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"Home Canning Jars, Caps, & Rubbers" USDA Bureau Of Human Nutrition 1943 poster

 
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On the occasion of buying a large plastic milk crate full of dirty old Ball Mason jars today at an estate sale -- vintage "old enough to be blue and have the zinc caps with ceramic inserts" -- I fell to wondering, as I have before, about the actual method for using these to preserve food.  (No, I don't plan to actually do it; this is just curiosity.)  I have long understood that this type of jar used a free-standing natural rubber gasket, which deteriorated quickly and are never found today.  Only, one of these jars today had a bunch of them stuffed inside -- hard enough to crumble at my touch, but I could see what they had been.  

Anyway I may have posted about this before, but I have long been curious about the gaskets and seals used with home canning jars of the many types that predate the modern USA "rings and steel lids with affixed rubber seal" method.  Web searches have availed me nothing, but today I got the bright idea of rooting around in the Internet Archive for ancient books of "how to can" instructions, thinking I might get some photos or descriptions of the gaskets used with the various types of older jars.  That sort of worked, but as with all the most serendipitous research, the best answer I found was a resource I never imagined existing.  It was a "V for Victory" (think victory gardens) poster published by the USDA during WWII that depicts all the then-common jar types next to the appropriate rings/gaskets/seals/lids for each jar.  

Here's the part of the poster with the information on jars and gaskets I was looking for:



And here is the whole poster (click to see it twice as big):


 
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Thanks for posting this. I've talked about these different jar types in my food preservation workshops but it's so nice to have a picture. These jars work like the Weck brand in that the seal is "completed" when the jars come out of the canner (the lid is tightened or the wire bail is snapped down, etc.) BTW, I grew up using the zinc lids and rubbers as posted in "A" and only quit canning with them about 35 years ago. I still have my stash of old jars and use the blue ones for storing dried foods. The rubbers do get brittle over time as they are a natural rubber. But if used for dry storage rather than running through the canner, they last for decades.
 
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Here's my idea for the day. If some company runs with it please pass on a commission, lol. Making lightning jar metal brackets and glass lids for modern day canning jars. I know tattler lids can be reused but I think some folks like myself would prefer to steer away from plastics. I would love to have lids that could be reused for years to come!
 
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Gail Jardin wrote:Here's my idea for the day. If some company runs with it please pass on a commission, lol. Making lightning jar metal brackets and glass lids for modern day canning jars. I know tattler lids can be reused but I think some folks like myself would prefer to steer away from plastics. I would love to have lids that could be reused for years to come!



Gail, I have a number of the lightning jars where the galvanized steel wire is missing or extremely rusty/corroded and ugly.  I have given a lot of thought to trying to figure out how to manufacture them from stainless steel wire.  It's not so very difficult if I made a set of jigs (frames to help with precise wire bending).  The trouble is, there's not much standardization in the lightning jars, or perhaps another way of putting it is, there are many MANY types and sizes with no easy way to describe the wire fasteners that each jar needs.  So there's no obvious way to make a business doing this; you'd pretty much have to do custom work for each jar or set of jars, which means having your hands on them.  I can't imagine folks want this badly enough to pay to have their jars shipped off to a specialty shop, then for custom labor, then have them shipped back.  And I just can't see how to standardize things enough that you could just sell new wire bales on Amazon or wherever via mail order -- people would forever be ordering the wrong ones that don't fit, and getting mad.

 
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Larisa Walk wrote:Thanks for posting this. I've talked about these different jar types in my food preservation workshops but it's so nice to have a picture. These jars work like the Weck brand in that the seal is "completed" when the jars come out of the canner (the lid is tightened or the wire bail is snapped down, etc.) BTW, I grew up using the zinc lids and rubbers as posted in "A" and only quit canning with them about 35 years ago. I still have my stash of old jars and use the blue ones for storing dried foods. The rubbers do get brittle over time as they are a natural rubber. But if used for dry storage rather than running through the canner, they last for decades.



Larisa, you are so welcome!  I'd love to hear more about the canning method for the jars with the zinc lids and rubbers.  Am I correct in understanding that the rubber gasket goes down on the lip or bead at the outside shoulder of the jar neck, so that the edge of the zinc compresses the rubber against that bead that's below the threads?  While the milk glass insert in the zinc lid presses glass-on-glass, but is not expected to seal, against the "true" rim of the jar above the threads?

I never knew that the lightning jars and the old zinc-lid types were left unsealed (or, as you put it more precisely, with the seal not "completed") until after coming out of the canner.  This is not so very different that with modern lids and rings, if you think about it; most modern canning instructions call for closing the rings finger tight and then backing them off half a turn, which parses in my head to "seat the lid against the rim of the jar and keep it from moving very much, but basically it's just held on by gravity until the cooling phase when vacuum forms."  The only difference is, you don't have to touch the modern ones after they come out of the canner; while it sounds like you do need to snap the wire bail (on the lightning jar) or screw the lids down tighter (with the zinc lids) to enable them to form a vacuum.  Is that right?

I want to point out to everybody that you can get silicone (advertised as food safe) gaskets in just about any arbitrary size on Amazon or eBay.  They will come from China and take weeks to be delivered, but they won't cost much.  Obviously these are not designed or tested or approved for canning use, but for all kinds of household and dry storage, they serve excellently.  They will, however, usually be white or translucent, so not optimal for antique-y looking displayes.  
 
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Dan Boone wrote:

Gail Jardin wrote:Here's my idea for the day. If some company runs with it please pass on a commission, lol. Making lightning jar metal brackets and glass lids for modern day canning jars. I know tattler lids can be reused but I think some folks like myself would prefer to steer away from plastics. I would love to have lids that could be reused for years to come!



Gail, I have a number of the lightning jars where the galvanized steel wire is missing or extremely rusty/corroded and ugly.  I have given a lot of thought to trying to figure out how to manufacture them from stainless steel wire.  It's not so very difficult if I made a set of jigs (frames to help with precise wire bending).  The trouble is, there's not much standardization in the lightning jars, or perhaps another way of putting it is, there are many MANY types and sizes with no easy way to describe the wire fasteners that each jar needs.  So there's no obvious way to make a business doing this; you'd pretty much have to do custom work for each jar or set of jars, which means having your hands on them.  I can't imagine folks want this badly enough to pay to have their jars shipped off to a specialty shop, then for custom labor, then have them shipped back.  And I just can't see how to standardize things enough that you could just sell new wire bales on Amazon or wherever via mail order -- people would forever be ordering the wrong ones that don't fit, and getting mad.



Hmm, I just meant to transform the typical two piece ball and kerr wide and narrow mouth jars to have this type of latch and glass lid. Ball and Kerr have the monopoly on jars and they only have two size lids. So it would really only be two types of lids that would need to be made. Sorry for not explaining my idea thoroughly.
 
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Gail Jardin wrote:
Hmm, I just meant to transform the typical two piece ball and kerr wide and narrow mouth jars to have this type of latch and glass lid. Ball and Kerr have the monopoly on jars and they only have two size lids. So it would really only be two types of lids that would need to be made. Sorry for not explaining my idea thoroughly.



No, you were clear, I just got to riffing on a related idea that I had spent too much time thinking about.

I can't quite visualize the type of lids you have in mind, though.  All the wire-bail type jars I've seen have anchored the bail in some molded glass dimples on the shoulder of the jar.  I am not sure how the bail would work or what it would clamp to, if we tried to design a bail-type closure for a standard modern canning jar.  Maybe there could be some kind of removable clamp that secures around the neck of the jar, with the bail-anchoring-divots in that?
 
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I'm not sure on this one. Though I moved into this house I'm in last year and in the cellar there are a few ancient Mason jars! Lol
 
Larisa Walk
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When canning with the old zinc lids the seal is indeed made between the shoulder of the jar and the rim of the zinc lid. The porcelain inner lid is to protect the food from contact with the zinc. The jars used with these lids had a wide shoulder for the rubber ring to seal against. Modern jars don't have this wide shoulder and won't work with the zinc lids. As for using these old lid types, the lids are place on the rubber rings on the jars and the lid isn't tightened all the way down until they come out of the canner. For the wire bail jars the bails are loosely in place and snapped down when they come out of the canner. You had to do this final step carefully so as to not dislodge the rubber ring. This is the same process used with Tattler lids. The loose initial lid position allows the jar to vent. I too would rather use glass than plastic. The "B" jars in the old photo are like glass versions of the Tattlers. I have a couple of these old jar lids and the rings for them are extra "tall" to accomodate the glass thickness. This type of lid can be used on modern jars as the rubber seals against the rim of the jar rather than the shoulder, and the Tattler gaskets would probably work just fine with them. It would only require a manufacturer to make the glass lids and the correctly sized rings and modern jars could be as "green" as Wecks, probably at a lower cost if not imported. I doubt that it will happen with the big manufacturers as they would prefer to keep the monopoly on one-time-use lids, and the university extension service will continue to promote the safety of a lid that indicates its seal by its concave appearance. On the old zinc lid jars it was hard to tell if there was a good seal or not. It's easier to tell when the "B" and "E" jars in the photo have a good seal as they require a knife to dislodge the lid by breaking the vaccuum seal, the same way that Tattler lids are removed. Before we bought Tattler lids we researched the materials used. The lids are Acetal Co-Polymer and are "safe" at temperatures below about 400*F if I remember accurately. And the rubber rings are Nitrile and not in contact with the jar contents. I'm hoping that the Tattler lids are less toxic than the modern metal lids with their plastic coating, now no longer bisphenyl-A but something new that probably hasn't been researched as long. I know from reading that bisphenyl-A is a problem at much lower temperatures when used in water bottles, etc., so canning jar lids with acidic contents are problematic.
 
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