The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Do You Have Enough Jars & Canning Lids?

We are spending some time organizing, discarding, giving away & figuring. This morning I was going through our canning jars, regular canning lids, Tattler lids, and rings. As I did so, I pondered the possibilities. If these were the only jars, lids and rings I would ever have. Do I have enough? Do you?

With that pondering comes these thoughts. How many jars would I need to fill from our garden, chickens, goats and fruit to last a year until the next harvest was available? I really do appreciate the information we can find on the internet, and went on a quest. Here are a few articles I found that discuss how much food to raise or store, for a year.

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How much to plant in your garden to provide a year's worth of food?

Food Storage Calculator

TheFoodGuys.com - Food Storage Calculator 

Long Term Food Storage Calculator (uses Excel)

The Pantry Primer: How To Build a One Year Food Supply in Three Months

Peek Inside My Pantry - Use This Tool To Help Plan A Year's Worth of Food and Supplies

How Much to Plant Per Person in the Vegetable Garden

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Okay. That's enough for now. But, you see what I mean. We have been homesteading and gardening for years, but now we are getting very serious about trying to have on hand what we may need if the SHTF or TEOTWAWKI happens. Permanently. We've had many conversations
about how many jars of this or that we may need to last a year in 'normal' circumstances. But what if the electricity is off and we have no freezer, refrigeration, instant hot water, or anything that runs off of the grid? We depend on the freezer to preserve our meat, some cheese and some fruits and vegetables for now. If we didn't have that luxury, and it really is a luxury that many people don't enjoy, even in this day and age. So, if we didn't have that luxury, and instead canned all of our meat, broth, dog food (organ meat and fats from butchering), lard, some milk, maybe butter and cheese, fruits and all of the vegetables, I go back to my original question. Do we have enough jars & canning lids?

Some other things I thought of. With jars, we have to plan on breakage. This happens sometimes during canning, or by accident. Ask Frank. I am a rather clumsy person. Regular canning lids can be reused, sometimes as many as three times. We know. We tried it just so we would know and wouldn't have to hope or guess if we really needed them. But it is not a recommended practice. The Tattler lids can be reused many times if you take very good care of the gaskets. If I was solely dependent upon them, I would want to lay in a good supply of extra gaskets. And for Tattler lids to work, you must have rings. We've tried to devise a way to take extra good care of our rings to make them last as long as possible. When we are canning and our jars have sealed and cooled, we wash the rings, dry them well and store them so they won't rust, thus prolonging their usefulness.

June 2013
Spring and the gardening season will be upon us soon. This year we are going to make a serious effort to can and store a year's supply of food. Food that we produce here on our farm. Then, as we use it up, we will take stock of our jar, lid and ring supply. But until we have a more solid idea of our long term needs, we will continue picking up more jars and lids. Just in case. We have been surprised at the stock of canning supplies Wal-Mart has kept this winter. They usually don't. I'm glad. We have picked up a few more lids.

The more I learn, the deeper I learn, and the more I realize how little I know. There are layers upon layers of knowledge to learn. I have barely scratched the surface.

Until next time - Fern

39 comments:

  1. it's helpful to branch out into other areas of preservation, too. Fermenting is a personal favorite, and you don't have to bottle your sauerkraut (actually, many vegetables will keep for a year or two fermented in salt water, without canning). Drying also helps for all kinds of stuff. I haven't done much preserving in fat, but I'm told that given proper conditions (dark, cool) animal fats like lard and tallow will keep just fine on their own, along with whatever meat you may have cooked in them and kept fully submerged while the fat hardens again. Anyway, canning isn't your only option.

    As an aside, do you like Tattler lids? We got several and found that they come off much more easily than the one-use lids I grew up with. Many have been loose enough that it cast doubt on how well they'd kept the food inside from spoiling.

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    1. Thank you for the varied examples of food preservation, Joshua. You're right, there are many ways to preserve our harvest.

      We have just acquired books and crocks to try our hand at fermented vegetables. I look forward to seeing how it tastes and if we like it. There are many health benefits from fermented vegetables as well. Especially if you use fresh whey in it.

      We hope, cross our fingers, to have a large winter squash harvest this year that we can 'preserve' as is, in a cool, dark place. Along with some turnips, carrots and sugar beets.

      Tattler lids are different. We use them occasionally in amongst the regular lids when we can, just for the experience. I find that tightening the rings down as tight as you can, immediately after taking them out of the canner makes a difference. We have found a few loose on the shelf well after we thought everything was well sealed. After the jars cool off I try to pry them off my hand, not real hard, but I do try them to test for a good seal. Do I like them? Yes, for their re-usability and what that may mean to us in the long run. But right now, I prefer the Ball lids. They're just easier.

      Thank you again for sharing.

      Fern

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  2. Canning lids are one of those inexpensive little things you can throw into the shopping basket when you run to the hardware store. I rarely come home without at least one more box. But I know I don't have enough. Gotta start my Tattler collection this year.

    And, you're right, it's so important to take good care of the rings so they don't rust! Geez, it seems like they rust in the 90 seconds it took me to answer the phone if I don't wipe them down first.

    Just Me



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    1. We regularly pick up more lids, Just Me. It's one of our 'staple' items when we go to the store. Thank you for sharing.

      Fern

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  3. Watch also at the thrift stores, we pick up a jar or two every time we visit and they are cheap, of course you have to check the tops for cracks and nicks but for a nickel...
    I keep my canning rings the same way grandma did, on an old wire coat hanger I unwound. It hangs off a shelf and the rings are high and dry. It is a good thing to know how much food you would need to grow to hold out til the next harvest, we have been increasing every year and experimenting with methods, hope we get at least most of it figured out before we really need it!

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    1. We have friends that regularly go to thrift stores, yard sales, estate sales, auctions, etc. and find jars. Your coat hanger idea is a good one. I have a hook on a shelf that I use to hang metal clips that are on each end of a long string in between. I'll have to put up a picture of it sometime. I just made it from things I had on hand.

      We hope we have it figured out in time too, Kathy. And that we are able to grow however much it is we need. It sounds like we are on the same track of growing more each year. Best of luck with your garden this year.

      Fern

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  4. I make it a point to stock up on lids whenever I go to the local hardware or grocery store. I have tons of rings, but take special care with them. I wash them in sudsy water and then pop them in the oven at 170 degrees to make sure they are really dry. It seem like the new rings rust faster than the old ones. I know I would not have the luxury of an oven if TSHTF, but I will use it now. I have been thinking of buying lids in bulk online. It is always the shipping that is so expensive. I dehydrate lots of food, but that is an iffy situation in this area without an electric dryer. We can all year and go thru a lot of rings,..... I will just keep buying as many rings as I can and catch jars on sale or in yard sales.

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    1. I agree, Tewshooz, the new rings do seem to rust faster than the old ones. And the quality of the lids aren't as good either. There are some places that sell lids in bulk online like Lehman's, but I'm not sure how much the shipping would be. Have you ever tried dehydrating in a solar oven? I haven't, but I've wondered how it might work. It gets real humid here in the summer sometimes and I'm not sure how well things would dry without an electric dehydrator. Thanks for sharing.

      Fern

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    2. You do need hot, dry weather for solar drying, preferably breezy or very sunny too. The food needs to dry quickly and thoroughly enough to not mold before it's dry.

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    3. That's why I don't think it would work here unless I could use something like a Sun Oven to quicken the process. Thank you for sharing this.

      Fern

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  5. I stopped canning after we moved to FL some 11 years ago and instead try to grow year round, in containers, and freeze excess to use when it's too hot to grow much. We do stockpile a few things like dry beans, pb, tea and coffee. Now you've gotten me thinking about preserving in other ways. Will really have to give this some thought as canning, other than water bath, would require a pressure canner. All this means more storage inside the house for constant temperature control - well, if the electricity goes out so does the AC. Better rethink this whole thing - sure glad hubby is off for 3 days as it'll take both of us to come up with a plan.

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    1. It's interesting to read your thoughts, Bellen. Thank you for writing them down for us. There are so many different possibilities when it comes to preserving food. We all live in different climates and have different challenges, but that doesn't mean I can't get some great ideas from someone that lives in Florida or northern Idaho. I'm interested to see what plan you come up with.

      Fern

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  6. Thank you for finally pointing it out.... in emergency YES, canning flats would have to be reused!!! I was raised by frugal people. They did it all the time. I do it all the time now. I probably have one fail out of 100 jars. No problem. However you have to develop a certain skill with this, using your eyes and brain!! Carefully inspecting and considering how long each food is going to process. During the emergency when you are trying to can on a wood fire is NOT the time to develop this skill. Do the math on how much money you are saving.

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    1. Even though it is not a recommended practice, Beth, I know of others that reuse their regular canning lids. We found that care in removing the lid from the previous jar does make a difference. Thank you for sharing.

      Fern

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  7. it is so true about the more you learn the more you realize you need to learn more! My mother was fanatical about us being careful with the canning jars.
    You need a tremendous amount of them.
    One of our projects is a solar dehydrator for the no power situation. Great post Fern!

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    1. I will be interested in seeing how your solar dehydrator works, Fiona. I don't know if you have the humidity we do, and that may make a difference, but it will still be interesting. Thank you for sharing.

      Fern

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  8. I use a lot of bail jars and I have 3 jar rubbers per jar that I use, that way I won't run short. A jar rubber lasts for years, much longer than a metal lid. I do use plenty of regular mason jars too, I won't pressure can in a bail jar. I don't dispute that metal lids *can* be reused, but if you've held an old lid from back when they were regularly reused and a metal lid today, you'll quickly see the difference. The lids today don't have nearly as much gasket as they used to. They redesigned them to NOT be as reusable, which conveniently coincided with them declaring bail jars unsafe. I'm suspicious of any regulation that comes from an entity with a vested interest in you buying their products.

    You have a wonderful blog, I'm enjoying it immensely! .

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    1. I've heard of a few people using bail jars, Mrs. G, but I have no experience with them. You're right about the quality of the lids, the old ones are much better. There is a new brand of them at Wal-Mart that are not near the quality of the current Ball and Kerr lids either. They cost less, but we would rather have the Ball or Kerr lids.

      Thank you for your kind words, and thank you for sharing. I'm glad you enjoy your time here.

      Fern

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    2. I had friends who used the cheaper Wal-Mart lids and contacted the company after numerous seal failures. The company (Mainstays) said that they're primarily for crafts, not canning; yet they place them with the canning supplies.

      I blogged on how to safely use bail jars here:
      http://www.pastoralsymphonyfarm.blogspot.com/2010/07/using-bail-canning-jars-safely-in-21st.html

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    3. Thank you for the bail jar canning tutorial, Mrs G. I didn't realize the other brand of lids was for crafts either. They are right next to the Ball/Kerr lids. Thank you for letting us know.

      Fern

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  9. I never walk through Walmart without grabbing a flat of Ball jars and I sit and sing to them at night. That's how much I love them. Last week I bought the smallest ones I could find (thinking I was being wasteful) but when you think about it, opening a small jar leaves less to go bad if the electricity is out. Oh! And if you haven't already thought of this: KEEP the cardboard they came in. It prevents breakage and provides the perfect storage of your canned good.

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    1. Well, I've never heard of anyone singing to their jars, Lotta Joy. We have always kept the boxes the jars come in. We don't store them in the boxes when they are full of food, but as we empty the jars, we store them back in the boxes until the next use. Good tip. Thank you for sharing.

      Fern

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  10. I found a good deal on lids after canning season was over. I have 41 dozen I got most of them for lest than a dollar a dozen. I try to can most of my garden over the years I have collected and been given jars my count is 900 jars assorted sizes. Keep in mind I have been canning for over 50 years. I enjoy your blog very much and have learned much.

    Blessings
    Sue

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    1. A few years ago some friends of ours just happen to be walking through Wal-Mart when they were taking all of the canning jars to the back of the store at the end of the season. When they asked how much the jars were, they were given a very low price. I don't remember how much they paid, but they loaded up all they had. You never know when you will run into a good deal.

      Sue, I find it very humbling that you would learn here after canning for over 50 years. I am such a novice. Blessings to you.

      Fern

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  11. You say that you live in south eastern Oklahoma which I assume means that you live in growing zone 7 . You should be able to grow things all year long with a little help from row covers and such. Please look into some of the books by Eliot Coleman. He is a market gardener who lives in zone 5 Maine and has things that grow all year for him in unheated hoop houses. There are videos on You Tube of some of his talks.

    Adaptive Seeds out in Oregon is offering seeds for some plants that stay alive down to 5 degrees and still grow to produce food or seeds the next year.

    I live in Wyoming which is zone 4, we have had several times this past winter when it got down to -23 degrees so I don't grow much right now, but come the middle of February when we get 10 hours of daylight or more I will start getting some of the cold hardy plants such as spinach, Johnny's Seeds white salad turnips and lettuce growing. With covers I can continue to grow vegetables until the middle of November.

    Please look into these types of things so that you don't have to put everything that you eat in jars.

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    1. We haven't ever used row covers or cold frames, but I am looking into a small cold frame for winter greens. We have been very pleased at harvesting turnips and carrots all winter so far without any extra covering. I did do an experiment with covering part of the turnips with a frost cloth for a few weeks and it did make a difference.

      I have Eliot Coleman's book, The Winter Harvest Handbook, and it is great. Lots of good information about winter gardening outside with cold frames and row covers, as well as inside an unheated greenhouse. I would highly recommend it. Thank you for the information and the encouragement.

      Fern

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  12. A few years ago I bought a great deal of Tattler lids, more than I think I will ever need in one year. I debated regular vs wide mouth, but have decided to mostly stick with regular to make things easier. I have often wondered how many uses you can get out of a 'single use' lid, as they often come off the jar looking as good as when they went on! I have also been researching alternative storage methods, such as root cellaring, clamping, etc since people did store food for many many years without glass jars.
    For those sceptical about Tattler lids, they work really well once you get the hang of them, which is another reason not to wait until we need these skills to learn them!
    Another 'unapproved' method my grandmother (who lives in a part of the world where nice new canning jars are rare and expensive) uses: she heats regular jars and lids in the oven to sterilize, fills with hot jam etc, and screws on the lids TIGHT and turns them upside down on the counter to cool completely. It works perfectly.

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    1. Interesting how your grandmother cans, Karin. Thank you for sharing that.

      I agree, Tattler lids require some getting used to and perfecting your technique. They do provide more security in knowing you can use them many times over. I have chosen wide mouth jars because I can get my hand inside to wash them. I can't with the regular mouth jars.

      Thank you for sharing.

      Fern

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    2. My mother used to can jams in an unusual (by today's standards) way too. She used whatever kind of jars she had around. She sterilized the jars, added jam, and then just sealed with paraffin wax. I have some wax, and keep meaning to try this, but haven't yet. I understand jam keeps better this way because of it's high sugar content.

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    3. My mom used to do that, too. I hadn't thought of that in years. Thank you for sharing!

      Fern

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    4. My grandmother still does keep jam and jelly under wax. She won't trust anything without a high sugar content to a paraffin seal, and of course you can't really pressure can that way. It's probably worth noting that the FDA's recommendations no longer include paraffin, but they also no longer include configure in lard, turning hot jars upside down to seal, or, if you want to go really old-school, covering clay crocks in fresh sheeps' bladders and allowing them to try. But those methods worked well enough in their time, and might continue to do so if you run out of new lids.

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  13. Hi Fern and all the other canners on your blog. This is a wonderful challenge to each of us gardeners and canners! I have many, many cases of jars both full and empty and waiting. However...I have often been tempted to use a Ball flat more than once but have only done it with things such as high sugar jams. I am wondering if you would tell me how you remove the flat from the canned food so as not to poke a dent in it or distort the edge??? Often, my used flats have these problems. I'm so enjoying your blog, Fern!

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    1. We use an old fashioned can opener that is pointed on one end and rounded on the other. When I was young everyone called it a church key. I still do sometimes. Ours has a magnet on the back, but not all of them do. I don't use the pointed end, I use the rounded end and slowly try to pry up the lid. Many times I will pry a little, then move over just a bit and pry some more, always slowly. The less bending of the lid I do, the better. If it bends up too much, we bend them back before reuse. Always check to make sure the rubber gasket material is still totally intact before trying to use them again. And again, this is not a recommended practice.

      I am glad you enjoy your time here, Lorraine. Thank you for sharing and for the question.

      Fern

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    2. Gotcha! I'll be more careful opening. I have often wondered about reusing them. When times get hard, we'll do the things we must to keep ourselves going...and maybe be able to share as well. Thanks!

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  14. I love all your articles. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experiences. I used to can a lot but got away from it so am slowly building my supply of jars and such back up. One thing I would recommend is to have two years worth of home canned food in case a drought or pestilence or other tragedy takes your year's crops. This, of course, means having two years worth of jars and lids too.

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    1. Sharon, you are exactly right about the need for a two year supply of food and jars. I would feel much more secure in the food department with as much as a three year supply. That would be a lot of jars and seeds, but well worth the investment.

      Your kind words are very humbling. I'm just grateful we can all share and learn from each other. So, thank you for sharing.

      Fern

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  15. Thank you for all your information! I have been canning for a while, but I could always learn more. I also like to freeze certain meats and vegetables. Lately I have been learning more about dehydrating and fermenting. Next month I am going to start classes to get my certification as a Master Food Preserver. I can't wait for the classes to start!
    Also, for the SHTF situation or even TEOTWAWKI, I have been reading that it's a good idea to dehydrate a lot of fruits and vegetables, package them up to keep them airtight, then bury a few of these in gallon sized containers for "just in case". Since vegetables and fruit are very lightweight and don't take much room when they are dehydrated, one gallon full of dehydrated foods will last one month for one person - at least that's what the article said - and all you need is water for rehydration.
    As far as tattler lids, I have had a fairly good rate of success with them. However, I don't pressure can with them. I tried it, but with the tattler lids you have to tighten the bands as soon as the jars come out of the canner and unfortunately with pressure canning this is not recommended. So, I am sticking with the flat metal lids for pressure canning and using the tattler lids for waterbath canning, and this seems to work for me fairly well.
    After reading all the comments above and the posts you suggested, I think I need to start stockpiling a lot more canning jars and lids!

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  16. Everett/Island VoiceJuly 8, 2015 at 4:57 PM

    Hi Folks, Been canning for over 50 years and the way I get a lid off a jar is to follow the threads around the jar till the back of a table knife will just contact the bottom edge of the lid. Then just a little leverage will pop the top off with no damage.
    Just recently found this site and have been tied to my computer reading as many of the previous posts as I can before my wife chases me back out to the garden!! Absolutely love it here! Regards to all Everett

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    1. Everett, thank you for the tip. We do reuse lids on occasion, and as you know, it's not a recommended practice, and I'm not recommending it either. But we do, on occasion, reuse lids. We have been stocking up on jars, lids, and in the past, rings. We have experimented with some of the Tattler reusable products. Who knows maybe someday you'll go down to the market and instead of coins, we'll be using lids for currency. I bet you could put a good edge on one of those things, too.

      Everett, I'm glad you found this site and you feel comfortable. Please comment any time and also share your experiences.

      Frank

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