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Friday, February 19, 2016

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GUEST ARTICLE
This is post 2 of 3 today.
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Re-Using Canning Jar Lids in an TEOTWAWKI Scenario

by Idaho Homesteader

The current USDA standards do NOT recommend re-using metal canning jar lids.  While we still can enjoy the advantages of our modern society, I strongly advise that you follow this counsel. I see no reason to risk you or your families safety just to save a few cents.  No, the USDA recommendations are not a conspiracy to get you to buy more lids, there really is a reason behind it.

When a home-canned jar has not sealed properly, there is a strong possibility that bacteria and/or mold has spoiled your food.  You might not be able to see or smell the change. One of the ways to tell if a jar is properly sealed is by looking at the lid.  The center of the lid should be concave (i.e the center should be sucked down.) Most of the time when you open the jar, the center pops back up.  MOST of the time, but not ALL of the time.  I have seen this happen first hand with a jar of green beans that I canned up.  I saw that the lid was down in the center but there was mold growing in the jar.  I was able to lift the lid right off without a can opener.  It wasn't sealed at all, but the lid was concave. It happens. 

There can also be issues with the rubbery sealing compound.  When a good seal happens, it can leave an indentation in the sealing compound.  If deep enough, it can go all the way down to the metal.  I have also noticed that fat from canning meat can degrade the rubber. I've had some jars canned with beef where the rubber got all gooey. The rubber can also be affected by the heat from the canning process.  Also, newer lids seem to have less rubbery compound than older lids. I am still using lids that I inherited from my uncle that are from the 1970's. They are a LOT stouter than today's lids -- thicker metal and more rubber.

So these are the reasons why you should use new canning jar lids.  Yeah, I know your cousin's room mate's grandmother reused her lids all the time without killing any of her children.  But remember, better safe than sorry if you have that luxury.  

However, the world isn't perfect and you may find yourself in a survival situation where the "best choice" is not an option.  So here are some hints on how to reuse your metal canning lids while being as safe as you can. Use this advice at your own risk.  Again, I do not recommend reusing canning jar lids unless you are in a true life or death situation.

First off, take your time opening a jar of home-canned food.  Do the contents look okay?  Clear liquid, not cloudy? Do you see any mold growing?  Is the lid popped up or down in the center?  With a very gentle push of your fingers does the lid come off, showing that it was not really sealed? Once open, does the food smell okay?

Now when you open the lid, make sure you ask everyone to be quiet.  You should hear a little bit of air being sucked in when you pry it off.  That sound tells you that there was a vacuum and a good seal.  If you are thinking of reusing the jar lid, make sure you are gentle when prying off the lid or else you will warp or even possibly tear the lip.

Now I would triage your lid for reuse:

#1  I can over 50 gallons of Apple Cider every year.  I pour the hot cider (180*) into hot jars, pop a lid on and screw down the ring and call it good -- no water bath.  Not USDA recommended but it's what I do.  When I open the jars, the lids are in almost perfect condition.  I would reuse these in a survival situation.

#2  I water bath my jams and jellies for 10 minutes.  Upon opening the jars, there may be a slight indent in the sealing compound.  I would reuse these lids.

#3  Fruit and tomatoes are water bath canned.  I would look to see if the acid in the fruit has discolored or eaten away the bottom of the lid.  Also, how deep is the indention on the sealing compound.  If it's getting kind of deep, I would reuse it for cider (because what's the worse that would happen -- your cider will turn into wine or vinegar.  A pretty low risk for food poisoning.)  If the indention is minimal to medium, I would reuse it again for fruit or jams and maybe vegetables.)

#4  Vegetables that are pressure canned.  I would examine the sealing compound and see if it is still firm to the touch and not soft.  How deep is the indent?  If they look good, I would use these for cider, jams, fruit and possibly for vegetables again.  Though, using them again in a pressure canner would be my last choice.  I would have to be pretty desperate.

#5  Meats and fish canned in a pressure canner.  I would NOT use these lids again.  I have seen major degradation of the sealing compound because of fat.  If the lids did look good, I would use it as a jar lid for dried items  -- something you needed a lid for but not a 100% airtight seal.  I would not use it for canning where a perfect seal is required to keep the food safe.

Other thoughts:

Tattler lids are a plastic lid with a separate rubber gasket that are made to be reused.  They are somewhat expensive but they do run sales periodically.  I have bought a few cases but have not had the chance to use them yet.  The rubber gaskets can be used 10 to 20 times.  The plastic lids are supposedly good forever.

Canning jar lids are cheap -- Cheaper than bullets.  If you have ammo, there is no excuse why you should not set aside some money for jar lids.  Plus, they would make a great barter item.

I have lids from the 1970's that I am using.  They are still good and I have a minimal failure rate. I see no problem in buying extra cases and storing them for long term. Granted, my lids have been stored in a climate controlled house.  If you are storing lids in a hot shed or attic, the rubber compound might degrade.  Also, the metal lids can rust.  Do not store them in a damp shed or root cellar. Use common sense.

I have read several pioneer accounts where a family would put up 1,000 jars a year - a 1,000 jars!!!  If you are thinking of a multi-year survival situation, then a few thousand jar lids would not be too many. Buy a few packages every time you go to the store and it'll begin to add up.

Idaho Homesteader

31 comments:

  1. I quit using tattlers aften having a one in six failure rate. Just don't trust them.

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    1. You'd never buy condoms with that failure rate!

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    2. I have never had a chance to use my Tattler lids yet. But I have read that the trick for using them is to make sure the ring isn't on too tightly.

      Put on the gasket and lid, screw on the ring and then back off 1/4 turn.

      Supposedly that helps.

      If you are already doing that, I don't know why you are having trouble. Tattler does have a Facebook page, I would go and ask them if they could help troubleshoot your failures. They seem like a very nice company that would be willing to help.

      Idaho Homesteader

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    3. You'd never buy condoms with that failure rate!

      I got fixed, not a problem any more...

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    4. I'd buy those condoms for my ex-wife.

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    5. I used condoms on your ex-wife.

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    6. I hope it was ribbed for her pleasure.

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  2. Years ago I read a prepper site that talked about the guys grandma doing this during the 1930's. I saved the info to a word file just in case I needed to do it.

    I have a lot of Tattler reusable lids I bought of Amazon, but it's always good to have other options like reusing regular lids.

    I buy at least a box of regular lids every week, I have no idea how many I have other then a LOT of them. They are inexpensive right now. I know James they are more $$$ then in the past, but still they are low cost. I can buy a pack of them for less then the price of a fast-food burger. Still a good deal...

    Chuck Findlay

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    1. Good gravy, EVERYTHING is up except wages, and far worse than just a few years ago. 70's all over without the nice fem hair.

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    2. Remember, the lids of yesteryear were a lot heavier duty -- thicker metal and more rubbery compound -- than today's lids. I am still using some lids from the 1970's and there is a BIG quality difference.

      I have actually had some modern lids buckle?!?! The metal actually creased up and folded a little.

      Now if I am using newer lids, I pay close attention to how much air space I have and have the jars a little less filled. That seems to have helped the problem. I also mark the jars I am leery of and use them right away.

      I have had this quality control problem with Ball and Kerr lids (both made by Jarden Company) as well as with the cheap Chinese lids.

      If you come across any lids from an estate sale and they look in good shape, pick them up.

      Idaho Homesteader

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    3. Asswhores are trying to kill use, literally, for more pennies of profit. I refuse to eat from dented metal cans anymore because I don't trust the thinner metal and shoddy lining.

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    4. Jim my wages go up, I just hiked my dollar-per-hour rate $3.00 per-hr the first of the year.

      While it's more of a hassle being self-employed. You have to be a self-starter more then when you work for others and you must be aware of cost of doing business to know if something is profitable and worth doing. But it's rewards for a prepper-minded person are good as any time you want more money you simply learn a new skill and start doing it. Instant increase of income.

      And another way to keep wages from going down is to buy better quality products without focusing on only a low price. Buy top quality products (like shoes) and you give yourself more money to spend other places as you won't need to replace the item as often.

      So no wages don't always go down.

      Chuck Findlay.

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    5. All metal canned food should be carefully inspected before using as food. Peel the label off, look for staining or seeps. Dump the food in a clean bowl after opening. Does it look right or smell right? Rinse the can out and inspect the inside of the empty can. Damage/rust is bad inside a can, although I have looked inside a can of pineapple juice and found the inside over half rusted with 18 months to go until "best sold by" date! Tasted fine.

      BPA is still very common in food cans. It's not a huge deal, UNLESS, you heat up the food in the can. BPA levels in the food will be hundreds of x higher than cold sample. Dump the food out for heating. Same with BPA Nalgene water bottles: cold water short-term okay (low BPA leaching), hot tea BAD (high BPA).

      pdxr13

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    6. Chuck: as a self employed writer, who if I might toot my own horn puts out a continuously improved product, I'm seeing less income. I don't attribute this to cheap readers or my product being less relivent but simply to the general economic contraction. I see your point but must state that for almost all of us, wages decrease.

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    7. PDX: damn, its bad enough poor quality is in everything, I just think food safety shouldn't be a constant worry. Inspecting the can for inside rust is like looking in my new underwear to see if any pins are sticking into the crotch area.

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  3. I forgot to mention in my first post, I do reuse canning lids, but the way I reuse them is in dry canning. I like crackers and I can them in the oven. I put them in a canning jar (with the used lid on it) and put them in the oven set on 240 deg for 30-min.

    It works great. just a few weeks ago I opened a jar of crackers from 2003 and they were just as fresh and crisp as the day I put them in the jar.

    With dry goods (crackers, noodles and the like) there is no real chance of bacteria

    Chuck Findlay

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    Replies
    1. Never heard of that being done-kinda neat.

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    2. That's a perfect use for used canning jar lids. If it's not a SHTF scenario, you can still get use out of them without compromising your safety.

      I also use them when I am vacuum sealing dried items in mason jars like dehydrated onions, breakfast cereal, beans, dried apples, etc.

      Idaho Homesteader

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    3. Neighbors gave me two banana boxes of jars. One of these days I need to get lids to do that vacuum packing myself. Lots of items waiting.

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  4. 250 quart jars of mixed food per adult per season. Thousand jars, easy. That's a pretty big investment in glass, lids, rings, boxes, and SPACE (cool dry shelf, get excavating!), not to mention the multiple big pots for water bath and multiple big pressure units for low-acid food, and the amount of fuel you will need to process everything (grid down? that's gonna be wood or your local coal after the propane is gone). $0.59 can of commercial beans is dirt cheap, like lacquered steel case ammo.

    pdxr13

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    1. I saw, at the low cost groceries last week a can of VanDeCamp pork and beans for $1.99 ( reduced on Wednesday to .99 on sale ). Keep in mind this place, owned by Kroger, is cheaper than Wally. Even at reduced price, and even for brand name, this seems quite high for pork and beans. Has it been that long since I shopped for beans? Can you still find them for .59c?

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    2. VanDeCamp Pork and Beans go on sale in my area around Memmorial Day, July 4th and sometimes Labor Day. They are usually a loss-lead item. Sometimes I can find them for 33 cents but with a quantity limit.

      Though personally, I prefer Bush's Country Style Baked Beans. I'm lucky to find those on sale every once in a while for $1.25 to $1.66 for a big 28 oz. can.

      Idaho Homesteader

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    3. You definitely need to figure in the cost when you home can food. If you are buying the produce as opposed to growing it yourself, it is often not cost effective to can at home especially if you count in your time.

      For cost alone, the one exception I have found is beans. I can buy a 25 lb. bag of dried beans for around $15. I am not usually organized enough to eat beans if they are not ready to use. So I will can up a batch of 7 to 14 jars at a time. Super cheap compared to buying canned beans from the store. Plus, I think they taste better (especially garbanzos).

      Lids alone cost around 16 cents each for regular mouth and around 22 cents each for wide mouth. I have scrounged most of my jars for free or have bought them years ago -- so no cost there for me. If you are buying the food, you are probably not saving any money.

      There are only 2 reasons to home can in my opinion --

      #1 Quality -- The quality can be so much higher with home canned food. Peaches from the store aren't very good. Even if you have to buy peaches, I think it is worthwhile to can them. Also, I prefer my homemade jams and canned meat (except ham) to commercial products. Plus, I know that my garden produce and home grown meat is MUCH higher quality than the stores.

      #2 Learning -- As a practice for when there is not an option to buy food from the store. Canning isn't super hard but as with everything, there is a learning curve. Best to learn now and keep up on that skill so you aren't stressing when the balloon goes up.

      And remember usually when you can, you are using quarts (32 oz) which is larger than the average can from the store (14 oz).

      Idaho Homesteader

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    4. Also, canned meat from the store is dog food with lots of nitrates. Not even a comparison, And canned meat allows you to live off grid without a freezer.

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    5. I once had a neighbor who didn't have a fridge or freezer. She would can a whole buffalo every two years?!?! That's a lot of jars!

      Her income was from bead and quill work on brain tanned hides. So she would use the buffalo hide, brain and everything. Elk and deer hides that she got from hunters didn't usually come with the brains. So she would buy a case of cow brains from the grocery store (who knew you could buy brains by the case?) and then can those up.

      A quart of canned brains would usual do an average sized deer hide. Something I sure you were dying to know. :)

      Idaho Homesteader

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    6. As far as cost when you home can food I would say it's important in a few ways that don't relate to just the lowest cost.

      First being that you are developing a way to save your food (garden grown and animals in the form of meat) for use in the future when it may not be available from other sources.

      Second (as mentioned above) you don't need refrigeration or the grid to store it.

      Third is that you are in control of what is in the food, no pesky chemicals that do who knows what to our body.

      Forth canning your own growing and canning your own food gives you a powerful survival source of food that isn't dependent on the stupid on-time-delivery system we have in place these days. Yes you need jars and lids (just bought 3-doz jars today from The Good Will for $5.00 a doz) but you can stock up on them now for later use. Jars take up space, but lids don't.


      Really the last thing I look at for deciding what to buy is the price. I may have to save a while for the better things as my income is not super high (by choice as I enjoy and value life more then money) but I have never been sorry for buying better stuff. But the times I have let the cost of a lower priced item sway me I have been regretful as it seldom ever does the task as well as a quality item.

      Chuck Findlay

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    7. It isn't that folks necessarily want lower costs. Usually that is false economics. Yet, as incomes are limited, you need to prioritize and some things get short shift. It is inevitable.

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    8. So, when you think you are canning a lot, think of poor Cow Brain Girl :)

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  5. I also like looking at all the canning jars of food in the basement (I canned lots of bacon as it's the most perfect food there is.) knowing I have safe to eat reserves of food that I myself put up and know that it was done by me and not some factory. It's very empowering when you can provide your own food for use on a cold winter day.

    I see the ability to can food as one of the most important survival skills to learn and do. Hopefully all of us here do it.

    I just need to get more jars, can you ever have too many of them?

    Chuck Findlay

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    1. I imagine its like the feeling I get looking at my bike, crappy as it is, empowering my over car drivers. I still need industrial supply but at least I have some independence. I don't get misty eyed over my wheat, but I don't get stressed and run down and buy more on a bad news day, so I must have enough.

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  6. We too were having failures with Tattler Lids, so I called to find out why. Besides tightening the rings just barely finger tight, you have to tighten them down when you take the jars from the canner. The rubber ring is capable of sealing with very little pressure, not allowing for steam to escape during canning, and if not tightened after canning it will possibly allow air back in as it cools.

    We use them regularly now with nearly no failures.

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