For all of you who are concerned about any of the following (our economic future, our future food sources, "green" living, preparedness, sustainable living), boy do I have a product for you.
As most of you know, I'm an avid canner. I love canning and will can just about anything I can get my hands on. But it's always irked me that canning lids can only be used once, then discarded.
Oh sure, I've experimented with re-using canning lids with a fair amount of success. But the fact remains, canning lids are meant to be discarded. They're not designed for multiple usage.
So when I came to ramping up our preparedness efforts, a potential lack of canning lids became something of an obsession of mine. I found myself compulsively buying lids. I just took a quick inventory and learned I have 76 dozen (912) small-mouth lids, and 56 dozen (672) large mouth lids. In an active year of canning, I'll go through half of those, possibly more. If we're looking at long-term disruptions in our economy, this means I have at most a two-year supply of lids. Panic!
Nonetheless, when I caught wind of reusable canning lids made by a company called Tattler, I'll admit I was skeptical. Too good to be true, folks. That was my thought.
Apparently the genesis of these lids came about in the mid-1970's when the sudden popularity of canning with the back-to-the-land hippies resulted in a severe lid shortage across the country. The Tattler company responded to this crisis by developing a fully reusable lid.
So I emailed the company and requested a sampling of lids. They replied (no kidding) within ten minutes, and in a few days I received a dozen small-mouth and a dozen large-mouth lids to experiment with. I shared half the lids with my friend Enola Gay so we could both put them through the wringer.
The following illustrations demonstrate the directions that accompanied the lids. There are some differences between using disposable lids and using reusable lids.
I chose to can ground beef. Why ground beef? Well, first of all we have tons of it. Second, it's meat, so it requires a high processing time in a pressure canner. And third, it's greasy and nasty and would thus put the maximum amount of stress on the lids.
Browning the ground beef.
Scalding the lids and rings by pouring near-boiling water over them and keeping them in water until ready for use.
I filled all the jars with meat and boiling water.
The rings should be removed first and allowed to cool for a few minutes.
Wiping the rims. Ground beef is greasy, so the rims need to be wiped carefully.
Removing the lids from the hot water.
The jars are filled, the rims are wiped. Time to put on the lids and rings.
Fitting the gaskets on the lids.
Placing lids (with gaskets) on the jars.
Lids on, ready for rings. The lids feel "thicker" than regular disposable lids when screwing down the rings.
Loosening the ring. The directions for these lids states that the rings must be tightened over the lids, then turned back a quarter-inch. I, uh, had difficulty with this very simple step (explained below).
Lids and rings on, ready to go.
Into the canner.
Once the jars came out of the canner, I immediately tightened the rings so the gaskets would complete the seal. (The jars are HOT so use a towel!) This differs from disposable lids, which don't need tightening and are best left alone for the seal to complete.
I let the jars cool overnight before removing the rings. Turns out I had one failure in this first batch (for reasons explained below).
Gently opening the lids by inserting a butter knife between the gasket and the jar rim.
I tried using a bucket lid lifter and it worked, sort of, but I was afraid I would damage the gasket. The butter knife works better.
I removed all the lids and rings and washed them. Then I put them on the same jars of meat to re-can. The manufacturers recommend flipping the gaskets over after each use so the gaskets wear evenly.
After the meat processed the second time, I happened to be standing next to the canner as the pressure was dropping when I heard a loud bang. Of course I couldn’t open the canner to find out what happened until the pressure had dropped to zero. It turns out one of the lids and ring had popped off, banging into the top of the canner and spewing ground beef everywhere. How could something like this happen? Was the concept of reusable lids too good to be true after all?
Nope. Turns out it was due to "operator error."
Interestingly, both Enola and I misread the directions that came with the lids exactly the same (wrong) way. The directions clearly state that once the rings are in place, they should be turned back a quarter INCH to allow the lids to vent during canning. We BOTH read that as, turn back a quarter TURN. It's like both our brains independently glossed over the actual writing and filled in the wrong information. We were both in our own separate kitchens, too, so it's not like we were collaborating together. (Weird.)
This meant that both Enola and I had failures during our canning attempts. But for pete's sake, that's because the lids were practically rattling on top the jars because we'd both loosened the rings a quarter TURN. The fact that most of the jars sealed despite our blunders is a testimony to how excellent these lids are. Once we corrected our error and only loosened the rings a quarter INCH, our results were perfect.
This is the result of the lid that popped off in the canner. Notice the dent in the ring (facing front) where it slammed into the inside of the canner when it popped off.
By the way, I also experimented with something else. You'll notice in this photo the jar on the left that has a gold lid with masking tape on it? That's an old disposable lid. Just to play around (and, frankly, wondering if I could get away with it), I placed a gasket over a used disposable lid and screwed it down with a ring, just to see what would happen. Well, it didn't seal in the slightest, so DON'T think you can get away with this, LOL.
The Tattler company has a lifetime guarantee on its lids, and says the gaskets can be used for up to twenty years. I interpret this to mean the gaskets can be used about twenty times, assuming a one-year cycle of canning.
Tattler lids cost more than conventional disposable lids, of course. Three dozen regular-mouth plastic lids and gaskets cost $20.95 (or $0.58/lid), and three dozen wide-mouths cost $23.95 (or $0.66/lid). Volume discounts are available, and extra gaskets can be purchased for $2.50/dozen.
I, for one, am so impressed with these lids that I've become a convert. My goal is to order 1000 lids (500 wide mouth, 500 narrow mouth) which will cost me about $600. I may team up with other canning friends and try for a bulk discount.
I simply cannot figure out why these lids haven't caught on like wildfire. They have an across-the-board appeal - environmentalists, survivalists, homesteaders, any suburban housewife who likes canning... Maybe the company needs to spend more money on advertising? Who knows. All I know is I'll do my best to spread the word because this is a product I can endorse with enthusiasm.
Honestly, folks, if you want security with regards to your home canning operations, try these babies. They could easily become worth their weight in gold.
UPDATE: In September, I bought my lifetime supply of lids. Whee! I never have to buy canning lids ever again!