Sunday, October 5, 2014

Are There New Guidelines for Safely Using Canning Lids?


BPA-free banner and USA flags appear on newer boxes.
BPA-free lids have a "Made in USA" banner in upper right corner.

For the last number of months I've heard scuttlebutt about new guidelines coming from the Ball/Kerr company (now combined and going under the name of Jarden Corporation). What I heard over and over again was that when the lids became BPA-free (around 2013, I think), it was no longer necessary to sterilize the lids before using them--and in fact, if you did sterilize them, there was the likelihood that the softer sealing compound would thin to the point that a safe seal might not occur.

But these rumors came during the height of canning season and I frankly didn't allot the time necessary to check into things...until now.

I tend to be conservative in my canning methods and realize that many folks home-can using older recipes without any problem. But that's not my style. I figure that if the time and energy (not to mention funds) were spent to come up with these guidelines, I'd do well to notice. And I'm so glad I did! As it turns out, I had a hazy picture at best of what I was hearing.

Canning lids are metal "rounds" that cover something called Plastisol on the underside. Around the edge of the underside of each lid is the reddish rubber sealing compound.

First let's discuss the Plastisol underside...but we have to go back all the way to 1969 to get the story. That was the year that the canning jar companies changed from using latex to Plastisol. Before 1969 the recommendation was to sterilize the lids in boiling water and remove them from the water only when ready to use. The reason why? Because latex-based lids needed that softening action that came from boiling. But when the softer Plastisol was used, it was no longer necessary to boil them. So why did we continue to boil our lids?

As well as I can figure, it was mostly a result of poor communication between the canning lid companies and the public. (And the university extension services did nothing to shed light on the process I might add.)

Now move forward to about 2013. This was when Jarden announced that their canning lids were now being manufactured BPA-free. At that time there were clarifications made about safely handling the lids, which seems to me to have been merely coincidental in timing.

The new guidelines tell us we can simply wash and rinse our lids and keep them at room temperature until ready to use. But they also tell us that if we continue to simmer--not boil--our lids at 180 degrees (which many of us have been doing for years) we won't be overheating the lids and possibly contributing to seal failures. In other words, simmer away if that's your bent.

One more piece of good news (which really isn't "news," but has also come to the forefront of late) is that if we water-bath or pressure can our jars for 10 minutes, we don't need to sterilize the jars before filling. Personally, I think this is the best news of all. Sterilizing those jars was always a real pain, and I'd often resort to just washing them in my dishwasher and then feel guilty that I was cutting corners. But as it turns out, I was just fine. What a relief!

So has anything really changed as far as how I process food? Not really. But it is nice to know that I've been in the forefront of correct safe food processing without even knowing it. Before I called it cutting corners. Now I can call it leading edge. Ha!

Blessings to you and yours. May these lovely fall days be filled with the comforts of home and hearth!

P.S.--These thoughts are my own. If I have inadvertently misstated anything, it's my doing alone, and I apologize!

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