Social media really is the place to keep up on a lot of food related information. I am on both Twitter and Facebook one a personal and blogging basis. A couple of days ago, I spotted an interesting post regarding reusable canning lids. Now, in technicality, the only recommended closure for home canning is the metal two piece snap lids consisting of a metal disc with attached plastisol and a metal band. Notice that I say recommended not approved? The USDA does not approve anything including recipes, it only makes recommendations, something the canning police fail to recognize.
At any rate, reusable canning lids have been used for almost a hundred years. I have used both glass lids and glass inserts as well as Tattler and 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. Glass lids and inserts have been in use since at least the forties and while neither are no longer made as well as the gaskets for the standard mouth glass inserts, the gaskets for the glass lids and Gem jars are still in production. Tattler lids are a plastic disc with a rubber gasket that has been in production since 1976 and 4ever Recap lids has only been in production a few years. If the folks who are adamant about following the USDA guidelines to the point of it being a fault aka the canning police had their way, no one would be using the reusable lids. Seriously, some of these folks are so insistent on the USDA guidelines that no substitutions are allowed in any USDA recommended recipe meaning sea salt should not be substituted for regular salt which is utter nonsense but that is another story. What they fail to realize is the USDA makes their recommendations based on testing and that testing is paid for by manufacturers. Recipes submitted to the USDA to be tested for home canning safety are tested at a cost to the submitter. So, the large scale manufactures like Ball and Kerr in the US paid to have their closures, the metal two piece snap lids tested to the point the USDA would recommend them. Note, recommend not approve. Bernardin, a Canadian owned company and leading expert in home canning in Canada were purchased by Altrista Corporation (now Jarden Corp) in 1993. They remain the leading Canadian home canning experts and are still well known for their jars, closures and publications. Their jars and closures also are recommended by the USDA.
To date, the reusable canning lids have not been tested by the USDA even though many experienced home canners including myself feel the reusable canning lids are safer than the metal snap lids as the possibility of false seals is eliminated. Not only are they safer, they are the eco-friendly choice for home canners. The the United States, university extension services do testing for the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) on behalf of the USDA. The University of Minnesota Extension service made the following announcement in their June 2013 newsletter:
This is amazing news! Home canning is not exactly a high priority with respect to funding for testing. On a per capita basis, home canning is a activity that is mainly low level and quite seasonal focusing mostly on jams, jellies, and pickles. Those with higher level canning volumes tend to be rural folk, survivalists, and religious groups but there are a growing number of folk wanting to take control of their food supply. These folks like myself want to put good, healthy foods on their table that are preservative free, additive free, and not laden with all those things the food industry puts into our foods that in turn are causing health problems. Home canning is seeing a revival and has since the y2K scare as more realize it is a frugal and eco-friendly way to enjoy good food year round.Reusable canning lids have been around for 40 years and today, there is renewed interest in these lids. When using the lids, carefully follow the manufacturer’s (Tattler®) instructions. This lid should not impact the safety of the product as long as the food was processed properly. Currently, there is no research that looks at seal failures, rates, number of reuses or performance throughout reuses. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recently received a grant to study the performance of these lids with results available in 2014 or 2015.
Like many home canners, I will be keeping a close eye for the results of the NCHFP's results testing the Tattler lids. While the testing is specific to Tattler lids, the result will apply to the Gem glass inserts with rubber gaskets as well as the 4ever Recap lids. The only differences are the discs for Gem are glass and the gaskets for the 4ever Recap are silicone. Hopefully this will lead to the testing of the 4ever Recap closures. I doubt testing will be done on the glass inserts because the inserts themselves are no longer in production and most Gem jar usage is in the Canadian prairie provinces. At any rate, I am excited to hear about the testing and hope the results will finally put the minds of the canning police at ease!