West Life: Wait! Don’t throw away that canning lid

If you looked inside my fridge right now, I bet you’d find at least a dozen different jars of home-canned foods.

Jams, jellies, syrups, salsas and pickles are some of my passions. I learned how to can from my mom and grandma, and it goes hand-in-hand with successful gardening and that frugal tendency I have to never want to let things go to waste.

One of the things about canning that has always bugged me has to do with the “waste” part and the cardinal rule that you NEVER reuse a metal lid. Once it has successfully pinged, sealed and been opened, its life is over.

We keep the glass jars and refill them, but lids go in the trash.

That was the rule until I discovered Stieg’s Tattler lids, invented in 1976 and now manufactured by S&S Innovations Corp. in Grand Junction.

I admit, I was skeptical. I mean, it’s one of the really important rules of canning. You NEVER reuse a lid!

Brad Stieg, company president, loves to refer to a photo of his grandma Dorothy, the inspiration for the reusable lids, standing in front of her pantry full of canned foods topped with the original Tattler lids. She reused the lids that Stieg’s father, Loren, a tool and die maker, designed during a metal shortage and proved their worth.

“That picture really had an impact on my will to do this,” Stieg said. “All those jars of food are a lot of work.”

The lids, designed for water-bath or pressure canning, are made of an injection-molded, food-grade plastic and fitted to a nitrile rubber gasket.

The name “Tattler” came about because Loren Stieg wanted them to make a sound when they sealed.

“They were going to make a noise and ‘tattle’ on themselves when they sealed,” Stieg said. “It just didn’t work that way and the design changed, but the name stayed.”

The Stiegs didn’t do much with the lids for 25 years, until eBay and the Internet provided a willing market, which coincided with a burst of new interest in home canning and preserving. Brad Stieg, who has a background working in materials management and logistics, decided to help his dad sell some of the inventory.

As all the lids manufactured in the 1970s started to sell out, Stieg knew he needed to start production again. The father and son incorporated in 2010 to resurrect the business.

Stieg bought an injection-molding machine and started manufacturing at his rented space at the Grand Junction Business Incubator. The lids sold four times their projected demand in 2010.

In 2011, sales quadrupled over the previous year’s sales. And this year, Stieg expects to at least double sales from last year.

During a recent markdown.com deal, customers purchased more than 2,000 orders of lids in less than eight hours, when they shut the auction down (though it was supposed to last four days). Clearly, the lid has a following.

People who swear by Tattler lids have different reasons for using them. Stieg has found that most of his customers are people who care about food safety and quality, and they’re also people who like to stock up. Customers range from those who heard about Tattler lids from Mother Earth News to those who saw them on Glenn Beck’s GBTV program.

Some like the reusable aspect of the plastic lids. Others use Stieg’s lids because they are concerned about food safety. Tattler certifies that its lids are BPA-free, meaning they don’t contain Bisphenol-A, a chemical used to harden plastics and line food and beverage containers. California recently adopted a law banning BPA from baby bottles and toddler drinking cups, citing concerns about the chemical as an endocrine disruptor.

The lids have their own quirks. Users should beware of over-tightening the lids, because the contents will build pressure during processing and spew the contents out of the jar.

Getting all the bubbles out of foods in the jars is very important, so those bubbles don’t rise and cause the expanding contents to siphon out during processing. Proper headspace is key if you’re going to use Tattler lids.

Stieg offers customer support and answers countless questions personally. He and his wife, Serena, have even re-enacted customer recipes and processed jars to determine how to help people with various issues.

One of the things I found myself adjusting to is the expectation of that “ping” sound when jars seal after processing. If it doesn’t “ping,” then how do you know it sealed?

Well, it’s pretty obvious. You gently pick up the jar by the lid after the jars have been processed and cooled. If the lid stays on, it is sealed.

Not being able to use a magnetic wand to fish lids out of hot water prior to processing also is a bit annoying. But overall, it’s a small adjustment to make when you can reuse the lids for years, saving money and keeping another piece of trash out of the landfill.

For information, go to http://www.reusablecanninglids.com. Tattler lids are available for purchase locally at the Fruita and Palisade Consumers CO-OPs.

Erin McIntyre is a writer, gardener and Grand Valley native in the midst of starting her own gourmet pickle company. You can reach her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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