One of my favorite past times during gorgeous Michigan summers is to peruse antique stores along the lakeshore with my mother. My mother and I will often bring along out-of-town guests to enjoy our tradition with our favorite shops located in downtown Ludington and Pentwater. We spend an afternoon admiring stunning relics from the past with our favorite section being glassware. Peppered among milk and depression glass are the infamous Mason jars of all shapes, sizes and colors.
The history of the Mason jar dates back to 1858 when John Landis Mason was issued his first patent for his invention of the Mason jar for food preservation. It wasn’t until 26 years later that the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company started manufacturing fruit jars. Today, the name Ball is synonyms with home canning and they are the leader in the home canning industry. While antique stores offer us patrons a small sampling of jars, I am proud to say one of the most outstanding collections of Mason jars is right here in Michigan! Mason Bright has spent countless hours chronologically cataloging Mason jars from years past and has created a jaw-dropping showroom in his basement.
For many years my family collected Mason jars which were passed down for generations. To this day I gravitate towards the blue Mason jars because of their unique, rich color. Growing up my mother would always say, “Hang onto that one, it’ll be worth something someday”. As an adult, I have a special place in my home for many of these beauties. However it was when I learned what made the jars blue I had an even fonder appreciation for them.
Ball blue jars received their blue and blue-green coloring from the sand around Lake Michigan. Ball’s famous blue color was a product of minerals found in the sand and the amount of oxygen used in the furnaces to melt the sand into glass. These original blue jars were only produced between the late 1890s and 1937. Even though the jars were manufactured in Indiana, it was our sand here in Michigan which made them beautiful!
As a home canner, I use these very jars on a daily basis and I home can for a variety of reasons. Yes, I care greatly about knowing where my food comes from as well as the many cost savings home canning provides, but I enjoy home canning for very sentimental reasons. Many of my jars have been passed down to me from family. Although many of the older antique jars no longer work well with today’s disposable lids, I have a select group of jars that continue to seal and preserve food year-after-year.
Why is that sentimental to me? Why is it so important I find a use for these, in my mind, family heirlooms? Because every time I handle a blue Ball jar, a unique Kerr jar, or a Perfect Mason jar I know I am touching something my ancestors once touched. I often daydream about what their kitchen looked like or the adventurous methods they used to safely preserve foods before technology advanced the home canning industry. I envision sunny summers sitting on the front porch steps chucking corn or snapping beans like a scene from Anne of Green Gables. How amazing their pantry shelves must have looked baring jars in shades of blue, green, and gold.
Antique Mason jars have made quite the come-back and I personally enjoy using them throughout my home. My Pinterest page demonstrates hundreds of ways to use Mason jars in home canning, crafts, for storage methods, growing vegetables and of course in home décor. Mason jar uses are endless allowing a part of our history – our American history, our state’s history and our family’s history – to play a role in our everyday lives.
–Diane Devereaux, The Canning Diva™
For recipes, tips and tricks on how to use your Mason jars visit www.CanningDiva.com today.