Canning,  Food

Re-using Canning Jars and Lids

As you may know, Matt has a super specific and rare eating disorder that involves the constant consumption of Vegenaise, a vegan mayonnaise alternative (we get the kind made from grapeseeds!). We buy it in bulk and go through about a jar a month, and by “we” I mean mostly Matt.

While this is mildly disgusting, the plus side is these jars are great for canning because they fit “Regular Mouth” standard canning lids. Which means we can buy new lids for them at the store. The only concern is that they are thinner glass, and a little more prone to cracking. For that reason, it’s important to avoid drastic temperature changes – which you should do with the regular Ball/Mason jars anyway.

For those who don’t can, sometimes when you dump the boiling hot tomato sauce into the jar, the temperature change makes the jar explode. It is not as awesome as it sounds. And when it happens around midnight and the whole kitchen is already a disaster and now you and everything else is covered in boiling tomatoes, it can be, ahh, demoralizing.  The other thing that can happen is that your jar cools down too much before you put the full jar of tomatoes in the hot water bath to sanitize and seal it, and it explodes into your pan of boiling water.  And then you are so tired that you think you can dump the pan full of water and tomatoes and broken glass down the sink, and the boiling hot tomato debris clogs up your sink…

We have been sanitizing our jars pre-canning using the oven instead of boiling water the last two years, and while we haven’t been poisoned and it’s awesome to have one less pot of boiling water on the stove, it does seem that we crack a few more jars. Thoughts? Is this a coincidence? I think we cracked three jars this year, all on tomato sauce, and two of them were actually fancy Mason jars. Considering the dozens we didn’t crack, it’s not that bad.

Apple and Peach Butter and Hot saucesBut anyway, this year we are experimenting with re-using other types of our jars from things like salsa, “Better than Bullion” (my fave soup stock), peanut butter, jellies and sauer kraut.  The concern is these jars have odd sized lids, as you can see in the photo.

We save most of our jars to use at the co-op for spices and such, and also, yeah, to drink out of, and well, mostly because we have a problem throwing things away. This came in handy when we totally ran out of jars this year and had to scrounge around for more.

Since the lids were odd-sized, we had to use the factory lids they came with. These have a plastic seal around them similar to the canning lids we buy, so we thought, what the hey? All of them but one jar sealed right, thought I am nervous about the seals failing in a month or so?

I searched around on-line before I did this and all I could find was dire (ACHTUNG! PELIGRO!) warnings against re-using canning lids, ever!! EVER!!! Matt assured me that grannies on the rural West Virginia creek where he used to live did this all the time, and I guess those grannies are just not on the internet in canning chat forums?

Anyway, I’ll keep you updated on the success of our grand experiment in DANGEROUS canning habits and if I suddenly stop blogging, you’ll know why…

Update: As of the end of March, about 6 months, we haven’t had any problems with our re-used jar lids. Yay!


  • Lori

    I once very nervously consumed a jar of grape jelly similarly canned by David’s aunt in Jville. While my one jar may not be much of a risk, a whole larder full of them might…but let me know how it works out. Infinitesimal risks never bothered me much – I even let the kids play outside by themselves! (This will not be funny any more if you die or my kids get kidnapped.)

  • dana

    We’ll already four jars into the salsa, so we’ll see how long it lasts. It may not matter that the jars are questionable.

    Interestingly, I did some more research and found a bunch of people saying they re-use jars – many of them were British and mentioned that British people have much lower standards for canning safety.

  • deb m

    I’m from WV and we canned almost everything we ate. We always boiled our jars after washing, and never reused seals, but always reused rings. I’ve recently discovered that plastic lids from peanut butter and such are great replacements for the metal rings, especially when you are giving them away. Jelly is different, Grandma Grace always sealed hers with wax and just used any screw on lid.
    hope you don’t have any problems…and your ketchup sounds yummy.

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