Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Glass Canning Jars, Fruit Jars, Mason Jars, Ball Jars



Mason is one brand name, Ball or Kerr another, and if your folks are from the south and a couple of generations back you might know them as ‘fruit jars’. They are jars used for canning fresh fruits and vegetables. Whatever you call them, they are workhorses in the kitchen and around the house.  I use them for all kinds of things besides what they were intended for. I try to stay away from using plastics as much as possible.  I also try not to use to many  disposable items in my home such as plastic bags. These jars really help out with that. They are air tight, **oven proof, **microwavable (with the lid off of course), and can be **frozen. 
I have antique jars, thrift store finds and ones recently purchased. Thrift stores and yard sales are great places to find odd sizes and extra small jars. If you are purchasing used jars or are the recipient of free ones, make sure they have no cracks, chips or other flaws in them that might prove a problem later.  If you plan on microwaving, baking or freezing in them use your new ones and save the antique and vintage for dry storage. 



There are a lot of articles and advice online about what to do and not to do when using these jars. Most will tell you not to freeze in the ones with ‘shoulders’, to use only straight sided jars.  I have found that I can freeze in either if I remember this; when liquids are frozen they will expand and need somewhere to go. Leave a couple of inches of head room below the shoulder of your jar, or below the top. Put the lid on loosely to allow air to escape while it freezes after which the lid can be safely tightened.  Jars can crack during the freezing process. I also think it's a good idea to place jars in a container that will hold broken glass should one break; you can place a few in a box or tube. You can even slide a jar in tube sock will work to help contain broken glass.
If you microwave food in them, be sure to stir frequently, and microwaving an almost full jar is best.  Be careful removing too as it will be hot! Use oven mitts to remove. If the food you are microwaving is high in fat, as with any glass container be careful not to over heat. You can heat frozen foods in these jars on the stove top.  Put the jar up right with the lid removed in a pot and fill about half way up the side of the jar with cool tap water; heat slowly on medium heat, stirring the contents when possible.

These jars have a nostalgia that takes me back to my grandmother’s house and connects me with generations gone by. I am after all using the very same tool she would have used in her kitchen to store and preserve food.  Besides that, I think they are kind of nice looking, a down to earth kind of assurance that you do indeed know a thing or two in the kitchen. Many things have changed in the kitchen since my grandmother’s day but canning jars are the same. How many ways can you use a canning, fruit, Mason jar other than canning? Here are 5 ways for today, and many more ways to follow in up coming posts.
1.       Store dry foods such as rice, beans, pasta. You can easily see when you are low and need to restock.
2.       Use the very small ones for bulk spices and herbs.
3.       Containers for dry specialty mixes like hot chocolate mix, dry soup makings.
4.       Making and storing sun tea. (see my previous post   Sun Tea )
5.       Use as canisters for flour, sugar, and cornmeal. Also great for storing dry cereals that need to be cooked such as oatmeal, cream of wheat or grits.
6.      Solar lites
**Please purchase new jars only if you plan to expose them to heat in any way including hot beverages; or if you will be microwaving with them or freezing with them. Please do not use vintage or older jars for these purposes but use older jars for dry storage or decor. Please note that some stores sell 'craft' mason jars and these should be used for crafting purposes only!

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