Over the summer I had heard that a new kind of mason jar was entering the market. I had not gotten a chance to actually hold one in my hand until last week. I just happened to check out the canning section in the Blain’s Farm and Fleet in Cedar Falls and low and behold they were carrying them! Now, before you all get started, I know that the fact that I have canning sections regularly in stores around here is a blessing that many people don’t have. In fact, that I pretty much expect most grocery and farm stores to have a canning section speaks volumes about where I am living and how people view canning here. Canning and preserving have never stopped in the Midwest. Thus, the canning a preserving sections of the stores have never disappeared like they have in other areas of the country.
However, I was still surprised to see this newest jar in the mason market in Cedar Falls. I figured that it would be a coastal thing for the more (for lack of a better word) trendy canners in the bigger cities. So I was excited to pick some up and give them a try.
Orchard Road seems to be making only jars and lids/bands at this point, compared to the mega company Ball (a subsidiary of Jarden Home products which also owns Kerr and Golden Harvest brands of mason jars) that makes all sorts of canning and cooking equipment as well as publishing numerous books. I decided to do a head to head comparison of the two brands to see if there was much of a difference.
The very first thing that you notice is the packaging. The jars come in very sturdy, very reuseable boxes. Major points here. These boxes are strong enough that you could stack them with filled jars inside and not worry about the lids being compromised. They were even better than the old school Ball and Kerr boxes that those jars came packaged in.
There wasn’t really a big difference in sizes except that the jelly jar (the half pint) was a little taller and thinner than the Ball half pint. The Orchard Road jars feel sturdier than their Ball counterparts, more like the pre-1970’s Ball jars.
All the jars take standard mason jar lids and rings in both regular and wide mouth. I purchased some of the lids but none of the rings as I would assume that they would work fine (though if you have found differently let me know). The lids were graphically appealing with their bold writing and clearly demarked area for noting what is in the jar. The lids don’t have the little “button” in the middle like Ball jars but are more like the Wal-Mart Mainstays where the entire lid is sort of domed. Thus, they don’t make a little “ping” when they seal more like a loud “thwack”. However, the lids worked on both the Orchard Road and Ball jars just fine.
The jars are visually clean, without a lot of ornamentation on them. This is nice for a number of reasons. To start, it’s simply cleaner visually. It also leaves the focus on where it should be, the food in the jars rather than the decoration on them. Another reason is that they are easier to clean. I have had to clean calcified gunk off of many older jars and all the nooks and crannies of older jars makes them a pain in the butt.
Now for the parts that I am not a fan of in these new jars. First, they are more expensive. Something on the order of twenty percent more than the standard Ball jars. Add to that the lack of lids and rings it makes them more expensive still. Next is that they are sold in boxes of six. If you are canning a lot, this is simply more boxes floating around the house. My final issue is simply that they are made in China. If something is going to be more expensive, I would at least like them made in the USA.