Once upon a time, I decided it’d be cool to learn how to make a gigantic flat of luscious tomatoey goodness last a long long time. I would purchase San Marzanos from my friends at Mariquita Farm and turn them into sauce that I would stow in the freezer for the winter months. Freezing was great, but longevity was limited.
I’d always wanted to try my hand at canning, but the risk of accidentally creating a lethal stockpile of botulism kept any attempts at bay. I wanted professional guidance and in 2009, I stumbled upon classes offered by a the folks of Happy Girl Kitchen Co., a local independent producer of yummy things in jars. (Trust me, try the okra sometime!)
I signed up without hesitation and took a class…
I was inspired and excited with my new stash of know-how and got my partner and a couple of friends fired up. Next thing I know, we had an all day marathon canning 60 pounds of tomatoes. Oh, yes, we canned! The one thing I neglected to give much thought to was the fact that as we consumed our sauces, we’d soon have a small army of Ball jars awaiting their next deployment.
For close to 18 years, I have been storing rices, flours, beans, grains, salts and dried foods in a wide array of glass jars – repurposed pasta sauce and pickle jars, as well as co-op bought Ball, Quattro Stagioni, and wire bail varieties. With the new surplus on hand and no new dry goods to house, I took on a personal challenge of finding new ways to use them.
Slowly but surely, I began defying my own sense of “normal” by storing leftover soups and salads (yes, even the leafy variety!) and pasta and sauce and you name it in the surplus Ball jars. What a delight to have the jars tidily lined up in the fridge and to be able to see what was in each of them! Gone was the need to guess what was in the translucent plastic containers. In fact, I now had an excuse to start putting plastic storage containers into quiet retirement. I test drove jars of coffee, flax seed, and Parmesan cheese in jars the freezer. Soups and sauces were next.
Me and my partner are hooked on the merits and joys of glass jars.
SO, WHY USE GLASS? THE BENEFITS ARE OVERWHELMINGLY POSITIVE
The uses and benefits of glass jars are numerous: they are easy, economical, reusable, and healthful.
- A transition to glass is a huge step toward making a simple earth-friendly change in your life.
- Glass containers get recycled* domestically – even locally! Glass collected by municipalities in the San Francisco Bay Area goes to the Strategic Materials facility in the East Bay, thereby keeping jobs and money in the local economy. Bottles do not have to hop onto cargo ships to sail to far and exotic locales which most of us will never visit.
- Glass is non-toxic and will not leach hormone-disrupting chemicals into your food.
- When it comes to canning jars that come in a wide array of sizes, lids are pretty much one size fits all. This saves you time spent playing the kitchen classic “match the lid to the container” game. Oh joy!
- It is easy to replace a lid if one goes missing.
- Food stays fresher longer when stored in glass.
- Glass containers are more easily and thoroughly washed than their plastic counterparts.
- Glass jars will not melt in the dishwasher.
AND A GLASS JAR HAS A PLETHORA OF PRACTICAL & CREATIVE USES
- Reuse a jar when you purchase bulk liquid and goopy foods such as peanut butter, syrup, olives, tahini, etc.
- Store bulk dry goods such as beans, nuts, seeds (flax, sesame), sugar, loose tea, etc.
- Pack a jar-friendly lunch and bring it to work or school. Finally, a leak-proof soup transporter!
- Bring a jar for packing up possible leftovers when dining out. Small jars are just the right size for many kinds of food items. As a bonus, others may see your actions and be inspired!
- Use a jar as a collection receptacle for small recyclable items like batteries, corks, and blue tubes (homeopathic remedy containers).
- Glass provides is a neutral (odor-free) environment for storing tubes of homeopathic remedies.
- Collect loose change in a jar, and when it’s full, bring it to the bank to be cashed in.
- Safely store useful random items such as nails and screws. Safely store useless random items, too!
- Fill the jar with favorites from your rock or shell collection, invert, and voila! a homemade paperweight.
WANT MORE INFORMATION & INSPIRATION?
- My Plastic-free Life
- Environmental Working Group
- National Center for Home Food Preservation
- Learn about Ball jar canning and preserving
What are you going to do with your jars?
*A fascinating aside I learned while researching local glass recycling: Glass Pyrex dishes CANNOT be recycled. This goes for windows, mirrors, and car windshields, too. These glasses are smelted several hundred degrees higher than bottle and jars. Therefore, they must be put in the trash.