The Pioneer Woman’s story on Mason jars this week struck a chord with me (www.thepioneerwoman.com). I love mason jars. I grew up in a home where canning took place every summer as our favorite fruits and vegetables came into season. My mother loved to garden, and we always had the freshest summer foods on our table. She had her own miniature orchard with peach, apple and plum trees, as well. And for a while, even grew Concord grapes on a trellis that ran the length of our back fence. Mom is what you’d call a renaissance woman. She’s a very clever and resourceful girl. I have fond memories of her making her own wine with all that fruit, too. When we picked too much to consume, she would freeze or can it for later. We’d have “canning days” where we’d wash, peel, snap, shuck and slice everything we could get our hands on until it was all packed away for later. My mother made every kind of pickle known to man as well as pickled jalapenos, okra and beets. She packed tomatoes in jars whole, crushed and cooked into spaghetti sauce and salsa. We had peaches, applesauce, apple pie filling, and more. You name it; she canned it.
Of all the things she canned, my favorite was jelly day. On jelly day, Mom would bring out the big soup pot and load it with the fruit of the day. Once she had that going, she would start a loaf or two of homemade bread. She makes really good bread. She had the five of us washing and sterilizing jars while everything bubbled and baked. Just as the bread came out of the oven, the jelly would be cooked down and ready for jars. If you’ve ever made your own jelly, you know you have to skim all the foam off the surface of the fruit before you spoon it into the jars. Mom would use a big metal spoon and carefully scrape the foam into a bowl. Once she was done, my sisters and I would butter up some warm bread and slather on the jelly foam. Oh, hallelujah for sweet and fluffy jelly foam! As a child, I had two favorite kitchen pleasures – licking the beaters and making jelly foam sandwiches on warm fresh bread. Have mercy.
Thanks to Mom, I have a deeply rooted love of canning jars. I have an entire cabinet in my kitchen full of them – all shapes and sizes. It pains me deeply to put any jar in the recycling bin. It really does. I can’t let them go. They’re like family pets or small children. They should be treasured. I use them for storing leftovers, collecting change from my pockets, storing rice and grains in my pantry and everything in between. I’ve been known to drop votive candles into smaller jars and use them when the power goes out. Did you know you can also wrap wire around the top of small jelly jars, drop in a lighted votive candle and hang them from trees or light fixtures for parties? It’s simple and lovely.
Those old-school jars with the spring hinge lids are the ones I love the best. I recently found lime curd on the clearance rack at the Williams Sonoma outlet for $2.97 a jar. I bought two. It’s not that I’m a big fan of lime curd; I just had to have the jars it came in. I’ll eventually use the lime curd, but the jars are the real treasure here. I love to use them around the house. I keep a large one in my spice cabinet filled with kosher salt. I love that my old measuring spoon set fits perfectly in the hinge on the side (very convenient). I also keep one in the laundry room to hold colorful clothespins. I love keeping things in clear glass jars. It’s a functional and homey way to decorate any shelf. You never have to wonder where something is. I’m thinking that one of my new lime curd jars will be used as my button jar in the sewing room. I may fill the other one with dark chocolate peanut M&M’s. I will fill them, display them, and love them proudly.