Last weekend, I attended what the person who invited me referred to as a “well curated” flea market. Amongst the treasures I brought home were a (new) handmade leather satchel for Sam’s birthday, a pretty vintage teacup, and 3 (new) leather bracelets from the designer/owner of Hazel Black. On the way out of the venue, I stopped by a small antiques area, dug through two boxes of glassware, and came away with the true find of the day: a square, Blue Ribbon Coffee Mason jar in excellent condition, with original ring and glass lid for only $2. It wasn’t until later in the week (after a little digging around on the interwebs) that I found out the jar is from 1933 and actually worth 10 to 15 times what I paid for it!
As anyone who truly knows me could easily tell you, I am bizarrely passionate about Mason jars. I store all of our refrigerated food in them, all of our pantry items in them, all of our spices in them, our teas, nuts and seeds, our cleaning powders, dish soap, Julie’s food – you name it. I freeze our ground flax seed and chopped up bananas in them, and even use them as piggy banks. I come from a family who cans and makes jam, and I have continued the tradition in our kitchen, preserving pickles and other items in Mason jars several times a year. I give gifts inside Mason jars, we use them as candleholders and as vases – the list goes on and on. We carry hot tea in them, I bring my lunch to work in them (thanks to my massive Eddie Bauer cooler bag), and we’ve even begun travelling with them. Just toss a variety of sizes (complete with rings and snap-lids) into your suitcase — they always come in super handy whilst on the road or out exploring in another city.
Why do I love Mason jars so much? In a word: pragmatism. They prolong the life of refrigerated vegetables, keep pests and moisture out of flours and grains, are completely dishwasher safe and sterilisable, inexpensive, nondegradable, easy to source, reusable and recyclable, spill-proof, plus the parts are completely interchangeable and replaceable — and Mason jar mouths come in only two sizes: regular and wide. They are so versatile, standardized, and omni-present that I struggle to understand why people are still so attached to their plastic storage containers.
Mason jars are such a safer option too, as food-grade glass doesn’t leach toxins, it doesn’t warp or melt, and it doesn’t take on smells or stains. True, there are several “cons” to using Mason jars, such as the amount of space the jars and canning equipment take up, their weight, and the fact that glass is breakable — but those are very small prices to pay for so many major benefits!
It would be fair to say that, over the years, Mason jars have become a way of life in our household. They fit in perfectly with our “Scandi-rustic” décor and with our focus on an overall healthier, more minimalistic lifestyle. They remind me of my grandparent’s cold room, famer’s markets, and February mornings of porridge with Mom’s summer-harvested strawberry jam. They connect us to a time when preserving food meant folks could better provide for their families over the long winter months and into spring – in the days before grocery stores and 7-Eleven. They remind us to buy fresh, to care about the quality of our food, and to live seasonally.
First Impression: Spaghetti sauce in reusable* Mason jars seemed like a more sensible purchase — the collection grew from there.
In Three Words: Versatile. Safe. Practical.
Cost: $1.99 and up (Canadian), depending on where you order/purchase them from.
Best Feature: Total standardization between brands and accessories.
Excited About: Hunting for more antique Mason jars, now that I know what I’m looking for!
Something Unexpected: Finding out that my Blue Ribbon jar is 82 years old!
Value for Money: Such a sensible investment! Our jars have been reused and repurposed for so many things over so many years that we’ve lost count.
Sources: Snap lids and rings can be found at places like dollar stores or Canadian Tire. Most of our fancier accessories have either been purchased from Michael’s (a craft store) or online from Greenmuch. Our collection of Joe Jackets were bought online through Amazon.ca. The jars themselves have been collected from sauces and soups sold at various grocery stores and markets, as well as directly purchased from Canadian Tire and Greenmunch.
Safety Notes: I would be very skeptical of the glass quality (as in: may not be food-grade) and manufacturing standards used in the creation of those “Mason jar look-alikes” sold at the cheapie stores. (I don’t want to name names, but their items often sell for 100 cents.) Please, please, please purchase your Mason jars from reputable companies, made by reputable brands such as Mason, Kerr, Ball, and Bernardin to ensure that they are safe for canning and contain food-grade glass. Repurpose Mason-style jars from grocery products with caution (such as the pasta sauce jars from Classico* — click here to read their warning/FAQs). Apparently, they are not manufactured as thickly as those intended for canning and may break. That said, these jars would be perfectly safe for dry and cold storage.