03 August 2012


Bocal means jar in French, and the most common kind of canning jar used here for putting up jams or jellies, tomatoes or tomato sauce, and all kinds of vegetables — even meat pâtés — is the bocal à joint. The plural of bocal [boh-KAHL] is bocaux [boh-KOH].

Old jars, metal bands and rubber rings removed,
just washed in the dishwasher

The joint [rhymes with foin, soin, moins] in bocal à joint is the rubber ring or gasket that fits onto the lid and makes it possible to seal the jar hermetically by filling it with boiling ingredients and closing it immediately. It becomes vacuum-sealed as it cools. For some ingredients, it's also recommended to boil the jars in water in a canning pot or pressure cooker to make sure everything is sterile.

Couscous "grain" stored in the kitchen in a bocal à joint

Being an optimist, I'm convinced we are going to have a lot of produce from our garden to put up in jars for the winter. Actually, for sauce tomate and confiture (jam) I mostly reuse jelly, pickle, and mustard jars that I've saved after buying such items at the supermarket. They work fine as long as the screw-on lid is in good condition. Most people here reuse old store-bought jars in canning, especially for jams and jellies.

Glass jars with glass lids

The bocaux à joint are safer, and I use them for putting up fruits and vegetables, but we also use them to store all kinds of things — ground coffee, tea bags, rice, dried beans, dried mushrooms, flours, couscous, wheat berries, dried hot peppers — in the kitchen. The rubber ring and the metal band and closure make sure that the jar is tightly closed, whether it has needed sterilizing or not for a particular use.

Jars don't need to be hermetically sealed for dry storage.

To use the jars for actual canning — not just dry storage — you need to replace the rubber ring with a new one each time. The rings are easy to find at the supermarket this time of year. (Joint is also the word for washer — the kind you put in your faucets or garden hose fittings to keep them from dripping.) There's a special tool that makes opening the sealed jars easy — it clamps onto the tab on the rubber ring and you twist it until the ring stretches far enough to break the seal. You can't reuse the stretched-out ring for canning.

This neat tool makes it easy to open the sealed jars.

I'm getting my jars ready for the autumn. I hope I'll be able to fill them all up with good produce that we'll enjoy all winter. The ten one-liter jars in the photos above were a windfall — long story.


  1. Hi, this is what I did too yesterday. My first time making confiture d'abricot. My French mother in law is making confitures all the time, so I had to try it. This is a step being more French. lol

  2. I don't know if it just Australian or not, but we have Fowler's Bottling outfits. I think the jars are different but the rubber rings are the same. Scratching my head a bit, but I think they had tin lids which screwed down on the rings.

  3. Trés intérresant, Ken! Thank you for sharing about les joints et les bocaux. I actually bought a jar here of Bonne Maman Grape Jelly (not a favorite of mine) just to have the glass jar when I make my own jam(of course, it was a steal). I have a few of those jars with the hinges which I cherish.

    Mary in Oregon

  4. No "Bonne Maman" jars from notre cher ami/cousin this year :-)

    Last day in Maine before heading up back home tomorrow morning with a stop-over in North Conway for shopping at the outlets.

  5. Hi Beaver, I still have dozens and dozens of Bonne Maman and other "saved" jars. But now I also have more of the bocaux à joint. That's a good thing. Enjoy the rest of your time in Maine and New Hampshire.

  6. They look like mason jars to me.

  7. I love the look of those bocaux. All I need is an excuse to own some.....maybe when I retire.
    All I do at the moment is make a bit of jelly from our redcurrants and some jam from blackberries and damsons. For that I have a good collection of the Bon Maman jars, which I also love.
    It doesn't take much to make me happy these days !!

  8. I saw that you have some vintage jars there that didnt work out for you. I bought some at an antique fair over here in the UK... I found the seals on line...they were the large weck seals....then there are special clamps for the top. I ended up ordering them on amazon germany (where most of these jars are made) here are 2 links to where you can order the clamps: http://www.amazon.de/Universal-Klammern-Einweckklammern-Weckklammern-Bügel-Einkochgläser/dp/B005OPO4YE/ref=pd_rhf_ee_p_t_2


    at first I thought they were too small, but they really stretch as you can see in on one of the sites. You may have found another use for them, but I just thought I would pass this info along. It took me a while to find all the right pieces. It's all in german, but I just used google translate to figure it out. good luck

  9. Thanks, Heather. I can get the seals/gaskets here in France, at the supermarket. I appreciate the comment and information.


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