The Mason jar (also known as the Ball jar or glass canning jar) was invented in 1858 by John Landis Mason to can and preserve food. The jar was made with a shoulder-seal and a zinc screw cap. The top of the glass had a threaded neck which fit the threads in the metal cap to screw down to the shoulder of the jar and form a seal. As the quality of commercial canning production improved, populations moved from the rural to the urban life, and the rise in home freezers lowered the number of people who used the home canning method. However, glass canning jars are still in frequent use today, but for more reasons than John Landis Mason intended.
1. Reusable Travel Mug. Mason jars are a perfect size to use as glassware at home or a travel mug on the road. They can be filled with coffee, tea, water, juice, or your beverage of choice. They are easy to clean, cheap, and won’t leak. The only challenge about drinking out of mason jars on the go is how wide the opening is, which often leads to spills. I found this lid insert made by Cuppow! on my last trip to Salt Spring Island. I love it. It’s so simple and works really well, one of those things I wish I invented.
2. Urban Garden. This is something you must try if you live in an apartment or anywhere without space to plant a garden. I’ve recently discovered that sprouting is something I can do right in my own kitchen and it doesn’t even require direct sunlight! It’s not time consuming at all and it allows you to always have fresh sprouts to toss on your salads. This is perfect for summer. All you need is sprout seedlings, a mason jar, and a piece of mesh or cheesecloth. I use a stainless steel sprout screen from Down to Earth Distributors that fits perfectly on a mason jar. Directions: Put 1-4 tbsp seedlings in a mason jar. Add water, swirl, and drain using mesh screen or cheesecloth secured with an elastic. Add one cup of water and soak seeds for 6-8 hours. Rinse the seeds again and empty the container of water. Invert the jar and leave it propped at an angle in the sink or a bowl overnight. Continue to rinse the seeds twice a day until sprouted. This will take 3-6 days. Once seeds are ready to eat, cover and keep in the refrigerator.
3. Flower Vase. An old glass canning jar with a bunch of wild flowers really brings that welcoming country-home feel to a room. Mason jars are being used more and more in floral arrangements nowadays. From wedding centrepieces to dinner table decorations, you can find these jars photographed in all sorts of magazines. I like using the vintage mason jars with the light blue tinge to them for vases, but these are hard to find and more expensive than the regular glass jars. I found a tutorial online that shows you how to stain your own mason jars so they look like the vintage blue ones. Check it out here.
4. Food Storage. It’s funny to think that mason jars were invented to store food but with all the new designs we have made for them, food storage may be the most uncommon purpose. That’s not the case in our house though. We have open shelving units in the kitchen so I love to store all my dried goods in glass jars to create a colourful and textural collage. We also live in an old building so I feel safe having all my food protected in durable and secure jars.
Other ways to enjoy Mason Jars:
-For to-go drinks that are extra thick and need a straw, this lid by The Mason Bar Company is perfect.
–Mason jars create a cozy ambiance when used as tea light holders or a chandelier (for the seriously crafty).
-Glass jars can get really hot and hard to hold when used for tea/coffee. These knitted cozies protect your hands and keep your drink warm.
–Live terrariums are becoming really popular in the trendy shops and coffee bars downtown. Olla Urban Flower Project is offering two terrarium building workshops this spring (April and June 2013). Check them out.
-One of my favourite uses for mason jars: homemade snow globes. I made one as a gift a few years ago and I was surprised how well it turned out.