This is post 2 of 3 today.
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.
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.