Australia and New Zealand have joint official guidelines for safe food handling, but only for commercial: nothing for homes. 1 The governments have not invested in the research for home preservers as the United States has.
There are several issues in home bottling (canning) in New Zealand. One is the cost of supplies: home canning supplies are eye-popping expensive in New Zealand compared to North America. The other is that unsafe home bottling practices are still popularly endorsed.
- 1 Unsafe canning practices in New Zealand
- 2 Clearjel in New Zealand
- 3 Agee Jars
- 4 Agee Lids
- 5 Perfit Lids
- 6 Are Perfit canning lids BPA free?
- 7 Perfit jars
- 8 Alternatives to Perfit jars in New Zealand
- 9 Re-using commercial jars
- 10 Lid Alternatives
- 11 Perfit and Agee electric water bath canners
- 12 The first Agee jars
- 13 Historical
- 14 Suppliers
- 15 Calcium chloride in New Zealand
- 16 Further reading
Unsafe canning practices in New Zealand
“Open kettle canning” is still prevalent in New Zealand. This is not actual canning, but rather literally indeed just “bottling”: hot food is put into a jar, and the jar sealed with no further treatment. It is often referred to as the “overflow” method (which is as non self-explanatory as “open kettle” is, granted.)
Frighteningly, the main vendor of canning supplies in New Zealand, Perfit, still recommends this:
Recommended – OVERFLOW METHOD. This is the simplest and quickest method of bottling.” 2
Perfit also recommends inverting the jars while they are cooling, a further practice also now labelled as unsafe canning. (See: Inversion Canning.)
Screw down band tightly and turn Jar upside down on bench away from any window draft. Leave to cool. If Seal has domed then remove Band after 12hrs.” 3
In North America, neither practice — open kettle (pan / overflow) nor inversion, has not been accepted as safe for decades based on decades of lab work and science:
The National Center for Home Food Preservation has worked with the USDA to develop current canning guidelines. Current guidelines do not allow the open kettle method (in which hot food is spooned into hot jars and sealed) or oven methods of canning. All foods must be processed after going into the jar.” 4
The methods advocated by Perfit are just about everything currently ‘banned’ in North America, and are coming from opinion, not from science-based research. While the products appear to be sound, the actual canning advice should be disregarded. Safe, quality home canning is a constantly evolving science, not an art, and no matter how warmly and sincerely opinions may be held, it’s important to use only current tested recipes from reputable sources using approved processing techniques to ensure products for your family and friends that are as delicious and nutritious as they are safe to consume.
Consequently in the interest of food safety we have to recommend strongly against following any actual preserving advice offered by Perfit.
What can survive high acidity in an unprocessed jar? Well, e-coli, listeria and salmonella are a few examples.
“While these pathogens [Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella enterica, Listeria monocytogenes and other pathogenic bacteria] do not grow in acidified vegetables, they may survive long enough to cause disease. The infectious dose for E. coli O157:H7 may be as low as one to ten cells. For this reason, acidified vegetables must be processed to assure a five log reduction in acid resistant pathogenic bacteria….E. coli O157:H7 has been found to be the most acid resistant pathogen of concern for these products….The research done here documents how innocuous items such as pickled onions could hold E. coli that aren’t immediately killed by the vinegar, and what must be done to ensure its destruction.”5
Ever got Delhi belly after eating someone’s home preserves and wonder where on earth you could have picked it up? You may have been lucky.
Why is the overflow method now considered dangerous, no matter whether someone’s granny did it or not? See here: “Open kettle canning“.
Clearjel in New Zealand
Many of today’s home-canned pie filling recipes call for Clearjel as a thickener. Clearjel (and even some Clearjel alternatives recognized by some Extensions such as Thermfo and Thickgel) can be extremely hard to find in New Zealand, and prohibitively expensive if and when you do.
The best approach is to simply leave it out of those pie filling recipes, proceeding with the recipes otherwise including processing directions. Then, simply thicken the pie fillings as you open jars of them for use with other normal thickeners of your choice such as flour, cornstarch, arrowroot, tapioca, etc. In fact, you may notice that Ball does not call for Clearjel in any of its pie fillings and instead opts for the “thicken upon use” approach.
It’s always safe to leave a thickener out of home canning recipes, because you’re decreasing the density and increasing heat penetration. (It’s the reverse that is not safe: adding or increasing thickener when not called for.)
Agee jars were the New Zealand brand of preserving jars. Originally, they had a banded collar neck, as the Vacola jars in Australia still do (and Weck jars as well), but by the 1940s / 1950s the switch had begun to screw band lids instead and the brand released the Agee Utility and the Agree Special jars. 6
No replacement lids are being made anywhere for the band collar type Agees that we are currently aware of, so if you are looking to get into home canning, don’t buy a load of those jars at an auction for use or you will be disappointed.
There were two brands of home canning lids in New Zealand: Agee and Perfit. Agee brand lids are no longer being made.
The Agee brand was taken over by Marjorie and Don Symonds in the late 1990s. In 2000, they took over the Perfit brand as well. In 2003, they ceased production of the Agee lids as there wasn’t room anymore in the New Zealand market for two brands of lids, and the Perfit brand was more popular. 7
One of the Agee lid sizes was 80 mm.
If you have older Agee jars and are looking for the 80 mm lids for them, some people suggest looking at either 78 mm GEM lids from Bernardin, or 82 mm lids from Le Parfait Familia Wiss. We have not been in a position to evaluate this for ourselves to see if either fit would work.
Perfit lids are now made in North America.
There is just one size of “Perfit Seal” lid. It is labelled “D1” and is 85 mm wide, making it what North Americans would call a wide-mouth lid.
There are, however, two different types of screw bands that you can use it it, depending on how old your preserving jar is.
Use the gold screw band rings for the older thick lipped jars and Mason jars; blue / green ones for the new “Agee” and “Perfit” thinner lipped utility jars.
The very old “Agee” Special Jars and newer Mason Jars take the GOLD “Perfit” Screw Bands only. The later “Agee” and “Perfit” Utility Jars take the Green “Perfit Screw Bands. “Perfit” D1 Dome Seals fit all of these jars.” 8
To confirm, you use the same wide-mouth lid with either style of jar; you just need to choose the correct canning ring based on the glass screw-band on the mouth of the jar.
While the canning rings are of course multi-use, the lids are single-use only:
Do not reuse ‘perfit’ seals. They are designed to be only used once.” 9
Perfit cautions you, especially with their new lids, to follow now the North American technique for Mason jar lids: “If using the Water Bath or Agee Preserver method pack the fruit, leaving a 10-15mm (1/4 inch) head space, then place the Seal on and centralise. As the NEW Seals are made of a thinner material it is most important that you do not to screw down the band too tightly.” 10 In other words, finger tip tight only for Water Bath.
The Ball (BPA-free) and Leifheit (not BPA free) wide mouth lids (85 / 86 mm) will fit the wide-mouth Agee jars. “If you require a 86mm lid the Ball wide mouth lid fits those Agee jars only.”11 The Tattler re-usable lids (BPA-free) can also be substituted for the single-use Perfit lids.
Healthy Canning’s current guess (as of summer 2016) is that the lids might be made by the same company manufacturing the Golden Harvest canning lids, making them essentially a wide-mouth version of them which isn’t normally available in North America. But that is purely conjecture.
Are Perfit canning lids BPA free?
HealthyCanning.com was unable to determine if the Perfit lids were BPA free or not. We received only this answer from Don Symonds, the owner:
You are only the second person to ask this question me this question [sic] in thirty five years. ….. I can’t answer your question as I don’t know however I would guess that there is not. If BPA is a major issue for you to be safe I would suggest that you don’t use them.” 12
Perfit jars are mason-style jars, taking wide-mouth 85 mm lids. They come in half-litre and litre sizes (1 US pint, and 1 US quart.)
Our range of 1 litre and 500ml Perfit Utility Preserving Jars are also made off shore as are all other Preserving Jars that are sold in New Zealand.13
Alternatives to Perfit jars in New Zealand
New Zealanders do have more and more Mason jar choices as time goes by.
Frutta del Prato and Quattro Stagioni jars are now being sold in New Zealand. Many of the jars in those brand lines, but not all, have standard Mason jar mouth sizes — either 70 mm or 85 mm. This will let you use standard, USDA recommended two-piece Mason jar closure lids. Ask before you purchase to be sure. Buy only in multi-pack as they are far cheaper than buying individually.
As an example, these Frutta del Prato jars, available at 3bucketsfull.com as of November 16, come in far cheaper per unit when bought in multi-packs like this of six, than other Mason jars sold singly.
Re-using commercial jars
All that being said, there’s little question that the cost of ‘official’ certified Mason jars in New Zealand is very high compared to North America. What Americans and Canadians pay for a dozen jars, you can just about pay for one jar in New Zealand. Not quite, but close enough. That’s fine if you do one pot of jam a year; not so much if you are looking at bottling six dozen jars of carrots.
Consequently, many people in New Zealand do re-use wide-mouth (85 mm) jars from stores that had stuff in them first. They’ll purchase the Perfit lids and canning rings to use with the jars for home bottling purposes.
While some North American educators advise against re-using commercial jars, others are more accepting of the reality of “when needs must.” Note though that none of the concerns are related to food safety — if the food is processed properly using a tested recipe and a seal is achieved, then the food is safe. The concerns are more “operational”, owing to the higher breakage rate that they say these jars can have.
That being said, there are few colder realities than price sticker shock, and if some of the North American educators saw the prices of Mason jars in New Zealand, whatever they say publicly, they might be privately offering to help you peel the labels off the mayo jars.
You can read more on the general topic of re-using commercial jars.
Wide-mouth (86 mm) Tattler lids will fit the wide-mouth 85 mm Agee jars.
There is no officially approved Tattler supplier for New Zealand as of fall 2016; however Tattler says they will ship directly to New Zealand via United States Postal Service. You can ask them for a no-obligation quote.14
- Fishpond (link valid as of July 2016)
Given the price of replacement canning lids in New Zealand, it may be worth investing in the re-usable Tattlers.
Perfit and Agee electric water bath canners
Both Agee and Perfit Seal made water bather canners at one point in time.
Some were stove-top; some were electric.
The electric were similar in concept to the Weck canner, and the Ball Electric Water Bath Canner (released in 2015).
The Perfit Seal ones were around in the 1950s, made of metal. The Agee electric preservers were tall counter-top water boiling pots made of plastic or metal. Many people are still using theirs after decades.
The thermostat on the electric ones was designed to, over the course of an hour, slowly raise the temperature of the cold water in the pot to a boil, and then simmer the bottles for a period of time. 15
The units are are no longer being made. Second hand models can be found on TradeMe. When the element finally burns out, it can be hard to find a replacement element now. Here is some discussion about the difficulties of getting a replacement heating element.
Note that even though older war-time era Agee Preserver manuals gave instructions for processing low-acid foods, these instructions apparently (some users say) disappeared from later manuals.
Old-timers remember the Agees:
We bought an AGEE preserver and that made the work a lot easier. Instead of standing in front of the stove for hours – days even – we were able to sit down to peel them, then pack the peeled peaches into the jars while they were still raw. Then we poured a syrup of sugar and water over them almost to the top of the jar. The perfit seal was placed on, and the screwband tightened just right. Then six jars were placed on a wire grid at the bottom of the preserver, with a seventh in the middle. Water was added to cover the jars by at least two inches, then the element was turned on and the water was brought to the boil. After it boiled, there was a thermostat that kept the water just at boiling point for the required time. 20 minutes for peaches I remember….While the first lot of fruit was cooking, we were able to get another lot ready to go. We’d drain some of the hot water out of the AGEE preserver and add some cold, to take the temperature down enough that the jars wouldn’t crack as they were put in the water, then we’d fill to the two inches above the jars mark before turning on the element again. The instruction book said we could put seven jars around the outside, and an eighth in the middle, but we found that if they touched each other, or the side of the container, they were likely to break, so we limited it to seven, and that was just the right number to prepare before the first lot was cooked and ready to take out.” 16
The first Agee jars
The first Agee jars were made in the 1920s to 1940s. 17 Made by the Australian Glass Company (operating in Sidney, Australia and Penrose, New Zealand), they were called “Queen” jars and had a banded collar neck. Around that neck was a wire band , with two clamp type handles on either side of the bottle. You’d set a rubber ring (gasket) and a glass lid on top the jar, and then use those handles to clamp the lid down during processing. (This is also known as a “bail-type” closure for canning jars.) After processing, you would release the clamps to check your seal.
Nowadays, such jars are recommend for dry or refrigerated storage only because even though the jars are strong and lasted well, the truth behind the nostalgia is that the glass-lidded canning jars had a lot of seal failures, both right after processing and on the shelf, causing a lot of food wastage.
Baker, Susan. Home Preserving. Gisborne Photo News. # 151. 25 January 1967. https://photonews.org.nz/gisborne/issue (Caution: for reference only. Do not follow any of the preservation methods, particularly ones relating to vegetables including tomatoes, meat, fish and shellfish)
Note: inclusion on this list does not constitute an endorsement.
Home canning supplies in New Zealand are very expensive compared to North America. The best you can do is perhaps shop the sales, and buy jars in multi-packs whenever possible to get the price down. You should be able to get all the jars we mentioned in packs of 6, if not also 12.
If you have recommendations about the most affordable sources in New Zealand of modern two-piece lid Mason jars, and for replacement lids, please let us know so we can tell others.
Calcium chloride in New Zealand
Calcium chloride is a firming agent used in home pickling.
The brand name “Pickle Crisp” is ludicrously expensive in New Zealand, owing to import costs. We’ve seen it being advertised for up to $40.00 and over.
Bear in mind that it is pure food grade calcium chloride. You just need to find that under another name. Brewing supply stores often sell it. Here’s one store that, as of February 2018, charges $10.00 for 1 lb (500 g) of it, with (we are told) $3.00 shipping. https://www.brewshop.co.nz/calcium-chloride.html
Zam, Darian. Perfitly Preserved. 2013.
https://perfit.co.nz/preserving.htm. Accessed June 2015. ↩
https://perfit.co.nz/preserving.htm. Accessed June 2015. ↩
Cooper, Rayna. Preserving the Bounty. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Gettysburg Times. 3 June 2009. Page B7. ↩
Bredit, Frederick, et al. Use of Linear Models for Thermal Processing of Acidified Foods. In: Food Protection Trends, Vol. 30, No. 5, 2010. Pages 268–272. Accessed March 2015. ↩
Zam, Darian. Perfitly Preserved. 2013. Accessed June 2015 at https://longwhitekid.wordpress.com/category/agee/. ↩
Zam, Darian. Perfitly Preserved. 2013. Accessed June 2015 at https://longwhitekid.wordpress.com/category/agee/. ↩
Retrieved March 2015 from https://perfit.co.nz/preserving.htm ↩
Glassware-Faqs (Canning Jars) https://ozfarmer.com/index.php?route=information/faq/faq&faqcategory_id=6 ↩
Don Symonds to Healthycanning.com 28 March 2015. Correspondence on file. ↩
Perfit products page, accessed November 2016 at https://perfit.co.nz/products.htm ↩
Tattler to Healthy Canning. November 2016. Facebook messenger service. ↩
Blog posting by user Ansy Pansy from Opotiki, New Zealand. “Reminisce Board” on https://www.grownups.co.nz/ . 9 December 2009. Accessed March 2015 at https://www.grownups.co.nz/discuss/show/id/3408/page/32 ↩
Jar, preserves; Agee; 1920-1940; MT1993.98.19. New Zealand Museums. Accessed October 2015 at https://www.nzmuseums.co.nz/account/4033/object/122595 ↩