over that loss.

    • Hey Christopher–thanks for tipping me off to this–looks like Ball, as of January 2013, has new BPA free lids. Good to know.

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