In Gear: Hacking Mason Jars
Or, 'A New Twist on an Old Standby'
This type of glass storage jar was inexpensive, more or less infinitely reusable, easy to clean, and imparted no off flavors, as was the case with metal containers. It became a favorite of home cooks, and Mason’s new jars could be easily sealed, unsealed and resealed with screw-on metal caps—a dramatic improvement over existing methods, which included the fussy and messy practice of using hot wax to seal lids and stoppers into place.
Mason sold his patent the following year and, before long, countless manufacturers were making screw-top canning jars based on his model. Commonly known today as Mason jars or Ball jars (after the most prolific manufacturer of jars of this type), these iconic vessels remain popular for their original purpose, canning, as well as myriad other uses.
Additional Uses for Mason Jars
Attractive and reminiscent of simpler times, they make for quick centerpieces when filled with simple bouquets, marbles, rocks, candles, etc.
For storing dry goods like flour, cocoa powder, and salt, they are often more practical and airtight than most canisters marketed for such purposes.
Used as rugged, no-fuss tumblers, the jars have an uncanny way of imparting extra refreshment to summertime beverages like lemonade and iced tea (for which they also make practical serving and storage vessels).
They’re often tightly sealed and used to confidently shake up simple salad dressings, sauces, and drinks.
I’ve seen them used, with perforated lids, as massive shakers for dry spice rubs and the like. (Mason came upon such an idea himself, patenting the first screw-top salt shaker in the same year that he applied for the screw-top patent.)
As noted in a previous post, some have suggested that their threads will fit nicely into a number of standard blender bases to create ad hoc blender pitchers in the size of your choosing.
I’ve even found them retrofitted on a number of occasions as folksy pendant lamp shades.
Looking Toward the Past—and Future
Of course, Mason jars, older ones at least, are also highly collectible, with some unique colored specimens or those with unique embossing fetching hundreds, occasionally thousands, of dollars.
In a time when we’re becoming ever more aware of the necessity to recycle, reduce, and reuse, and we’re learning of the threats posed by “food-safe” plastics, I can think of few objects of the kitchen more useful or comforting than the humble, time-tested Mason jar.
About the author: Amanda Clarke is a recovering restaurant pastry chef with a background in architecture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes, tests, and develops recipes and works on freelance food-styling gigs between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.