Even my very first time canning wasn't as nerve-wracking because I had seen my mom do it countless times and my project was fairly small- 10 pints of stewed tomatoes. What made this project different wasn't it's size, even though we'd be canning a lot. We would be using different lids and my trial runs with those lids didn't go very well.
Let me start at the beginning. While Tattler Reusable Lids have been around since 1976, I hadn't begun to hear about them until just a few years ago. I was intrigued by them- loving the idea of not having to toss expensive metal lids every year (or every couple as I've been known to reuse them but have/will never advocate that practice). But I didn't know anyone who used them or ever saw them being used. Blog posts about them popped up here and there but I was a bit apprehensive because of the cost.
It was two weeks before our annual applesauce weekend and I knew I had to buy lids. Was I going to buy metal lids once again or should we take a leap and try the reusable ones? We decided we couldn't bear spending that much money on disposable lids when for a little over twice the price we could purchase lids we could reuse for 15 years or more.
After refreshing my memory about their product online, I called the Tattler folks. First, I asked if my order would arrive on time. The helpful woman put me on hold and spoke with the shipping manager. Yes, they would arrive in time. Next, after asking if she uses Tattler lids herself (she does), I asked if I was crazy to be using the lids for the first time on a big project. She was very honest and said something to the effect of, "Yes, you kind of are."
She went on to explain that you use the Tattler lids differently than the metal ones and that for people who have canned for a long time making the switch has a learning curve and can be challenging. She gave me some tips on making the adjustment including doing a trial run by canning water before the actual project so I could get a feel for them. I decided to take the plunge and ordered 180 lids for $150.
I usually don't track things I order, but I tracked these lids. I checked on them a couple times a day even. I really, really, really needed them to arrive in time for me to do at least one trial run. We would begin making applesauce Saturday morning. They arrived Thursday mid afternoon and I immediately pulled out jars to get started. Here are the tips the Tattler folks provide on their website:
In addition, the nice lady on the phone suggested using only one hand to place the metal rings on the jars after lidding them, stopping when the jar starts to rotate on the counter.
My second trial run consisted of canning 6 pint jars of water. This time I put one hand behind my back and turned the ring with one hand, stopping when the jar turned on the counter. After pulling all 6 from the canner, I tightened them tighter than finger-tip tight. Again, four out of the six jars sealed. Boo.
Of the 150-180 quarts we were planing on canning that day, I could hardly stand the thought of 50 jars not sealing. Our only other option was to run out and buy metal lids. The thought did cross my mind. But I REALLY wanted these lids to work. I REALLY wanted to get a handle on them.
I avoided thinking about how we had little-to-no freezer space to freeze what didn't seal and how I had just given all my extra containers to my sister to use so short of eating applesauce non-stop for the next week (or filling zip-lock bags and distributing them around into neighbors' freezers), we were going to be up a creek if this didn't go well.
We wash the apples the afternoon before to get that step out of the way. Here they are clean and ready to go.
Sadie and her Grandpa working the "Squeezo" with the beautiful, pink applesauce in the forefront (Cortland apples are our favorite)
Once again, Jamey's parents brought down their large, Amish-made outdoor canner for us to use.
Jamey's parents had brought the apples down from Pennsylvania for us and were such good sports in light of our, what felt like, dare-devil canning pursuits. One by one, the saucing team of four adults and three kids ate breakfast and got to work. The day was fun despite the cloud I couldn't shake. We wouldn't know until the next morning how successful our Tattler practices were because...
1) Tattler lids don't make a popping sound.
2) you can't tell for sure if they're sealed by looking at them.
3) the way you tell if they've sealed is by waiting until the jars are completely cooled, removing the metal ring and then lifting the jar by the plastic lid.
If the jar has sealed, you can lift the jar by the lid. If it hasn't the lid lifts right off- I had experienced this first hand.
So. In the spirit of camaraderie (hee hee), I'm going to let you go a day (or two) to wonder. Just like we did.
Stay tuned for how it all turned out (and forgive me for being a tease...please?). ;-)