New Brunswick

Mason jars, lids hard to find during pickling season

A shortage of mason jars, one piece lids and pressure canners is leaving those wanting to make preserves in a bit of a pickle.

'Apparently as soon as they came out people just bought them up'

Some picklers are having a hard time finding Mason jars in parts of New Brunswick. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

When Susan Butler began to get to work making her winter preserves, she found herself in a bit of a pickle when she couldn't find Mason jars in the size she wanted in Miramichi. 

As she went from store to store searching for cases of 500 ml bottles, all she found was empty shelves. 

"Apparently as soon as they came out people just bought them up." 

Butler soon realized that with more people at home because of the COVID-19 virus, a lot more gardening was done. Now, all those fruits and veggies were becoming preserves and pickles. 

"I was told at one store that they wouldn't be getting them because they didn't have the production." 

Margaret Arsenault works as a cashier at the store Butler refers to and confirmed Deals 4 U in Miramichi was unable to obtain any Mason jars for their customers. 

"We've been trying to order them in since way back April, May and we couldn't get anything, no size, nothing. No lids, no jars, nothing." 

Arsenault said they received 10 cases of small jars... and those sold out quickly. 

"It's high pickling season and there's nothing and we can't get anything." 

In a predicament and with a bountiful garden ready to harvest, Butler took to social media and asked for help. 

"Well, I couldn't believe it. I had people coming to my door with bottles. I used the barter system, some of them would give me bottles and I would give them some pickles." 

Susan Butler said she's made about 50 bottles of mustard pickles after people gave her Mason jars. (María José Burgos / CBC)

Butler ended up with over 100 mason jars in the size she needed with offers of more from all over the region and it seems like she filled them all. 

"I have a total 50 bottles down in my cold storage for mustard pickles then I do salsa, I did beets and I did chow." 

Butler, who is the executive director of the Miramichi Folksong Festival, said she made more than normal because of the extra time she had with so many events cancelled. 

For avid canner Jen Hudson, finding the one piece lids for the Mason jars has been difficult. 

"It depends on where you are. It's kind of little pockets of shortages," she said. "But sometimes you get lucky and you come across a place that suddenly has got some." 

Because she cans year round, Hudson said she has a bit of a stash of things she needs and usually picks something up every time she goes into a grocery store or hardware store.

"I was really lucky, but there are a lot of people who are getting into this and who are struggling to find those pieces." 

Jen Hudson, an avid year-round canner, said finding one piece lids for Mason jars was difficult. (Contributed/Jen Hudson)

Hudson said it is also hard to find a pressure canner. Even if you can find one, often the price has tripled.

She said pressure canners are the only safe way to process things like meat or low acid vegetables. With so many people gardening and harvesting and making sure their pantries are looked after, a lot are looking for a pressure canner.

"Normally you can go down to the hardware store and buy a good pressure canner for about $150 but this year you're lucky if you come across one."   

Hudson said with stores having to place orders for products months ago, no one could have predicted the demand for these types of things would go through the roof. 

Hudson also teaches people how to can, and while she hasn't been able to do any in-person classes, she said she's still getting lots of people looking for advice or help. 

One piece of advice Hudson offers those experiencing the shortages - buy a dehydrator. 

"That's another method that you can use for some of your fruits and vegetables that might not be the same as what you were looking for. But if you're looking to save on some freezer space and not spend a fortune, that might be another way to go." 

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