I just read through the USDA website on canning and it's rather scary. They say not to use the European-style canning jars, only the Mason-type jars and you have to use new lids each time you can. So much for zero waste! And of course the Mason lids have BPA, although they don't really come in contact with the food.
Mason jars are pretty cheap if you purchase seasonally (i.e., late summer), and there's a new lid called TATTLER which is BPA free, and supposedly reusable. Lots posted on the internet about them.
Hot water canning is relatively easy, but I've avoided pressure canning since it requires a special pressure cooker, and frankly I don't garden so it doesn't make sense. You can use any deep pot for a hot water bath as long as you follow the rules about depth, a pot lid, and somehow keeping the jars from clanging into each other. Sanitation is the biggest issue and you need to follow the guidelines about that and the preparation of specific foods.
The only disposable part in the "old" system is the actual lid, the rings and jars are reusable indefinitely as long as you take care of them. Mason jars are great for storing all sorts of things besides canning (and you can reuse the lids used in canning for this), and come in sizes from 4 ounces up to a gallon! I like the wide mouth, but you can get either wide and regular mouth jars in most sizes, too. Oh, and straight sided ones are okay for freezing, too.
Sorry, don't mean to come across as an ad, but have used them for years.
I am a canning novice and was also scared about using non-Mason jars after reading the USDA recommendations. I think the guidelines are strict in order to ensure they are recommending the most foolproof methods for canning safely. I plan to do a little more research and see whether I can still use my Le Parfait jars to can tomatoes this summer. A couple of alterations I would make to Bea's tomato canning tutorial are the addition of a teaspoon of acid (bottled lemon juice or citric acid) to each pint of tomatoes to ensure an acidic pH, and a longer processing time (85 min for water bath canning at my elevation). The blog Food In Jars discusses how to can using Weck jars (another type of glass-lidded canning jar) here:
Bah, my 8-quart pressure cooker is too small for canning.
I have thoroughly scared myself after reading about canning online. I will make my pasta sauce with a combination of fresh and canned tomatoes and then freeze it. That's what I did today and it came out very good. Doing that will halve my recycling trash for at least six months out of the year, during tomato season.
I just have to reorganize my freezer to fit everything in.
I wonder if there's a potential problem with the glass lidded canning jars in not being able to truly test your seal. Traditional Ball lids have a distinctive pop when they seal, and they're clearly depressed. I guess lifting by the lid is one way to test Wecks, but how are you to be totally sure about the Le Parfaits?
Also, you can get a 12 pack of mason jars for about the cost of one or two Le Parfaits.
I already use the Le Parfait jars for everyday food storage. I was hoping I wouldn't have to buy more containers and could just use new rubber gaskets, but I'll do what is best to ensure food safety.
From what I've read about the Weck and Le Parfait jars, the protruding tab on the rubber gasket will point down when sealed correctly (the tab normally points up on unprocessed jars). The lift test can also be done on the Le Parfait by first unclipping the metal locking mechanism. I would then store the Le Parfait jars unclipped, so if there was any aerobic bacterial growth inside, you would be able to tell by the loosened lid.
Or, I may just give the Tattler lids a try. Is it true that these lids are reusable?
Pyrex is great stuff! Would be my first choice too.
There have been rumors circulating ( http://www.snopes.com/food/warnings/pyrex.asp ) about "exploding" Pyrex, but I suspect all can be attributed to user error. Nothing is indestructible.
I'm not a fan of World Kitchen. While the new Pyrex might be comparable to the old Pyrex, the new Corningware absolutely isn't. I'm so glad I have some original Corningware from when I got married.
I don't plan on heating my Pyrex, just using it in the freezer and letting it thaw on the counter, so I won't have to worry about thermal shock. It's much more likely that I will drop it, and I'm glad the newer version resists that sort of breakage better.
I agree, your plan to freeze the tomato sauce sounds like a great alternative.
Oh no, don't tell me there's a problem with Pyrex containers, too. Those 'user errors' probably include using harsh abrasives to clean the containers (it nicks and weakens the glass) and heating frozen containers in the broiler or toaster oven (dramatic temp changes also weaken the glass). My old Pyrex dish says not to heat it above 450 degrees F.
I have three different sets of the pyrex bowls/casseroles with plastic lids, the bowls well over ten years old. The biggest issue we've had are replacement lids. The "newer" lids are much darker blue and are significantly more brittle than the original lighter blue ones. Still have at least half the original lids, but have replaced the newer, dark blue ones twice. Waste+plastic= Argh!
I just watched some of the canning recipe videos on the Le Parfait website (www.leparfait.fr). They make canning look so simple, waste free, and fun (and funny, esp. the clearly middle-aged man sporting a Tin Tin haircut in one of the videos). Wish the USDA approached their guidelines in a way that was informative but not so intimidating.