I received a question from someone who noticed on a few of my videos that I use canning jars to store my tobacco in for long-term storage and cellaring. She asked if the jars, bands, and lids can be reused, or if they have to be replaced after each use. Her mother told her that she could only use them one time and had to keep purchasing new ones each time.
This is actually a very good question that can cause some confusion because the answer is both yes and no. Basically it depends on what you are wanting to reuse them for, but let's break it down a little more than that so you can understand the theory behind the answers to really understand what is going on.
For the jars themselves, absolutely, they can always be reused as long as they are not damaged. Make sure you never use anything metal inside the jar that micht scratch the inner surface of the jar. If the inner surface of the jar becomes scratched, even slightly, it can never again be used for either water-bath or pressure canning foods, but it is still usable for other things like vacuum sealing.
The bands can always be reused. Nothing really ever happens to them, in fact I have several canning jar rings that are at least 40 or 50 years old that are still going strong. Just wash them up after each use, dry them to keep them from rusting, and store them away for their next use.
For the flat metal lids on top of the jars, this is where the tricky part of the answer comes in. Sometimes yes they can be reused over and over again, and sometimes no they must be replaced when they are used. Let me explain.
If you are using the lids to vacuum seal items in a jar with a machine like a FoodSaver with a canister attachment, like I do with my tobacco that I am storing (not the tobacco that I am cellaring), then yes, the lid can be reused over and over again as long as you are careful when breaking the seal to remove it from the jar and do not bend the lid. As long as it can still achieve a vacuum seal it can still be reused for vacuum sealing in jars.
The lids used for water-bath or pressure canning can not be reused though. You must always use a brand new flat lid with each canning process. Once the seal under the lid has been heated up in the canning process, it can never be used again in canning. It can however be used again for vacuum sealing.
Ok, now that you are finally straightened out on all of that and know when you can and can't reuse canning lids, allow me to thoroughly confuse you by throwing another twist in the mess.
There are now reusable lids that can be used over and over again for either water-bath or pressure canning. Tattler lids are a two-part lid made from BPA-free plastic with a rubber ring.
These lids are a bit more expensive than traditional metal lids, but as they are reusable over and over again, they actually save money in the long run from buying replacement lids every time you want to can foods.
Using the Tattler lids also means you will still be able to can your foods long after the zombie apocolypse when you will no longer be able to just go to the store and purchase replacement metal canning lids, lol.
But seriously. I have started using the Tattler lids on all of my food canning now to save the expense of replacing the lids, plus I also want to avoid another possibility with long-term food storage which has the potential of existing with using metal lids, rust.
I had a friend of mine sent me a photo of a lid that he just removed from a jar of food he had processed and had sitting on his shelf for several years and I was shocked by what I saw.
Not only was the band rusted, but if you look closely there are deposits of rust under the seal on the lid making small bumps in the seal. This is a rare incident, but there is always the slight potential for it happening as it is metal, and metal does have a tendancy to rust. By my switching over to the Tattler plastic lids, I have completely removed even the slightest possibility of rust in my food storage from the equation. My friend now only uses the Tattler lids as well.
One other thing that he forgot to do when he stored his canned foods was that he forgot to remove the screw on metal band from the jars before storing them on his shelves.
The metal band should only be used on the jars during the canning process. Once the jars have been allowed to cool down for 24-hours on your countertop allowing the vacuum seal to form, the bands should be removed from the jars. The vacuum seal itself is what holds the lid onto the jar, not the metal band.
If the lid has secured itself to the jar and does not come off when you try to lift the jar off the countertop by the lid, it is then ready to be placed on the shelf in your pantry. If however, the lid did not seal and comes off when you try to lift the jar up by the lid, then simply place that jar in the refrigerator and start consuming that jar first.
Here is a photo of a delicious vegetable soup that I canned and stored on my shelves a few years ago before I started using the plastic Tattler lids. As you can see, I do not store the jars with the bands on them.
Here is another photo of food stored with the Tattler lids, again, stored without the metal bands.
Another thing that can happen if you keep the metal bands on the jars is if you were to have a seal fail on a jar, you would not be able to easily tell if the metal band is still holding the lid in place.
On a regular schedule, as I am inspecting my disaster supplies and emergency food storage I simply pick up each jar of food on my shelves by the lid. If the seal is intact and the food is safe to eat, the lid will not come off of the jar when I pick the jar up by the lid. If the lid does come off of the jar when I try to pick the jar up, I immediately dispose of the contaminated food. Never chance it, just throw it away.
Well, hopefully this has cleared the air a little on when you can reuse canning jar parts, and when you can't, and which parts can be reused. If you need more help with this issue or have questions on a different topic, send me an email.
Until Next Time,
Aloha & 73