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August 28, 2013

Storage Solutions: The Mason Jar

by Anne Paddock

There are only a few products as useful today as they were 150 years ago and the mason jar is certainly among the elite group of old-fashioned products whose innovative design still stands strong. Invented by John Landis Mason in 1858, the mason jar was awarded a patent because the glass body with the 2-piece lid (the flat top and hollow screw-top lid)- provide a hermetic seal allowing fresh food – especially fresh fruit and vegetables – to be preserved for future consumption.

canstockphoto15371021By 1884, the patent expired which prompted two brothers, Frank and Edmund Ball to start producing the Ball Mason Jar which was made by the Ball Corporation until 1996. In 1998, the company licensed the Ball name to Jarden Home Brands, a public corporation based out of Rye, New York. Today, the jars are made by a variety of glass producers and the lids are made in Muncie, Indiana by the Jarden Corporation.

Although the most common use for the mason jar is for preserving fresh fruits and vegetables, the most unique characteristic of the mason jar is its versatility. No longer limited to canning, the mason jar is ideal to use for food storage. canstockphoto14714624

My cabinets contain 14 types of flours, 6 varieties of sugars, 12 different grains, 6 types of breakfast porridges (mostly grains that are cracked), 10 types of dried fruits, and about 20 nuts in various forms (raw, roasted, chopped, etc). Add rice, seeds, lentils, and beans and you get the picture.  I used to hear “Mom, where is the oat flour?” or “Do we have any xanthum gum?” or “Where’s the quinoa?” all the time.

When I realized that my cabinets were becoming one big hodge-podge of clipped and bagged ingredients and when I tired of taking everything out to find the unsweetened coconut or nutritional yeast, I knew it was time to take charge and get organized. My criteria were few: I need glass jars in a variety of sizes for the easy to pour ingredients (as opposed to the ingredients that need to be scooped); and the lids had to be air tight to keep the ingredients fresh and safe from pests. With a two piece lid that has a universal fit, the Ball Mason Jar fit the bill.1743469_622173437830649_1784998940_n

Ball Mason Jars are very inexpensive and a bargain at $1 – $2 per jar. Sold in case packages of 4, 6, 9, or 12, Ball Mason Jars are an economical solution to keeping ingredients fresh and organized in a kitchen cabinet. In our home, the addition of the mason jar (with the wide lids whenever possible) revolutionized my cabinets and turned them from a conscientious mess to an organized pallet of choices.

In addition to labeling each jar, consider cutting out the nutritional label and taping it to the side of the jar. For some grains, I cut out the basic cooking instructions and tape it to the back of the jar along with the expiration date.

The jars come in a variety of sizes and with regular lids (2-3/4 inches) or wide mouth lids (3-3/8 inches):

Mason Jar 4 ounces4 ounces:  Often used for creative projects, this jar is also ideal for jams, jellies, mustards, dipping sauces and more. I use these wide mouth lid jars for small dried fruits (dried blueberries, cranberries, cherries, apricots) and place them directly on the table at breakfast for hot cereal toppings.

Half Pint Glass Mason Jar8 ounces:  The 1 cup or 1/2 pint-sized jar with a regular or wide size lid is also ideal for jams, jellies, preserves, marmalade, dried fruits and more. I use these primarily for jams and homemade sauces.

1Mason Jar Pint Size16 ounces: The pint-sized jar that comes in both a regular sized lid and a wide mouth lid. This jar is excellent for pantry staples like nuts, dried fruits, and lentils which come in more than a dozen colors.

Glass Mason Jar Pint and a Half24 ounces: The classic pickle sized jar that comes only with a wide mouth lid. Ideal for nuts, dried fruits, lentils, dried beans, grains, oats, dried beans, rice and more.

Mason Jar Quart Size32 ounces:  A quart sized jar that comes with a regular or wide mouth lid and although both are useful, I prefer the wide mouth lid for ease of getting ingredients in and out of the jar. A perfect size storage container for dried beans, grains, porridge cereals, and more. A staple in my cabinets.

Ball Wide Mouth Mason Jars64 ounces:  The 1/2 gallon sized jar that comes with a wide mouth lid. The picture perfect container to hold flours, grains, and other pantry staples that are purchased in larger quantities. I use this jar with the wide mouth lid for all my flours. The wide mouth lid allows a 1/3 cup measuring cup whereas the regular size lid will only allow a 1/4 cup through the lid.

The Ball Mason Jars are available nationwide at grocery stores (usually in the seasonal promotional aisle or in the fresh produce section) and stores including Walmart, Target, Ace Hardware, Crate & Barrel, and Bed, Bath and Beyond. The jars can also be purchased on-line but because of the weight of the jars, the shipping costs are usually high. Go to the company website (www.freshpreserving.com) and use the locator service to find a store near you.

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