Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fat Washing Jar Lids

Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?  Many of us strive to do things in that order, and one of the best things to reuse is glass jars.  You can buy things in bulk with them, ferment things in them, store leftovers, make yogurt, etc.  Glass is totally non-reactive, doesn't hold odors, and lasts forever.

However, as good as glass jars are, their lids can absorb odors from food, especially from things canned in them.  Pickle and salsa jar lids have particularly strong odors.  These flavors will assert themselves into whatever food you put in them - trust me.  These jars tend to be great shapes for re-using, which makes this all the more frustrating.  After a couple recent rounds of pickle-flavored yogurt, I abandoned hope that repeated batches would rid the lid of it's flavor, and started researching ways to solve the problem.

I found my answer in the book Cooking For Geeks by Jeff Potter.  He has a section on "Fat Washing".  He was talking about fat washing alcohols, to either remove unwanted flavors, or to infuse flavors from fat into alcohol (think "hot butter rum" or bacon whiskey).  I knew from reading other cooking books that many flavors (and vitamins, for that matter) are fat or alcohol soluble, and don't dissolve into water.

So I did a little experiment.  I put some lard into a pickle lid, put it on a rack on top of the wood stove, and kept it there for two days.  Then I wiped the excess off and washed the lid clean.  And guess what?  It totally worked!  There was no noticeable pickle smell remaining.  And no lard smell either.  I've since used this technique for salsa lids as well, with the same result.
Lard melting in a lid on the wood stove.

I'm not sure if the warming step is necessary for other oils - lard has to be warm to stay liquid, but it may be that if you used an unsaturated vegetable oil, you could do this at room temperature.  It stands to reason that hotter oil could absorb more flavor, however.  I also don't know if it really needs two days for it to work.  And I'd like to try alcohol-washing, using vodka or everclear instead of fat.

What I do know is that now I can reuse my glass jars without fear of creating pickle-yogurt.  Or salsa-raisins. get the picture.


Lorraine said...

Thank you! I'm going to try this right away! I have an empty salsa jar that I want to infuse some cherry vodka in and certainly don't want it to taste of salsa! I've been steeping and washing the lid with all sorts, but never thought to try fat. Thanks again!

Nick Smolinske said...


Let me know how it works, and which fat you use. It would be interesting to see if all fats are equal (which I think is the case) or not. So far I've only used lard.

Lorraine said...

I used margerine, as it was the first thing that came to hand, and (being the impatient person I am) I washed it off after a day. It had massively helped, but didn't fully get rid of the smell. I'm sure if I had waited the two days it would have fully worked.

Instead, I poured in some surgical spirits and let it steep for an hour or so, then washed it, and though the salsa smell was gone, it now smelled of spirits!

I boiled it in a pan of water for 10 mins, and let to dry, and repeated the following day, and it had worked completely. I just wish I had the patience to wait the two days in the first place, it would have been much less work.

The cherries have been infusing for nearly a day now, and I am once again testing my patience, but this time I have to wait two weeks! It's already a lovely purple-red colour, so I at least can look at and shake the jar every day!

Thanks again for the help :)

Maritn jonson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin jonson said...

Hi Nick,
I will surely try this !

glass jars