Canning lid shortage and quality problems

ClareBroommaker's picture

I know we've talked about this recently on anther thread, but I don't remember where and it looks like this might be problem enough to have a dedicated thread.

My additions to the story of shortage / quality problems is second and third hand, but I'm sharing in hopes of alerting folks that alternatives need to be figured.

With the pandemic, more people in the US started gardens this year and more planned to can foods, so there has been high demand for canning supplies. I read last night of a long-time food preserver who had trouble with Ball brand lids buckling. Now we've observed here before that some less expensive brands have that problem, but I'd never heard of Ball problems. These problematic lids came on jars purchased at Walmart. That brings to mind that I have often heard that manufacturers sometime cut corners when producing to fill Walmart orders because they negotiate such poor payment from Walmart.

I told the above to my sister, and she told me that she has been hearing the same thing about lids on jars bought at Walmart this year. She said, too, that the jars themselves are thought to be less substantial and sometimes breaking. That is not normal.

My sister further told me that some Amish communities are hugely reliant on canning to preserve fruits, vegetables, meats, broths, and even fats, but that they have not been able to find nearly the amount of lids they need this year. She said (and sorry, I know this comes off as gossip; I hear it, too) that decision makers in Amish communities are advising everyone who knows any "English" people to ask if they can put meats in their freezers this year. I have never thought about how many jars you really might need to supply most all your family's food needs, but my sister spoke of thousands, I think she said 4,000 was typical for a certain family she heard about. I don't think my sister knows them personally.

Use what we have wisely. Think of other ways to preserve. Re-use if we are able. Can with one-piece or commercially pre-used if you know how. And be wary the quality of lids and jars you buy.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

My official canning jars are a mix of Ball and Golden Harvest but none newer than about 10 years. Golden Harvest is the jar type often found at Walmart. I just recently learned that they are made by the same parent company as the Ball jars. I also learned that the Golden Harvest are actually metric [I had never noticed] so the jars sold as quarts are actually 1 liter. None of the lids I used this year were purchased this year so I have no personal data on possible quality issues. I have never had any problems with Walmart generic lids vs Ball branded vs lids sold with Golden Harvest jars. I did have one quart jar break this year when lowered into the water bath but did not note whether it was a Ball or a Golden Harvest. Link below is source of info about Golden Harvest jars being the economy model jar made by the same parent as Ball:
From the same source an interesting source of info on jar types and history:

It's possible to preserve food other ways than canning or freezing and, in fact, everybody did so. For some things, the old methods still work better but they do take more work, more time, more know-how, and the results may not be as sterile.

We dried a lot of things in our two-level solar drier; tomatoes, leafy greens for soup and the like. Thoroughly dried foods last a long time when stored in glass jars in a cool, dark place.

I've got a book I haven't tried yet but someone else might have: Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar , Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by the Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante.

These are NOT recipes; more like guidelines so you can experiment. Here's the link:

It's a fascinating book. I have to say that the learning curve so you don't introduce botulism might be steep.
I guess your tolerance for possible gastric distress would have to be balanced against your tolerance for starvation.

ClareBroommaker's picture

Yes, I agree about other means of preserving food! I have that book, too, and a couple things it spurred me to try were fermenting tomatoes (did not work well, but I'd do differently next time) and fermenting the stalks of Swiss chard without any salt. That one made me nervous. It worked and produced a mild pickle, but I don't think I'll do it again without salt unless close to desperate. I don't have confidence in its safety.

So glad to hear that you are solar drying your tomatoes and greens! My state's agriculture extension discourages solar drying, but I don't remember if they have in mind methods that heat up and drive relative humidity around the foods very low.... Could you tells us about your solar dryer, Teresa?

As far as saving on canning lids, one thing that I'm sometimes in conflict with my mate about is the size jars to use. I figure if I can something in one quart rather than in two pints, I've spared the use of one lid. Another way to save on lids is to concentrate the foods, which, of course cannot always be done. But soon we will be cooking down apples. If we use the solar oven to really concentrate them, we can fit one quart of apple butter --using one lid-- instead of two or three pints of apple sauce-- again with one or two lids spared. If we later want a thinner product, we can just add water. Concentrating works for tomato as well, but we usually have way too much to fit in the solar oven for cooking down and do not want to heat the kitchen in summer and use so much fuel on the gas stove.

Oldest child built the solar dryer as a high school senior project so it's about 12 years old. At first we used it a lot.
Gradually, it got used less and less as I was the one doing the work and I started doing other things (like write) and I didn't have the time.
It took time: time to prep the veg, time to dry, time to rotate the dryer to follow the sun; and of course, what we dried had to be used up in soup.

As I recall, it always took two days even for leafy veg to dry thoroughly. The thick ribs took longer as you would expect and by the time they were completely dry, the leaves were on their way to fragile dust. Tomatoes had to be seeded. As you would expect, 'dryer' tomatoes were far more successful than 'wetter' varieties.

Every vegetable was different. I didn't keep notes and I should have.

The dryer took longer than expected for any given load -- far longer than the book of instructions indicated it would. Humidity plays a big part in drying and central Pennsylvania is not known for being arid. Sunshine mattered enormously. We've got trees in addition to the humidity so for best results, I needed to rotate the dryer to follow the sun. If I were to rebuild it, I would mount casters on the legs for easier turning. It always took two days or more to dry a load, depending on how 'wet' the veg was.

Proper prep mattered a lot too: everything going in needed to be uniform in size and especially thickness.
It was astonishing how a full solar dryer (two window screens worth) of veg would shrink down to one or two quart jars.
We used the plans from 'The Solar Food Dryer' by Eben Fodor (

Oldest child built the 'basic' version, the one without added electricity to speed up the drying process.

It worked and it was a good experiment but like all the rest of the old-fashioned food preservation methods, there are trade-offs. It was expensive to build and I could have bought a lot of canned goods for the money. For some things, it worked really well. Other things, no so good. It certainly let me dry leaves of all kinds to be used later on in soup. How much food value made it through is another question.

I'll have time to take pictures of our solar dryer sometime next week. Younger son will show me how to post them.