Mason Jars: Accessories, Hacks, and Recipes from the American Traditions Series

Cathy Zimmer

Mason Jar Acessories You may have noticed that Mason jars have had quite a surge in popularity over the last several years. You can find them in just about any environment from hand soap dispensers in the kitchen to hardware organizers in the garage. But how did this modest little glass jar become such a big deal?

The story begins as early as the 1830s, when glass jars were used for home canning of fruits, vegetables, and meats. Yes, that’s “canning,” not “jarring,” as you might expect. Tin canisters, which we call cans, followed closely on the historical heels of glass jars, and “tinning” or “canning” food quickly overtook the long-term food storage scene. For some reason, which we’ll attribute to the illogical and sometimes lazy nature of the English language, “canning” is the term that stuck with us. If you live in a community that does a lot of “canning,” you may also hear other phrases such as “putting up” or “laying down” to indicate this activity. Some speculate that “putting up” came about as a reference to putting the jars up on the shelf once they were filled and ready to be stored. Likewise, “laying down” refers specifically to meats, as meats are laid down in salt before they are packed for storage.

Now, back to our story.

The ubiquitous Mason jar we know today was designed and patented by a New Jersey man named John Landis Mason in 1858. Mason’s design in many ways revolutionized home canning because it provided a reliable seal that protected the food inside. Original Mason jars featured a threaded neck. The neck was designed to accept a screw-on metal band that secured a tin-plated lid to the jar’s rim, and the underside of the lid contained a rubber ring that created the game-changing hermetic seal. This method of sealing the jar proved instantly superior to the inconsistencies of wax coating, and thus, the Mason jar revolution began.

Once tin canisters arrived on the scene and refrigeration became readily available, home canning using Mason jars began to wane. It experienced a brief resurgence during World War II, when the U.S. promoted the idea of families growing and canning their own food as part of its rationing strategy. Interestingly, while we were here canning away in glass jars, U.S. soldiers were across the ocean eating preserved food from tin cans.

With the exception of the type of glass and the addition of many size options, the Mason jar has changed very little since its first appearance. Modern manufacturers, including Ball and Kerr, mass produce the jars, and you can still often find the Mason name, patent date, and “Made in the USA” stamped into the glass on the lower half of the jar.

Coming Back Around Again

Today, we’re experiencing yet another Mason jar comeback, which some attribute to a renewed interest in a self-reliant, back-to-the-land way of life. In her article “The Mason Jar, Reborn,” Atlantic writer Ariana Kelly presents a detailed history of the Mason jar and reflects on her own theories about this object’s popularity. “This current incarnation of the Mason jar has a lot to do with the hunger for greater legitimacy: How can I be more real, and more unique in my realness,” writes Kelly. While Kelly laments what capitalism has done to undermine the purity and admirable utility of the Mason jar, she also highlights their “enticing aura of thrift, preservation, and personal labor” and notes “Mason jars suggest resistance to the mass production of food and culture; they emphasize the values of self-sufficiency and community.”

Fun-Yet-Functional Mason Jar Crafts

We hope you will experience a sense of self-sufficiency and community when using our Mason jar accessories. Below are some great recipes and craft ideas you can incorporate into your enjoyment of the jars. Please visit us on Facebook to share your own Mason jar crafts. We’d love to hear from you! 

Picnic Fun

Use a couple of standard Mason jars with pump tops to dispense ketchup and mustard at your next family picnic. You can also mix up some of your favorite salad dressings and use the pump top or flip lid.

Here are a few yummy fall-themed recipes to try. 

Maple Vinaigrette

Maple Balsamic Dressing

Apple Cider Vinaigrette 

Add a Splash of Color

One of the qualities most appreciated about the Mason jar is its clear glass that allows you to see the beautiful fruits, vegetables, and other foods inside. The same holds true when you’re filling the jars with non-food contents like liquid hand soap. Choose a hand soap that has a pleasing color, or add a splash of color yourself by filling the jar with colorful marbles before adding your liquid soap and pump top. You can also decorate the outside of the jar with paint, decoupage, or any number of other craft items.

Check out this Pinterest page for some fun jar decorating ideas: