All over YouTube and bookface, you will find folks talking about, cussing at and arguing with other people over canning lids. It's a hot topic. Ball/Kerr/Golden Harvest have sold out and the manufacturing has taken a turn for the worse. There's a plethora of cheap China-made lids available and some are ok. The dollar stores carry some lids and there's the Country Whatever brand that I've been seeing in the local farm stores. Then there's the Superb lids and ForJars lids that have a better reputation at this point than most. You can get no-name lids at the Amish/Mennonite stores in sleeves of several dozen.
Alot of folks, like me, are also reusing the "one-time use" flats even though it isn't "advised" by the manufacturers or the USDA rules.
Reusable lids are becoming more popular, like Harvest Guard and Tattler. Then there's the Weck jars with their reusable glass lids. The old bail type glass lid Ball jars are coming back into use and I've even seen some folks going back to the galvanized screw on lids that seal on the shoulder of the jars. There's also the old Number 10 glass lids that take a deeper ring than the ones we use today.
There's a learning curve to whatever type of jar closure you're using. Blaming the buckling or lack of sealing on cheap lids is a cop out. Lids are inanimate objects. If the manufacturing of the particular lid is not defective; i.e. dented, sealant ruined, creased, etc., then there's something else going wrong in the process. You are the user of that item, you are in control of how it is used. Stop and look at the entire process. Sometimes the tiniest change in technique can make all the difference. One thing I come across often is that I've missed a defect in the lip of the jar which creates a place for air to get back inside.
New Flats: I have a favorite brand** that I've used several hundred of at this point and reused quite a few of them atleast a second time. The price point is good and they seal well and hold up to the abuse here. The learning curve was not difficult with these. The tension on the band cannot be as tight as what you would use for the Ball/Kerr/GH lids. Think a half turn less than you would normally use. I will use any brand of new lids that someone gives me or is selling for cheap cause they didn't like them. The ones I personally have had the most trouble with are the Mainstays from Wally that don't have the button in the middle. If I come across some new-old stock of Ball/Kerr/GH lids, I will always use those. (Unless they are the old Kerr with the gray sealant, that stuff turns gooey.) I feel like I have to crank down on the rings more with the old Ball lids than I do with the new lids I like.
Reusing Flats: I keep a stack of used lids that need cleaned up next to the sink. While I'm washing them, I do a thorough check over for the slightest dent, rust, messed up sealant, etc. If there is any discoloration of the enamel on the underside of the lid, I also pitch those. After a thorough check and cleaning, I've been able to reuse about half to two thirds of the lids. I will reuse lids from other people and lids from jars I buy from thrift stores if the sealant is good and the lid doesn't smell bad.
To remove a lid without damaging it, lay the blade of a butter knife flat across the top of the lid right along the edge. Take a church key and using the curved side, lift up from under the lid. Keep the pressure on the knife and not on the lid. This will keep from damaging the lid and you can use it again.
Reusable Lids: This category can be an investment, especially if you're an avid canner. The Harvest Guard** and Tattler** lids use a rubber seal and the standard rings we are accustomed to. While I haven't gotten to play with any of these types of lids yet, it is my understanding that there is an extra turn to the lid and ring after processing which completes the seal. This is similar to the galvanized lids and Number 10 lids. With the old glass top and bail lids, you place the rubber seal** on, then the lid and put the bail over top but do not tighten it down. Once the jar comes out of the canner, you tighten the bail to complete the seal. I grew up canning in the glass top jars. The Weck jars** and lids are going to be fun to use. They use little metal clips to hold the lid and seal on during processing. I'm so afraid I will lose all the metal clips. Galvanized lids use a rubber seal with the split in the tab and the seal completes down on the shoulder of the jar. In this case the rim of the jar does not have to be nick free. I have many of the galvanized lids and quite a few older jars with nicked rims that I'm looking forward to experimenting with.
There are 3 parts to the sealed top of a canning jar. The lid itself, the sealant or a rubber ring, and the method to hold the lid and seal onto the rim/shoulder of the jar. With flats, the lid has the seal already attached to it and you use the standard ring to hold it on. The ring is ONLY there to hold the lid on during processing. There has to be enough gap to let air out of the jar during processing to create the vacuum that holds the lid on. That is why ring tension is so tricky; especially with thinner lids nowadays. Reusable lids are the same except the rubber ring comes off of them and can be replaced after many uses. Bail type jars, Weck jars, and Number 10 lids all use a wire bail, metal clips or a deep ring to hold the lid and rubber seal in place. The galvanized lids are different in the aspect that the lid is sealing all the way down on the shoulder of the jar. The whole shebang is held in place with the galvanized lid itself.
Once you get used to working with a particular type or brand of lid; the learning curve is finished. Have fun experimenting with other types of jar closures and brands of lids and reusable lids. You just might find something that works best for you or that saves money in the long run.
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