When we were cruising in Mexico and Central America, every so often the big topic on the morning radio nets would be “where can I buy canning lids?”
Many cruisers like to can their own foods — particularly meats — as they feel it has better quality, better texture and they can add spices (or not) to their own taste. But the problem once you get south of the US is finding lids, since the typical “Ball” brand lids that are sold in every grocery store in the US can only be used once. And they are almost impossible to find in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America . . . or are ridiculously expensive.
This was one of the reasons that I didn’t can my own meat on Que Tal, although I’d done a lot of canning while living ashore. I kept thinking that if I could ever find the reusable lids that my grandma had used when I was a kid, I could do my own canning on the boat, since I wouldn’t have to worry about getting lids.
Now, I know that you can take a whole bunch of lids with you, and pick up more on trips to the US. That’s what some cruisers do.
But if you really are going to do much of your own canning, you’re going to need a fair number of lids. And while each pack of 12 seems small, they do take up space if you’re carry enough for a year — space both in your luggage and aboard the boat until you use them. And then there’s the environmental aspect of throwing something away when you can use a re-usable alternative.
At the Annapolis Sailboat Show, I found reusable lids! It wasn’t from a vendor’s booth, though — it was at the Seven Seas Cruising Association booth, where Joan Conover, the cruising station coordinator, had brought them along to show cruisers.
The Tattler Re-Usable Canning Lids (link is to Amazon, they’re available in both regular and wide-mouth) come in 12-packs with a hard plastic (BPA-free) lid and a rubber ring. You still need your jars and the metal screw-down rings. And they work whether you’re using a pressure canner or a plain boiling water bath. You can see that the rubber rings are much thicker than the little bit of rubber rim on the Ball lids, so you don’t have to worry about them tearing.
Joan told me that she’d been using them for several years and they worked really well. In fact, she liked them even better than the non-reusable ones as she had far fewer jars that didn’t seal. And as long as you kept the lid and rubber very clean, they worked just as well the second, third and subsequent times. The photo at right shows the lid and rubber ring in use, with the metal ring removed.
IMPORTANT: When opening the jar for the first time, don’t take a knife and stab it into the rubber — you have to use a bit of care not to tear them up. The “no-added-parts” way to do it is to place the flat side of a table knife on the top of the jar threads and push down on one end to “pop” the lid off, rather than trying to pry it off by sticking the knife under the lid. You can also use a bottle opener such as those freebies that come on key rings.
Detailed instructions on how to use the lids are contained in every box. If you’re curious before buying them, you can read the directions on the Tattler website. The Tattler website also sells the lids in larger quantities (3 dozen, 24 dozen, 500 or more) as well as replacement rubber rings (one dozen at a time) should you ever need any.
If you’re planning to do your own canning as you cruise, I’d seriously consider using the Tattler lids. Actually, you might want to use them anywhere you are!