Monday, May 03, 2010

Jars & bottles & memories...

I was putting some canning jars away that I had just emptied of chokecherry syrup and apple sauce and  took special notice of them.  I like canning jars and jars that once held foods from the grocery store.  I have a thing for collecting special jars.  The ones you see in the picture above, are not old jars; they are jars I saved   because I liked them and planned to re-use them.  The tall skinny jar on the far left had Trader Joe's Blueberry Syrup (so good!).  I thought it would make a nice bottle for my own syrups.  The one next to it is a maple syrup bottle, and the one on its right once held tapenade.  I like the square shape of it and will likely use it for jam or jelly this fall.  In the front row you see the smallest jar on the left.  I brought that one home from England in 2005.  My daughter and I made a two week trip to England and one of the train rides we took was to  Chartwell, Kent, Winston Churchill's home.  We had tea there, and this little jar held a smidgen of jelly for our scones.  The middle jar, filled with chokecherry syrup, was also a jelly jar given by a friend, and the last jar in front is a half pint from the Elite Collection by Ball.  I love the wide-rim, squat shape.  I might use these for bee butter.  My jars and bottles are a collection, but a useful collection.  They continuously serve me.

This picture shows some of the older jars from my canning cupboard.  On the left, you see a blue jar that isn't as old as it looks.  It was amongst the jars my mother-in-love gave me many years ago from her fruit room (that's what she called her basement canning storage room).  The blue jar is a commemorative of the bicentennial in 1976, so it's not old, but it's unique and I use it a lot to hold garden flowers.  The next bottle to the right is a honey jar.  It has a beehive on it and says "Pound Pure Honey."  My boys found it while out riding horseback near an old sheep camp spot in our pasture.   They also found the short jar there that says Hormel.  Does anyone ever remember opening a jar of Hormel?  Not me. The middle jar says "Magic Mason Jar" and it has a trademark sign near it.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  The jar on the very right side says "Brockway Sur Grip Mason."  I've never heard of that brand of canning jar either.  I thought Mason Jars were like Ball or Kerr canning jars, but evidently there were many brands of canning jars to be had.  I have one that isn't pictured called an Atlas jar and several jars that have no distinguishing marks on them at all.  They are just clear, regular-mouth quart jars.  Again, all of these came from my mother-in-law's stash.  I'm so glad she gave them to me because whenever I drag them out, they make me think about her.  I wonder about the past.  I wonder if she and her mother or mother-in-law put up preserves in them?  

I owe a great debt of gratitude to my mother-in-love (her name was Hazel) because she taught me a whole lot about putting-up. We canned crab apple juice, jellies, pickles and canned beef, and together, we used some of these very jars to do it.  I still own and use the pressure canner we always used to seal the jars, and I have some of the pickle recipes and pressure canning booklets that were handed down to me.  Later on I experimented on my own with book Hazel gave me, The Ball Blue Book.  In my opinion, it's the best canning book out there.  My copy is a 1987 model which is very worn and well-loved.  Now there is a Ball Complete Book of Canning which I bought my daughter-in-love.  It's a 400+ page monster.  I'm sure it's full of good things, but I prefer my slimmer 112 page book.

Something I've noticed about new jars these days is that they tend to crack more easily.  I have put up a lot of tomatoes, applesauce, juice and salsa in the old jars and rarely have I had a jar crack during the processing, but the newer jars I have bought recently and used tend to crack.  I'll bet I had a half dozen cracked during applesauce making this past fall.  I wonder if the glass is tempered differently nowadays?  You'd think with the technology we have today that new canning jars would really be top-notch.   Have any of you had troubles with new jars cracking when processing under heat?

I have some of my special jars set aside.  Some of them have cracked rims and so I can't use them to preserve foods anymore.  Those jars turn into flower vases and silverware holders and whatnot jars.  But some of the oldies are still usable for preserving food.  When I use them, I don't give them away easily unless I know that the recipient will send the jar back to me.  I don't want to be stingy, but I have a bit of a love affair with these jars.  They are more than glass.  To me, they are windows to the past.  They carry memories of hot autumn days with family and friends, cranking out applesauce, boiling down chokecherries and crab apples, baking apple butter in the oven and standing at the stove waiting for the timer to ring while listening to the weight on the pressure canner  jiggle over another pot of tomatoes.  I don't need a jar to remember those days, but still, I love them.

A good canning site I have discovered this year is Food In Jars.  It's a fun blog--not for canners only.
For your interest:  Mason Jar History

"...steam was generated beyond the power of the canister to endure. As a natural consequence, the canister burst, the dead turkey sprang from his coffin of tinplate and killed the cook forthwith."~News report of an early canning industry accident (1852)

"We eat what we can,
And what we can't, 
We can."
~Susan Branch's Grandma


  1. I love glass jars too and as I throw one out I always think..what a shame, such a cute bottle, I should keep this and use it for something! I have lots of bottling jars since I have bottled fruits and veggies and jams and salsa for years! I don't do as much now but my kids still love it when I share. Come say hi :D

  2. You reminded me of my pickle making in high school home economics class. When I was a young bride, older women invited me over for applesauce day and I think someone showed me how to make jam. I remember the pretty rows of canned plums in our freezer/storage room, too. Thank you for recommending helpful books!

  3. My grandparents and now my aunt all called their storage rooms the fruit room too! I feel like you do - I love canning jars and the story they tell. I have quite a few of my grandmother's canning jars. I don't do any canning (had a bad experience that scared me) but I'll never get rid of grandma's jars -- they're just too beautiful.

  4. I have never canned because I fear I would poison my family if I did (I'm too messy to be trusted with sterilization), but I wish I did. I love jars, too, especially the old ones we find up in the mountains.


  5. I have wanted to learn how to can tomatoes for a very long time now so I will have to take a look at the book you recommend. I still have my grandmothers blue jars. Have a great day!

  6. Frances cracks me up! I have thought the same thing. I guess I've heard too many poison green bean stories. That's why the books are so helpful. It seems like kind of a pretend endeavor (canning) when I am a stone's throw from the grocery store, but the jars are so pretty, so romantic. We love Gumbo Lily! You invite us into such a true world of hard work and simplicity. You are such a good writer. I look forward to each and every post, Jody!

  7. Julie,
    I always hate to throw out a glass jar because I really despise most plastic jars. I don't can nearly as much as I used to when there were 7 of us altogether every meal, but I still love doing it and sometimes I give much of it away to my kids and friends.

    Pom Pom,
    I think you should re-start your canning lessons with a little strawberry jam this spring. It's so easy to do and SO delicious. I think I have a good recipe here on the blog if you click "recipes" in the categories, you should find it....somewhere.

    You know about the fruit room too? I love that! Don't let a canning accident scare you away (unless it is like the quote below and you died). I think you ought to try the strawberry jam too.

    What types of jars do you find in the mountains? I'd love to know. Strawberry jam for you too!

    Sewn with Grace,
    Tomatoes are one of the easiest things to preserve. And so useful. I hope you try it this fall.

    Pom Pom,
    I've never had a poisoning at my house from canned goods. Maybe those stories are from 10 year old jars of beans. Again, you really must try the strawberry jam, Pommy. You'll like it much more than that ol' grocery store stuff. Love you too.

    Thanks all for your sweet comments.


  8. Jody,
    I just love your *homey* posts, this one included. I love the way you set up the photo with the red gingham and the doily in the background. I love the way you describe the unique and special memory of each jar, including of course the comment about the jam and scones in England. (I think they call it preserves there)
    My favourite jar to save is the one in the link, which I bought several jars of when they were reduced to clear:
    Love history and that quote by Susan Branch's Grandmother!
    Thanks for sharing all the details!

  9. I know what it is about jars. I like differnt shaped ones and always notice them. My favorite ars are the french jam jars, I LOVE those xoxox Clarice

  10. Joanne,
    Te jars you linked to are really great. I'd definitely save those if I saw them in my grocery. I'm glad you enjoyed this post. I had fun writing it.

    I looked for "French jars" and came up with a few things....some square-styles and some with rubber gasket tops. Which are you referring to, Clarice? Or are there others?


  11. Uh-oh...I was just getting up enough nerve to toss out more of my old jars, when I put things back in my new kitchen, and then I read your post! I feel the same way about the plastic jars, and many of the foods I used to buy in glass now come in plastic, making the old jars I've saved more precious. What to do, what to do...

    When my daughter and I were in England in the summer of '05, we also went to Chartwell! We didn't have tea there, though. It was one of our favorite places we visited, partly because my daughter has been such a Churchill fan. She was wearing a T-shirt that day on which she had printed a photograph of WC, and the quote from him that sustained her through grad school, "Never, never, never, never [I don't know how many nevers], never, never, never give in!"

    I got off the subject of jars and can't figure out a way to connect WC to them.

  12. Good morning!

    What a lovely blog you have about your prairie life! Sweet Pom Pom sent me your way!

    I love saving jars too! :)

    Blessings to you today!

  13. My neighbor gave me some Ball jars with a star on them, and I just love them. I will only use them for spices or other storage as they won't get bumped around and chipped (hopefully). Very cute post!

  14. Gretchen Joanna,
    I remember we discussed that we were in England in 2005, but we were in Chartwell then too....maybe together? Wow. Small world. Connecting WC to jars....remember, the tiny jar had jam from the Chartwell tea house. Perhaps you can rid yourself of some of the jars and stuff the rest in your storage room (for somebody else to throw someday).

    Sharon, I'm so glad you came to see me. I hope you enjoy your visit.

    It's nice to have fellow jar-lovers among us!


  15. What a lovely collection! And it's so wonderful that so many of your jars have stories to go along with them. I am only a canning novice, but I do so enjoy hearing stories like yours. Thanks for linking the food in jars site too. That looks like it will be very fun to explore. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Jody,

    I don't know what kind of jars they are, to be honest. Just old canning jars of the Mason Jar variety and some that are really, really old that must have been used for canning at some point. The house we have in the mountains has a root cellar with shelves for canned goods. I will investigate further next time I go up.


  17. Christy,

    I hope you'll find lots of good ideas at the Food In Jars site. I just love it.

    I was just curious if you had old food jars (with labels like Hormel and etc) or if they were mason jars.



  18. Jody this is such a great post. I really enjoyed reading it. I usually use old jars, but I wonder if the new jars have any recycled glass in them? Would that make a difference?

    I grew up in a family of canners. Even my step-dad used to put up apple butter, and I used to love the summer and autumns when my grandma and great-aunts, and my step-mom would all get into the kitchen together and share the work. There would be so much talk and laughter. Those were good times!


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