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July 10, 2017

Mason Jars Are Literally the Best

Well, no. They aren’t “literally” the best, but what is? They’re pretty great, and I’m not the sort of person who gives out homemade holiday gifts or puts up my own jam or artichoke relish, so I don’t even need them. (Hint: I love it when people give me artichoke relish, because it’s super hard to make and I’m lazy.)

Anyhow, I love mason jars and I collect all the empties when friends bring me things. And when I run out of empties, I check Goodwill where it always seems like someone has just dropped off a nice selection, now available for almost free.

For those of you who don’t can or preserve or look at Pinterest, trust me, you still want the mason jars. Here’s how to use them:

1. Quick Pickles

I’m not asking you to spend the whole day pickling stuff, only to risk your family and friend’s lives by forgetting if you sterilized one of the lids. Nope. I’m asking you to slice up some jalapeños and peel a few cloves of garlic. Now shove them in a mason jar, packing it as tightly as you can. Heat a mixture of half vinegar, half water on the stove, adding a few dashes of salt and sugar. When it boils, use a funnel to pour it over the peppers and garlic. Screw on the top real tight and turn the jars upside down on the counter. (Why upside down? So the peppers at the top get fully immersed in vinegar.)

When the jar’s cool, stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to eat the peppers. You can’t keep it in the pantry, but they’ll last a good long while in the fridge. At my house, they only last about a week, because we eat them. You can do the same thing with cucumbers, but you might want to add a little pickling spice and dill to the jar. (Or gochujang chili powder. Trust.)

Now take your pickles to the beach or the mountains, or wherever you want to eat them. Which leads us to the next excellent use for mason jars.

2. Vacation Food Storage

You know when you rent a place and have to clean out the fridge at the end of the week? And you’re super bummed because you don’t want to ditch your leftovers but you’re also not the kind of jerk that steals containers from rental houses? Look at that. Y’all ate up all the pickles and those mason jars are ready for leftover pesto, the last smidge of potato salad, a handful of watermelon cubes, or whatever else you couldn’t quite finish*. And there’s no risk of leaking if they fall over in your cooler on the way home.

3. Sending Leftovers Home with a Guest

If you made way too much soup, and it was decent soup (or collards or pasta sauce or rice), chances are good one of your guests will be happy to take some home. Mason jars are perfect to-go containers because it doesn’t really matter if you get them back. Because sooner or later, someone will leave an extra at your house.

4. Vases

Thank you, Martha Stewart, who may not have done it first, but she sure did perfect it. As an aside, would Pinterest even exist without Martha? And I seriously doubt Martha cares about Pinterest. Mason jars have been elevated beyond their humble beginnings and you see them on all kinds of tablescapes. I mean, the fact that I even used the word “tablescape” is a fine indication of how fancy they are.

I may not be active on Pinterest, but I’m fully capable of posting a picture of peonies in a mason jar on Instagram. Bonus points for rosé and a background bar cart.

5. Food-You-Have-to-Shake Storage

If you’re a fan of green juice, or homemade salad dressing, or juicing all the lemons and limes before they get mushy, you know the fear of shaking something in a plastic container. Because that one time? The lid came flying off and your day was ruined. The mason jar stays tightly sealed, no matter how much you shake it, perfect for remixing remarrying the kale juice to the pineapple juice, because the kale juice is nasty on its own.

You see? There are all sorts of uses for mason jars that don’t involve glue guns or awkward construction that just screams trying-too-hard-to-be-a-hipster-but-are-hipsters-even-a-thing-anymore-or-were-they-ever-what-even-is-this-and-who-am-I-anyway? Let us just marvel at the practical nature of the mason jar and leave it at that.

Now for a little mason jar wisdom: Cheap as I am, I do have one suggestion, but it won’t cost much. You can buy replacement lids for next to nothing. The glass lasts forever unless you break it, but the lids rust, so it’s nice to have a few sizes on hand so you can keep using your jars.

So, what are your favorite uses for mason jars? And don’t you dare come at me with yarn, a glue gun, or a paint pen, because I am not crafty.

* Want to know how cheap I am? On a recent group trip, someone grilled chicken one night. We didn’t eat it all, so I woke up early and picked it for chicken salad, then made stock out of the bones. And put the stock in a jar to take home, because nobody was going to eat those bones! I also used the stock to make an omelet at the beach, so hooray for that. I shared the omelet and the chicken salad, so I’m not all bad.


The current collection. I’m not a super organized person.

What’s your favorite was to use a mason jar?