Sunday, July 6, 2014

"Answer July--

Where is the Bee—
Where is the Blush—
Where is the Hay?

Ah, said July—
Where is the Seed—
Where is the Bud—
Where is the May—
Answer Thee—Me—"
~  Emily Dickinson,  " Answer July"
And July it is - already!  I love the farmers' markets filled with the colors and fruits of summer.  It is always exciting in the spring to see the flats of plants, but there is something more appealing about the bounty of summer.  I have bean plants toppling over under the weight of beans, and we wait patiently for the tomato plants to produce, but luckily the farmers are ahead, and I can live off their crops.
I think of women years ago who would be canning all of the bounty of summer, and, of course, the mason jar is a mainstay.  Mason jars are still being manufactured, but they are in every vintage/antique/thrift shop!   These jars are made from soda-lime glass.  It is inexpensive, chemically stable, reasonably hard, and safe for beverages and food as well as windowpanes!  It can be remelted so that makes it ideal for recycling also.

The earliest glass jars were called wax sealers since wax was poured into a channel around the lip that held on a tin lid. This process was complicated and error-prone, but was largely the only one available for a long time and widely used even into the early 1900s.
The most popular form of seal was the screw-on zinc cap discovered by John Mason (from New Jersey--amazing how much NJ has been in the invention business) and patented on November 30, 1858, a date embossed on thousands of jars. Jars with "Patent Nov 30th 1858" were made in many shapes, sizes and colors well into the 1900s. Since they were made in such quantity and used for such long periods, many of them have survived to the present day.
Another popular closure was known as the Lightning closure, named after the first US made brand to use it, which was embossed with "Lightning" on the side. More commonly, this is often known as a bail closure, or French Kilner — it consists of a metal wire arrangement with a lever which, when pivoted downward against the side of the jar, applies leverage to a glass lid, clamping it down over a separate rubber O ring. The bail style jars are still widely used in Western Europe, in particular, France and Italy, where the two largest producers, France's La Parfait, and Italy's Bormiolli Rocco, produce the La Parfait and Fido brands respectively.
The bail jar was not as popular in the US when canning lost its appeal in the 1950s and 60s. The modern canning jar industry was developed by Jarden...and featured easy screw tops and the National Center for Home Food Preservation discouraged use of the bail style jars.

From1860 to1900 a great many patents were issued for various jar closures. The more esoteric closures were quickly abandoned and can fetch high prices in today's antique market. Antique mason jars' values depend on the age, rarity, and condition.

The age and rarity of a jar can be determined by its color, shape, mold and production marks, and closure. Most antique jars that are not colorless are a shade of aqua known as "Ball blue," named for the prevalent jar maker. Colored jars were considered better for canning use as they block some light from reaching the food which helps to retain flavor and nutritional value longer. More rarely, jars will turn up in amber and occasionally in darker shades of green. Rarer still are cobalt blues, blacks, and milk glass jars. Some unscrupulous dealers will irradiate jars to bring out colors not original to the jar.

Even so, simple jars have gone up in price since they are gaining the attention of the younger buyers, but the clear jars are still in production, and Ball reproduced the blue jars.
I did read an interesting article -"These Mason Jar Salads Are Your New Go-To Lunch"- linked here .  There are recipes listed, but here is an example...
Caprese Pasta Salad

2 tbsp basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 ½ oz fresh mozzarella, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 oz cooked penne pasta
½ cup fresh spinach leaves
½ cup fresh basil, chopped

From another article,  "Despite the obvious cuteness factor, these jars will keep your greens fresher than fresh, they won’t stain, they’re BPA free, microwave and dishwasher safe, perfectly sized for salads for one, won’t leak, travel well, and are reusable...There really are only two rules to the mason jar salad: Start with the dressing or sauce, and end with the lettuce and herbs. However you want to layer the rest of the ingredients—try different meats, beans, lettuces, cheeses, vinaigrettes, or sauces—is up to you (though I usually layer by weight so heavier items, like tomatoes, are on the bottom)."

"Let my words, like vegetables, be tender and sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them."


The Cinnamon Stick said...

Great Post....I do believe Pinterest and all the great uses for old Ball jars has driven the price way UP!! Of course, they have been a mainstay in my home and business !! I just have to pay "more" now to feed my habit!

Just a bed of roses said...

Love this article susan. I was playing with our rarest blue jars just last night, wondering about them. And I have alot just in of the blue as customers can't seem to get enough of the blue jar.
Now the white canning jars...we were just talking about passing our newer ones on to our son...for his salsa. were at the stage of life we need to cut that back by quite a bit. But lots of memories attached to those jars! thank you, I'm going to share your post.

Susan said...

I am glad that there is interest in something from the past! LOL