By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We’re well into harvest season, not just for farmers but for at-home gardeners. And a problem that plagued them last summer and fall hasn’t gone away.

We’ve received several emails about it. Many of you want to know: Why is there still a canning lid shortage? And how else can people preserve food? Good Question.

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Jeff Wagner learned you either need to get lucky or get creative.

Even amidst a drought, there’s no shortage of fruits and vegetables at the Rosemount Farmers Market.

Preserving that purchase, however, is a different story.

“Every now and then you’ll hear somebody say, ‘I don’t have enough lids to do my batch of canning this time,'” said Julie Backes of Pflaum Farm.

“I know last year was terrible and so I got [jars and lids] early this year,” said shopper Luann Olen.

Before contacting WCCO about the shortage Marlene Harguth contacted Ball and Kerr, the top canning companies in the country.

“They both reassured me that by late summer, July, there would be plenty on the shelves,” she said.

When asked she found at the store, Harguth responded with a stern, “Nothing.”

It all began last year when the pandemic hit in early 2020. Stuck at home, people picked up gardening, then canning their harvest.

“That led to a supply shortage of canning lids,” said Suzanne Driessen, University of Minnesota Extension food safety educator.

That supply and demand problem, specifically for the two-piece metal lid, simply hasn’t gone away. The jars are reusable if cleaned properly, but the lids are not. Trying to reuse the lids is a safety issue because the seal might fail, leading to spoiled food.

(credit: CBS)

“I don’t want to get the whole botulism thing, I’m afraid of that,” said Olsen when asked if she’d reuse a metal lid.

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Are there ways to can using a different type of lid than the one that’s so scarce right now?

“There are a two-piece plastic reusable lid out there,” said Dreiseen.

We found a few companies online selling reusable plastic lids, one of which is dealing with shipping delays from high demand.

What are some alternatives to canning while still preserving food?

“Freezing actually is the easiest method,” said Driessen.

When frozen, Driessen said the shelf life for produce is eight to 12 months. Nutrients and flavor start to diminish any longer than that.

Drying out fruits and vegetables helps them last six to eight months.

“I have a food dehydrator but you can also do a lot of oven drying,” said Driessen.

But proper canning still has a jarring lead, preserving food for two years or more.

Harguth said that means she’ll continue scouring store shelves.

“I won’t order them online because they’ve doubled in price,” she said.

Driessen said do your research when buying lids not made in the U.S. to make sure they properly fit your jars. And if you buy the reusable plastic lids, make sure to carefully follow their instructions.

For assistance on canning and other forms of food preservation, the UMN Extension has a phone number to call at 1-800-854-1678. To learn more about it, click here.

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For other tips on food preservation, click here.

Jeff Wagner