Does anyone else feel bad about throwing out canning lids every year?! Home canning is one of the primary ways I contribute to our savings, and a walk through my cold room after harvest gives me a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment I rarely experience elsewhere!
In spite of my love for mason jars, I have one pet peeve with canning…canning lids to be specific. I decided I didn’t want to continue the buying-and-tossing pattern. It seems so wasteful, particularly when you put up hundreds of jars every year.
Since we went on a budget in late-summer, we’ve had to account for all our spendings. When I calculated the cost for canning, I was surprised to discover that we were paying over $0.25 per canning lid. Where I live in Canada, a box of 1 dozen standard lids sells for approx $3 (give or take with sales) at our local store. Wide mouth runs at $5 per dozen! Even if I processed all my food in standard-mouth jars, at 400 jars per year, I’m paying approximately $100 to do it? I had no idea!
Aside from costs, I decided it was time to change over to all glass. Not only would it last, help save a dollar or two in the long run, but it would also suit the vodka based tinctures and the ferments I make. No “stuff” dripping into my food, please and thanks!
I began researching and discovered the popular “Weck” brand. Using the glass lids when putting up acidic foods would ensure no ‘dripping’ happened. Pulling out the calculator, I began to work with the numbers. When I was through, I sat in numb amazement. Buying these jars would cost me (strictly purchase costs) over $1,400. No go! We couldn’t afford this, regardless of the benefits! Sighing, I tucked the idea away, out of mind. Back to tossing tin lids and $100 a year. It wasn’t so bad!
My Vintage Discovery
And then, it happened. I had a friend visiting at the time. If it wasn’t for her presence, I may never have learned and discovered the truth!
We have a great thrift shop in town and due to the farming history of our community, lots of old cooking and preserving supplies come through. While there with my friend, I saw three packs of old glass canning lids, some labeled “Gem” and some “Jewel.” Intrigued, I bought them for a mere $2 a pack, thinking I could re-sell later online for crafts, etc.
We made a bee-line for home and began the research. It was then that my friend told me her mom still canned with these exact glass lids. Strange, ’cause they were a different size than either the small or wide mouth jar. We put the pieces together and realized they fit the Canadian-made Gem and Jewel jar.
Suddenly, I became excited! While I had never seen glass lids, I knew about Gem and Jewel jars. They are old, but not so old. In fact, most Canadian women in their 50’s have used them. I had even used them. My husband’s aunt had given me some canning supplies and among them were jars with a strange-sized mouth and the unknown label of “Improved Gem.” Not large, not small, these jars fit a medium sized tin lid and metal band.
In fact, I had accidentally brought one with us when we moved. I left most of them behind because I didn’t want a third size of tin lid and canning ring kicking around.
Wait! What?!!! I quickly pulled out the one jar I had. Every lid fit it! Hopping online, I dug into the information and history surrounding these jars. Whew! Talk about amazing!
The Canadian homesteader’s life was tied up in them! First produced in the 1930’s on Imperial-based measurements, a glass jar, glass lid, rubber ring and thick metal band were presented to the Canadian housewife for purchase. They were accepted with open arms and quickly spread throughout the western Provinces. Many a woman overwintered her family from the goods within the Gem, Jewel, Corona and Crown labeled jars!
When tin lids came into production as a 2 part system, the old three-piece collections were replaced in most homes. Thus updated, the use of these jars carried on with the benefit of one less item to manage during busy canning days!
These jars were predominant among the people who lived off the land and passed their goods on to the next generation (farmers, homesteaders, Mennonites, Hutterites, etc). Some families had collections of over 1,000 of these jars. And they lived off the goods within.
“Pretty cool!” I thought. “I’ve found a golden nugget buried in the history of Canadian homesteading culture!”
And then, I read on. Production of the medium-mouthed jar ceased in year 2000. As they were no longer on the market, in 2002 the only company producing medium-sized tin lids (Bernardin) announced the discontinuation of them.
While Canadian’s are known for being polite and sweet, there isn’t anything polite or sweet about having your entire supply of over 1,000 canning jars go lidless, particularly when you overwinter your family from the goods inwith!!! The petitions and complaints went a long way (read about it in The Wall Street Journal ) and the voice of the homesteaders was heard! Their plea was met with action (read about that in CBC News Canada) and the American-based Bernardin company was moved to produce the 78 mm lid for one more year. Meanwhile the president of Canadian Home Canning Inc, set up and and put the lids back into steady and regular production (see story in The Western Producer). To this day, medium size tin lids and bands can be found on the grocery store shelves throughout the western provinces!
The story intrigued me! These jars were obviously vital to the survival of these northern homesteaders!
Being thoroughly excited at this point, I suddenly realized my dilemma: these homesteaders were using tin lids and I wanted to use glass lids! Where could I find medium-sized, thickly threaded, screw-on bands? What about the rubber rings? A collection would be useless without a seal! With a sinking heart, I went back online, thinking if I was lucky enough to find these rubber seals they would probably cost a fortune.
Low and behold, I quickly discovered that HomeHardware (a popular Canadian hardware store), still carries reusable rubber rings for the medium-sized glass lids at the very affordable price of $2.19 per box of 12. They called them “fruit jar rings.”
Amazed, I wondered why? Why were they still being produced if neither the jars nor the lids were in production? Shortly after, I bumped into one answer while visiting a local in the town’s antique store. She uses the rubber rings as a seal in her coffee maker! This also intrigued me: because these canning sets were so scattered throughout the people’s history, they had (like any true homesteader) found other good uses for them! But the obvious answer? The answer that kept surfacing?
“Canadians throughout the country are still using these glass lids for canning!”
It was true, just as my friend had said! I began haunting the thrift store, rounding up thick glass lids, the wide metal bands that fit them, the Gem or Jewel jars with a 78mm mouth! The jars were cheap ($4-$6 a dozen), parts are re-usable, I can locally buy new, reusable rubber rings as I add to my collection and my food isn’t being ‘dripped in’ anymore!
And sadly, no, these jars were not manufactured in the States! If you perchance find some down there, they probably came over the border with a Canadian who was moving to a new homeland. At times they can be purchased via online sources and if you live in western Canada, they pop up in estate & garage sales, in thrift shops and perhaps even in your grandma’s basement!
Want to learn the secret to safely canning in these jar collections? I’d be thrilled to walk you through it all! I’ve done the research and concluded that in light of the new-on-the-market tattler lid, I’m more than comfortable using glass lids! Indeed, the seal on all-glass jars is incredibly solid.
Disclaimer: these lids are no longer FDA approved, primarily because they aren’t on the market to be evaluated! However, they are similar to the tattler lid, the primary difference being glass vs plastic. The procedure is exactly the same with the exception that the rubber ring fits on the bottom side of the glass lids instead of flopping loosely by itself. A real bonus in my mind!
Want to learn more? Be sure to read Part 2-How Collect, Inspect and Prep!!!
Late to the party (as usual)! But I just want to point out to anyone who is thinking of trying the Gem lids to be cautious – I have hundreds of them that I use with single-use lids (I usually buy them end-of-season for $1CDN a box), but they have BY FAR the highest failure rate of all my many jars. I think it’s a combination of the screw band being threaded too wide and being difficult to interface properly at times and the fact that these are old jars and build with more weight and thicker glass, effecting the heat penetration.
As a rule, I will add 5 minutes of processing time of a load of Gem jars to ensure good heating, and of course follow good practicing of putting hot product in hot jars when the recipe calls for it.
I do love these jars and use them for all types of canning, including pressure canning. They were my grandmother’s and I recall her using them growing up – I much prefer them over the wide mouth 80mm. But you do need to be cautious with them because they do tend to not be reliable and pose some unique challenges.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us! I suspect the difficulty you experience with sealing has to do with the fact that older Gem jars were designed to be used with glass lids and a thick rubber seal that was quite forgiving!
I write about collecting these glass lids and rubber seals here: https://atraditionallife.com/canning-with-vintage-jars-part-2-collecting-inspecting-preparing/
And directions on how to use them with Gem jars can be found here:https://atraditionallife.com/glass-canning-lid-waterbath/
You cannot use the metal lids with the wide bands. they were designed to be used ONLY with the glass lids, However, there are smaller rings that do fit the flat metal lids, and they will fit the glass lids in a pinch, just not screw down as far. I’m hoping to find some glass lids, as I also have hundreds of those Gem jars (handed down) and use them constantly all year long.
That’s right! The old metal bands are too deep for the thin tin lids!
Catherine Huang says
Thank you so much for this article! I was fortunate enough to have a Canadian step-grandmother who taught me how to use Crown / Corona jars. She of course was canning in Crown jars right into the 70s and 80s. And when I needed a lot of jars 5 years ago as DH and I went from being empty nesters who had given away at least 10 dozen canning jars when the kids moved overseas — to being a family of 10, within a month — a dear friend gave me her grandma’s Crown jars. I did find good instructions on the Healthy Canning website to refresh my memory, but it’s such a joy to read about your personal story. I’ve been delighting in using the aptly named Corona brand lids (I have a few), the official lid of 2020.
That’s amazing! There’s nothing like having someone older pass on their knowledge to you!
Babette plaisted says
Thanks for this post!! Most sites want you to run screaming from old lids, thanks for your common sense, much appreciated.
I do follow tested procedures when it comes to canning. But I’m not a stickler, and NOT canning with glass lids just because a seal might let go here or there just isn’t reason enough to avoid them. Not when they offer me so many other goods things! 🙂
Hi. A bit of an older thread but hoping this still gets to you.
I’ve seen people recommend to not pressure can in these jars, I would like to. Do you have any experience or water bath only?
Secondary: any advice on where to find replacement rings for a decent price?
I have pressure canned with the Gem glass lids, and the only thing I’d recommend is to add a bit more headspace when filling the jars. With these glass lids, you have not one, but TWO places where food can get stuck. I haven’t had as good a deal rate with them. And the rubber seals for 78mm lids? You can find them via HomeHardware and sometimes, Canadian Tire. If you have standard or wide mouth glass lids, you can get rings at tattler.com
Thank you Autumn.
I pressure can with mine – both the quart jars and the short pint jars as well. just make sure your jars are squeaky clean, rubber rings and lids are hot. I also add 5 minutes to my times, but I process meat and vegies in my jars. If you have used the tattler lids, they work very similiarly.
Helena Hexspoor says
I live in Calgary and was able to purchase a box of 200 glass lids from a group of mennonite ladies in Lacrete, Alberta for 2.00. I took them all and the rubber rings. They are still available at Canadian Tire. I use them for everything!
I love this! And it’s good to know about Canadian tire. I’ve only sourced them at HomeHardware.
Oh Wow! I’ll have to keep my eye out for these! I just bought enough Tattler lids for the jars I have currently. I just started canning this summer, so it’s no where near some people’s collection out there. So, it might be a good time for me to start a gem jar/lid collection! Very exciting! Thanks for bringing this to my attention!
Good for you! And welcome to the canning world! I still haven’t used the Tattle lids, but I do aim to try, one day. I’ve fallen in love with these glass Gems and can’t find enough to satisfy my craze over them. Jar hunting is slightly addicting! So happy to have shared something you’ve found helpful!
Hi Autumn, thanks for this! I have been using Tattler lids for years but am going to look into these.
the autumn rose says
I’ve never actually used the tattler lids, but I sure am in love with this glass alternative! Glad you enjoyed the post and I hope a doorway into something new has been opened for you!
the autumn rose says
The rubber rings ARE reusable and will last for (at the least) several years. I cover that in more detail in my second and third blog post on how to collect and then water-bath can with these lovely old jars! If you only click the link at the bottom of this post it will connect you to the second blog post.
Anna @ NorthernHomestead says
I live in Canada now and was interested in this for some time now. Thank you for doing the research. However, this rings are not reusable, or? If not, then what is the real adventure of it?
Yes, the rings are reusable. After about 5-6 years, they do start cracking a bit around the outer edges due to the extreme heat (especially if you use them for pressure canning) and eventually will need to be replaced.