I have been canning for a number of years now. I enjoy doing it and it does my heart good to see wholesome homemade food lining our cupboards. I’ve tried to pick up more cases of canning jars every year hoping to fill every one with healthful produce from our garden. From a preparedness standpoint, what has concerned me all along is the once-only use of the metal lids that came with the jars.
A Reusable Alternative
After I became comfortable with canning and knew I would always want to (and maybe NEED to) do this, I started working on a stockpile of replacement metal lids. Still, even after acquiring a case full, I was uneasy because they would inevitably run out at some point, and what would I do if they stopped being available?
Finally, I learned about a safe plastic and rubber reusable system- Tattler Lids. I was very excited about these and bought a few boxes to try.
Tattler lids come in boxes that contain a white “lid” and a reddish-orange rubber “gasket.” You need rings from previously used jars since they are not included. After cleaning the rim of the filled jar, you put the gasket on it, a lid on top (or put the gasket in the groove of the lid and then put the two on together), and then screw a metal band/ring over them.
I gave them a trial-by-fire in a marathon canning session when our deep freeze suddenly quit in early summer. I needed to save large amounts of meat in a short period of time.
I found the Tattler lids to be user friendly, much like the metal ones. The directions for them are a bit different than for the standard ones that come with the jars. It is important to read and follow them in order to get a proper seal! One of the most critical parts is NOT screwing the lids on too tightly. Steam must be able to vent during the intense heat of pressure canning. After removing from the canner, it is also important to screw the bands tightly at that time. Use oven mitts!
A Bump in the Road
A week after my meat-a-thon, I decided to use some of the ground beef I had canned. (I had browned it, drained all the grease I could, packed into clean hot jars, and filled with hot water before sealing). I wanted to test the seals, see if the lids did indeed resist warping when removed, and how the rubber rings held up.
I always lift my jars by their lids alone (taking the “ring” off) once they are cool to be sure there is in fact a seal. If the lid remains on, supporting the weight of the contents, I can be pretty sure that everything is as it should be. I had done this with the Tattler lids and noted the “pinged” (pressed down) centers on all of them. It was not as obvious a difference as the metal ones- no ringing “pop” or deep depression on the lid- but it looked sealed.
When I went to use the ground beef, I was dismayed to find that I could remove the lid with just the pressure of my thumb against the seal. I always had to work at prying off metal lids (thus warping them), usually resorting to a bottle opener under whatever lip I could find.
I immediately called a dear fellow prepping friend as I surveyed row after row of canned meat with sinking heart. I asked her if this had been her experience too. She didn’t remember noticing so she went to her own pantry and tried what I described with 2 separate jars. Yep- they pried off fairly easily.
So, what did this mean? That it’s okay or we were both about to poison our families?!
I put the meat aside and emailed the customer service contact on the website. About 8 days later, someone from the company called me to answer my questions.
Essentially, the plastic is more pliable than the metal. This is what makes them reusable and also what makes the lids easier to remove. If the center of the lid was pulled down and could support the weight of the jar as I had determined, it was safely sealed. He said being “bowed up” was often an indication that the lids had been too tightly screwed down and steam could not escape appropriately. Better to leave the screwbands on too loosely in processing than too tightly. Remember, they get tightened when taken out of the canner.
I was not impressed with their customer service, but I am now happy with their product. I have continued to use them and we are botulism-free thus far. 🙂
It’s worth noting that the Tattler lids are more expensive than traditional replacement lids. That can seem a bit much at first but if you factor in that you can use them repeatedly for the rest of your life, the investment is worth it. I would recommend laying in a supply of these.
As far as I know, they are not available in local stores anywhere. I ordered mine through a bulk food co-op we participate in and got a slightly better rate than just buying them box by box online. If you can’t find a source near you, maybe you can get a friend or two to go in on an order and you can at least save shipping.
Anyone else have experience with these? What are your thoughts?