Home canning is an integral part of a self-sufficient lifestyle. Possibly you plant a large garden and preserve the harvest, or maybe you purchase produce in bulk from local farmers to ensure you are serving the most wholesome produce you can for your family. Having the right canning supplies on hand is a necessity for successful canning! When it comes to canning lids, the general rule is that traditional metal lids can not be reused. However, home cooks can purchase specially designed reusable canning lids that are approved for use by the USDA.
How Do Canning Lids Work?
To best choose which canning lids will be best for you, it helps to understand how canning lids work. Regardless of which canning process you use, the mechanics in home food preservation work the same. When the jars are heated in either a water bath canner or a pressure canner the contents within the jar begin to expand. This changes the pressure inside the jar. The two-part lid system allows air inside the jar to vent. If you watch while water bath canning, you can see bubbles escape the jars. Once the processing has finished, the jars and contents cool. The changes in pressure create a vacuum inside the canning jar. The vacuum created by the change in pressure pulls the canning lid down creating an airtight seal.
Since it’s the vacuum seal that actually seals the canning jar, not the sealing compound, reusable canning lids can also be used for home canning. Unlike antique canning jars with their glass lids and rubber gaskets, these specially designed lids are made with FDA-approved materials that are food safe.
Reusable Canning Lids
Reusable canning lids are designed similarly to the lids of antique glass canning jars. Antique canning jars were glass jars with glass lids and a thick rubber gasket in between the two pieces of glass. They used metal clamps to hold the jar closed during processing. Weck Canning jars sold commonly in Europe are very similar to vintage designs.
There are two companies best known for manufacturing reusable canning lids in the United States. Tattler Lids were first introduced in 1976 . Loren Stieg invented reusable canning lids during a canning lid crisis when there was a shortage of metal canning lids. Harvest Guard Lids were introduced in 2019 by Brad Stieg, the son of the inventor of Tattler Lids.
Not surprising, the Tattler Reusable Canning lids and Harvest Guard lids are very similar. Both feature a food-safe plastic lid made from Polyoxymethylene Copolymer (POM) or Acetal Copolymer. The plastic lids are used in conjunction with reusable rubber gaskets made from food-grade nitrile rubber as stated on their websites. The plastic lid can be reused an indefinite number of times, while the rubber gasket is limited in use to about 6 to 8 times. Reuse will very based on the type of use and how long the rubber gasket ring was compressed in a sealed jar.
Tattler and Harvest Guard lids are both safe for water bath canning and pressure canning. The lids can withstand heat to about 250 degrees, much hotter than used in the home canning process. Both are safe to use with meats of all kinds including poultry. However, they are not to be used with items that contain more than 15% alcohol. Plus they are dishwasher safe.
Proper Use of Reusable Canning Lids
Using reusable canning lids does require a bit more care when placing the lids. I won’t say that using reusable canning lids the first time is hard, but there is a bit of a learning curve. If care isn’t taken to use the lids properly, it can result in seal failure.
The lids and gaskets need to be washed prior to use and then simmered in hot water. The instructions online indicate that they should be sterilized before use, however, a simmer, would not be hot enough to sterilize the lids. I emailed Harvest Guard to get clarification if the separate pieces should be boiled for 10 minutes for sterilization or simmered. The reply was exactly as it stated on the website that the gaskets are to be simmered before use. Per the instruction sheet that is mailed with every Harvest Guard shipment, the simmering softens the rubber prior to use. In years past, all canning lids were simmered before use, however, per the manufacturer’s instructions, that is no longer necessary for conventional canning lids.
The jars should be filled to the correct headspace as indicated by the USDA-approved canning instructions. Once filled, place the rubber gasket onto the lid and place it onto the jar. I have found that you should center it up as well as you can. On my latest canning project, I was not careful to center them and while the jars are still sealed, the lids are not set on the jars exactly centered.
Tightening the Band
The most important step when using reusable canning lids is not to overtighten the rings. Once the lid and gasket are centered on the jar, use a metal ring to secure the lid. The best technique is to hold the lid in place with just your index finger. Turn the ring until the jar turns. That’s it! Jars that are overtightened by using the common “finger tight” method for metal canning lids will likely not seal.
When canning, any air inside the jar will vent during the canning process. Reusable canning lids that are overtightened will not vent. Instead, they will bow up. Be very careful handling hot jars that the lids have bowed. The lids can pop off from the pressure inside when you loosen the metal ring. Once the lids are in place, process the jars in a water bath canner or pressure canner according to the required processing time.
After Processing Follow Up
Once the jars have finished processing and it’s time to remove the jars from the canner, there is one additional step. After you remove the jar, while it is still hot, tightened the metal band completely. This time the conventional finger-tight method of tightening would be appropriate. Be careful not to loosen instead of tightening, a common mistake I make. Use a towel to hold the jar and cover the lid while you do this step, just in case.
Allow the jars to completely cool at room temperature and after 24 hours check the seals. Simply lift the jar by holding the lid. Lids that are properly sealed can not be easily lifted off, the air-tight seal will keep them secure. Lids that did not seal will come off easily. Either put it in the refrigerator and use it as soon as possible or reprocess it.
My Experiences with Reusable Lids
I’ve owned and used both Tattler and Harvest Guard Reusable Canning lids. During the pandemic, when everyone else was buying toilet paper, I was buying as many canning supplies as I could find. Later that year when canning supplies became very difficult to find I bought Harvest Guards lids in bulk to ensure that regardless of supply issues, I would have the supplies I needed.
Both companies’ products are made in the USA. They are similarly priced, Tattler sells 50 wide mouth lids and gaskets for $44.50 while Harvest Guard sells the same for $42. Both offer free shipping. They both sell a trial pack, that includes two regular lids and two wide-mouth lids so home cooks can try the lids without making a big investment. Both companies also sell replacement gaskets in bulk. This is the allure of buying reusable lids, while the initial investment is more, if taken care of properly, the long-term use of reusable canning lids is more economical.
My seal rate has been good, though not perfect. In my last batch, I did 7 jars with the Harvest Guard lids and one did not seal. I checked the seals a week later and all are still sealed correctly. I’m not sure why the jar did not seal, the lid was not bowed. I checked the rim of the jar and it was not damaged in any way. My only guess is that I loosened the ring rather than tighten it when I removed the jars from the canner. I didn’t mark the jar that I did that to, but it’s my current hypothesis.
One Use Metal Canning Lids
One-use metal canning lids as we currently use have been around since 1915. At the time, rival companies were all competing with similar design ideas for easy-to-use canning lids. However, the design by Alexander Kerr with the metal screw band prevailed and the two-piece canning system we still use today was born.
Easy-to-Use Metal Canning Lids
I think the biggest advantage of using one-use canning lids is how easy they are to use. The lids can be used straight out of the box, with no fuss, and no prep, other than washing if you like. Back in the day when I started canning, the lids needed to be heated prior to use. A gentle simmer would soften the sealing compound to ensure a good seal. Per the manufacturer’s instructions, that additional step is no longer required. Though I will admit, I still simmered them for many years after the recommendation changed.
I’ve used many different brands: Ball, Kerr, and Denali. Plus at a recent event, I bought yet another new brand called Superb which I have not yet got to try. I’ve avoided using generic brands from big box stores just because I am concerned about quality, though I have a few. When it comes to storing my food, I want to do it right, quality products ensure my canned food is preserved safely.
I’ve had good seal rates when it comes to using metal canning lids. Canning jars that fail to seal are not a big deal. You can either use it right away or reprocess it. Before using canning jars, you should check the rims for any chips, this can prevent lids from sealing. Most instances that canning jars fail to seal has to do with user error. Maybe the jar was too full, or not full enough, maybe you forget to clean the rim after filling. The Spruce Eats has a good post on this subject.
Replacement canning lids are affordable. At the time this post was published, Ball and Kerr sell one dozen wide-mouth canning lids for $11.95. Denali sells the same dozen for $5.95 (50 cents a lid). I used my very first Denali Canning lids in my last canning project and was impressed by the heavy-duty lids and good quality. Best of all when canning lids were still difficult to find, Denali still had products to sell. Most all companies sell canning lids in bulk but vary on the quantity they offer in their bulk pricing. Most sell in quantities of 60 to 100. Denali sells a pack of 60 wide-mouth lids for $24.99. That’s about 42 cents a lid!
I like to keep a stock of canning supplies but you should be cautious when stocking up on one use canning lids. Per the National Center for Home Preservation unused lids are good for 5 years from the time of manufacturing. The sealing compound can become dry and lift off the lids as they age. The NCHP recommends only purchasing as many as you can use in a single year. Possibly, you could stock up enough for a couple of years in advance, maybe purchasing the next year’s supply after the canning season has ended.
Reusing One-Use Canning Lids
Metal one use canning lids are just that, they are good for one use. The main reason is that the sealing compound in the lid has been compressed and will likely not seal as well a second time. I practice and encourage canners to follow the recommendations of safe canning, so I only use my metal canning lids one time. To ensure I know which lids are used, I label my jars directly on the lid. I do save them, they are good for other uses, just not reprocessing food for long-term storage.
Which is Best?
Honestly, this is a really tuff question. When it comes to ease of use, one-use canning lids are the easiest to use and require no prep or fuss. They also have really good seal rates. If I Look at the cost per year, they are affordably priced.
However, we have already seen that a disruption in the supply chain can make getting consumable products difficult if not impossible. From a preparedness and self-sufficiency standpoint, reusable canning lids are a better option. Although the initial investment might be challenging for some families.
Let’s Do the Math
Harvest Guard sells reusable wide-mouth lids in a bulk pack of 250 lids and gaskets for $185 regular price. Let’s say I can 250 jars every year for 6 years, the estimated number of times I can reuse the rubber gasket. I could reuse those same 250 lids every year (assuming we opened all the jars) for 6 years at an initial investment of just $185.
If I can the same 250 jars every year for 6 years using one use canning lid. I would need 1500 lids over the next 6 years. If I purchase the 1500 lids from Denali it would cost $624.75 over the next 6 years.
When I look at the big picture, the investment in reusable canning lids is a much more affordable option. However we all know in my theoretical illustration, we likely won’t use every jar of canned food we put up each year. Likely we would need more than the 250 lids we purchased the first year. Even if I needed 300 lids (Initial investment of $224) in my total supply to account for unopened jars, the savings over time are significant.
Now multiply that by how many jars you use every year. Do you can 100 jars or 500 jars? Maybe you can 1000 jars a year?
Join Me in the Kitchen
Join me in the kitchen while I use both Harvest Guard lids and Denali Canning lids while I make homemade spaghetti sauce in the pressure canner.
I actually use both. From a preparedness standpoint. I have over 200 reusable lids in my collection, but other than one bulk order, I ordered them over time and I always shop the sales! Since they take a little practice to use properly, I use them. The more I use them, the better I will be at using them. However, I still use single-use metal canning lids. I can afford them and they are easy to find. If I am in a hurry, or canning late, I may not want to fuss with anything more than what I need to do to get the job done. Only you can decide what is the best canning jar lids for your budget and which best meet your needs. I hope this post helps you decide what’s best for you. Tell me in the comments below.
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About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.