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How to Fill, Seal and Store Jars of Preserves

January 14, 2009


Most jams and chunteys should be potted as soon as setting point is reached. The exception are marmalades which can be left to cool slightly as this will stop the peel from floating to the top. Pour or ladle your preserve into warm jars – this prevents the preserve from cooling before you’ve had chance to seal it. Always fully-fill jars and seal straight away. With chutneys and other ‘chunky’ preserves tap the side of the jar to remove any air pockets.


There are two main ways you can seal jars of jam, jelly or marmalade – either with wax discs and celophane lids or with a twist-top lid. To use the wax discs and cellophane covers, place the disc wax-side down on the surface of the hot preserve. Moisten the cellophane cover with a drop of water, stretch over the jar and secure with an elastic band. The moistened side of the cellophane should be on the outside. If you like you jams to look as good as they taste 🙂 , you can then make an outer cover from a piece of paper or fabric cut in circle and tied with a ribbon or string. 

For chutneys and other vinegar-based preserves, it’s best to use a plastic-lined twist on lid. Screw the lid on as soon as you’ve filled the jar with and make sure it’s on tightly. 

*a note on recycling – I generally recycle my jars but not my lids. I buy replacement lids from Lakeland and these seem to fit quite a range of jars. For the jars that I can’t get lids to fit, I use cellophane covers. I also use these for preserves that I’m giving as gifts as I think they look prettier!


Store preserves in a cool, dark place such as a larder, cellar, garage or shed. Most jams and chutneys will keep for at least a year (and chutneys benefit from having a little time to mature) but there are exceptions:

  • Fruit curds should be used within 4 weeks.
  • Uncooked condiments and relishes, such as pesto, should be used within 3 weeks.
  • Low-sugar/fridge jams can be kept for up to 6 months but need to be kept in the fridge once opened and used within 2 – 3 weeks.

Personally, to tell if a preserve is past it’s best, I find it best to trust my nose. If it smells funny, it’s probably not good to eat!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2009 9:45 pm

    Hi I am looking jars that I can seal about 1 / 2 kg of frut

  2. Heidi permalink
    September 11, 2009 11:38 am

    hi there, when you seal your jams with the cellophane discs, are you using a water bath to preserve them? I bought some great Agee jars at the op shop, but now find I can’t get lids to fit them! So found your entry via good ol’ google!

    • September 12, 2009 4:39 pm

      The high sugar content in jam acts as a preservative so it’s not neccessary to use any other preserving method with it. I simply pour the hot jam into warm sterilised jars, place a wax disc on the surface of the jam then place a cellophane disc over the jar and secure with elastic bands.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Lesley permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:35 am

    I misjudged the size of my jars when making chutney and one jar is only half full. Will the air make the chutney go off? Any information much appreciated. Thanks.

  4. Christine Bell permalink
    December 14, 2009 9:55 pm

    I’m in California where we can’t buy wax discs and seals and I wondered if anyone knows if I can make my own using wax paper and cellophane (like the kind that’s sold in a roll for wrapping gift baskets)?

    • September 15, 2010 7:13 am

      My mom used to melt wax and pour it into the top of the jar as a lid.

  5. September 8, 2010 2:19 pm

    Lovely tips, our mums and our foodies will love to read this!

    Thank you for sharing, we posted your link to our community of food lovers, for them to have a little help on how to prepare great preserves.

    Greg at

  6. Lisa permalink
    August 6, 2011 7:21 pm

    Hi, I am new to making jams and chutneys but have tried my hand at both. I can’t seem to get all the air pockets from the side of my jars of chutney, does this mean it will go off really quick, or are there any other methods i can use? Some recipes say to put the jars in boiling water after filling and sealing, but not sure what this does? Any help gratefully received! Thanks 🙂

  7. December 18, 2011 7:54 pm

    Just wanted to say thank you for this fabulous post – I’ve been trying to find a complete guide and this was just perfect xxx

  8. January 17, 2012 2:44 am

    Have just bottled some plum jam and was wondering about the wetting and applying of the cellophane seals. Most recipe books just say to seal and cool without any elaboration. Great to read this helpful post. Thanks very much.

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