More people than usual started home gardens this year, which means food preservation supplies are disappearing from store shelves.
“If you cannot find lids or jars in your usual stores, check a variety of retailers,” said Julie Garden-Robinson, North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist. “You might find the supplies in places you wouldn’t expect.”
You can reuse glass canning jars, but don’t be tempted to reuse canning lids, Garden-Robinson said.
The gasket compound in used lids may fail to seal on jars, resulting in unsafe food.
When jars are processed, the gasket on new lids softens and flows slightly to cover the jar-sealing surface. The lid also allows air to escape from the jar. Then as the jar cools, the gasket forms an airtight seal. Gaskets in unused lids will work well for about five years from the date they were manufactured, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
“If you can’t find new canning lids, you might consider freezing or drying your fruits and vegetables,” Garden-Robinson said.
Freezing is one of the easiest, most versatile and convenient methods of preserving foods, according to Garden-Robinson.
“Properly frozen foods maintain more of their original color, flavor and texture and generally more of their nutrients than foods preserved by other methods,” she said.
NDSU Extension has information on food preservation at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/food-preservation.
If you are able to find new canning lids, be sure to follow the directions on the lid box.
“Most manufacturers do not recommend boiling the lids, even if your grandma or mom always did that,” Garden-Robinson said. “Most of the time, you do not have to warm the lids at all.”
The practice of pre-warming lids dates back to before 1969, according to canning experts at the corporation that produces Ball canning jars. In earlier canning, people used lids with red rings made of latex, which required heating to soften the plastic.
Canning experts recommend you wash new lids and bands in hot, soapy water. Do not use abrasive materials or cleansers that might scratch or damage the coatings applied to the lids and bands. Rinse them under hot water. Dry the lids and bands and set them aside until you need them.
Garden-Robinson also recommends that you not tighten the screw bands too tightly. Tightening them too tightly can cause seal failures.
“The screw band should be applied fingertip tight using your thumb and ring finger,” she said.
Paraffin or wax seals also no longer are recommended for canning jams and jellies. Jams and jellies need to be topped with two-piece lids and processed in a boiling water bath canner.
“With all food preservation endeavors, be sure to use appropriate equipment and follow current research-tested canning recipes available from Extension agencies nationwide, the National Center for Home Food Preservation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Garden-Robinson said.