Have we time-traveled back to the mid-1970s when America faced a shortage of canning supplies?
“In the mid-1970s, economic recession drove many Americans to grow and preserve their own produce. In 1975, as many as 26 million American households canned food. When material shortages led to scarcity of canning equipment, demand spiked. In his testimony, Hannah (then owner of Ball products) detailed that sales in the first quarter of 1973 were $166,000 but exploded to $5,750,000 in the first quarter of 1974. Ball Corporation and the two other manufacturers of canning equipment were unable to meet the demand, and consumers started to hoard the products, resulting in empty shelves nationwide.” (history.house.gov)
I vaguely remember the 1970s canning supply shortage. Because I readily remember other deficiencies, I suspect that one didn’t get my attention because my aunt brought lids from Long Island and mom made do in her usual Scottish way.
COVID 2020 has brought a resurgence in canning. The interest seems to be holding steady in 2021. However, as in the 1970s and 2020, regular American-made lids are not regularly available. If a store gets a shipment, they sell out in a heartbeat! Curiously similar to the 1970s, when you could buy a box of rings and lids for less than lids alone, jars and lids together, in cases of 12, sell for less than the price of just lids. Math is hard. Understanding supply and demand is harder.
For canning supplies, I’ve called numerous stores across the country and culled multiple websites. Where available, American-made Newell-owned Ball regular lids are more than double the expected price. Prices average 79 cents/lid. Amazon and Walmart.com, which both hosts varied sellers, are consistent with brick-and-mortar stores. Wilton Hardware in Wilton, posts on its Facebook page when lids come in but don’t expect more until mid-summer. I got a similar response from Farmington Farmer’s Union.
• Off-brand lids are widely available online. Buyer beware!
• Watch for misspellings in ads.
• Look at the attached images closely.
• Call the customer service number and verify it’s legit.
• Watch for ads that appear copied from name-brand sites.
• Read verified reviews.
Unlike in the mid-1970s, I doubt there will be 2021 House hearings addressing canning supplies. Like toilet paper supplies, lid supplies will catch up. Don’t panic! Practice good planning and consider freezing current fruit harvests to preserve later. For canning, fall weather is friendlier anyway.
One last piece of advice. Buy pectin now while it’s plentiful. That may not be the case when lids become available, and home canners begin catching up.
Note: Current recommendation is not to reuse jars and lids. The technique includes boiling the lids so that the silicone depression left from the original processing expands. This writer offers no advice on this process. Canning is a science. Know what you’re doing to prevent illness and injury.