Mason Jars are everywhere today, from big box stores, to craft stores, to hardware stores. They are remnants of a simpler time when our grandparents and other ancestors used them to preserve homemade pickles or a favorite jam. Today, Mason Jar fans say these round glass containers can do just about anything.


  “Mason Jars are a cool, reusable, ubiquitous option,” says Greg Ralich, director of marketing for Somerville-based Cuppow, which makes drinking and lunchbox lids for the jars.


  “Just about everyone has encountered these versatile jars in their home at one time or another. Everything from Grandma’s fresh jams and jellies, Mom’s homemade tomato sauce, to Dad’s nuts and bolts storage. These jars have also become the rage in wedding décor and home décor,” adds Susan Brian of Methuen-based etsy retailer, BeadsBanglesNBags. “Mason Jars were intended for long-term food storage, but they have now become an alternative to plastic food-storage containers, which are hard to clean and hold bacteria.”


  “Mason Jars have a simplistic, rustic feel,” notes Angie Gregory of Northampton, a mom of three and Mason Jar enthusiast. “They are stackable, interchangeable, use the same lids, and are easy to repurpose.”


  Whether you are attracted to Mason Jars for nostalgia, practicality, or their clean look, they are eminently useful for busy parents as sippy cups, travel mugs, snack containers, lunch, food or bathroom storage, and more. 


  “Mason Jars are more than just trendy,” Ralich says. “They are simple, accessible, and easier to reuse than to throw out. They really are part of a rising tide of environmental mindfulness.”






Halloween, all us to introduce you to Mason Jars!

Care for a drink?

  Coffee can be cold brewed and carried easily. A number of companies make special lids that turn Mason Jars into a travel mug, including a recycled plastic lid from Cuppow, which also offers a handled cozy and a coffee brewer designed to fit on wide-mouth or regular jars.  


  Other companies such as reCap and Cupture offer lids to repurpose the jars into other kitchen uses. reCap has a flip-top lid for pouring and Cupture makes a lid with a hole for a straw that fits tightly around the straw to prevent spilling, 


  “Mason Jars are so well made, I never have to worry about a leak or spill,” says Elissa Surabian, owner of Mason Illustrations in Watertown. 


Smoothies are another great use for the jars. Many food bloggers and recipe writers design their recipes to fill two Mason Jars – one for now and one for tomorrow. 




A new lunch option  

  Mason Jar salads are quite popular with busy people who want to eat right. You can set up your salads for a whole week on a quiet day or after bedtime. Using quart-sized jars, begin by adding protein, such as chicken or chickpeas, followed by gorgeous layers of colorful greens, veggies and fruit. Dressing can go in the jar or in special lids from manufacturers such as Cuppow. 


  Capitalizing on the Mason Jar salad trend, BeadsBanglesNBags’ Brian makes and sells insulated bags designed just for carrying Mason Jar lunches. “Because the jars are glass they are good for both hot or cold food storage from cold beverages and salads to hot soups!” she says.



Everyday items and extra beauty

   The kitchen is hardly the only room to benefit from the Mason Jar’s surging popularity. Many stores now sell adapters that allow their contents to be hand pumped, such as lotion or soap in the bathroom. Hardware stores also sell kits that turn Mason Jars into stylish lamps, both as the base and the light cover. 


  Many crafters and artists embellish the jars with stickers or chalkboard paint, etchings, or traditional paint. But the lids can be a source of beauty in storage, as well.


   “I love incorporating art and functionality into life,” Mason Illustrations’ Surabian says. “Mason Illustrations was designed to do just that. It adds personality, style and color to your jar.”


  The jars can be used for crafts, as well, to hold sand and treasures from from the beach, or as a gratitude jar holding slips of paper containing moments we recorded. Last month, reCap launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new lid called Explore. Designed to fit regular mouth Mason Jars, Explore is a removable, magnifying, glow-in-the-dark lid with breathe holes that would allow kids (and adults) to get a closer look at bugs, butterflies, frogs, fireflies, or any other nature that will fit.


  The containers also have a long history of being a practical place for dry storage. With a lid, they are airtight and mouse-proof, making the jars a great place to store dry goods like beans, flour, rice, or even popcorn. The clear jar also lets you see the contents so you know when to get more or just enjoy the beauty of the contents’ colors and shapes.


   “The jars are great for storing dried herbs for teas,” Gregory says. “It is easy to identify what is in it. No matter what I put in them, I am reassured that it will be safe and I have a feeling they are well preserved.”


  



History of Mason Jars

  Preserving in glass jars is a long-standing alternative to ceramic or one-time-use tin cans. Our pioneering forbearers were too fugal to routinely soldier the harvested goods into cans that were both expensive and difficult to reuse. 


  The whole idea of canning is to preserve the bounty of summer and fall through the winter. To do that, you need a seal that keeps bacteria out and is tightly sealed.


  In the 1800s, reusable glass jars became quite popular and used many different closures from the zinc lids, glass and wire bail jars you find today, as well as other closures that used wax to help make a good seal. Currently the USDA and the Ball Mason Company do not recommend the use of these for home canning as they don’t reliably produce a good seal.


  In 1858, John Landis Mason developed the threaded jars for canning. This allowed for reliable seals and led to the invention of the lid and ring system used today. Most Mason Jars are made by the Ball Jardin Company.


  How do you use Mason Jars? Send a photo to heather@baystateparent.com and we’ll post ideas all month. One participant will receive a special gift!