I was poking about my sewing studio the other day, rearranging this and that, and getting organized (or procrastinating, I have a hard time telling the difference while in there) when I set my gaze upon my paintbrushes all upended in a clear glass jar. If I have never mentioned this, I love glass jars. Tall, wide, short, rounded, blue or clear, I prefer glass jars to plastic containers to hold crafty bits, pencils and rulers, lost coins, that type of thing.
I like to use wood too (my mortar and pestle for herbs is wood, smooth from use over the years) but there is just something versatile and simple about glass.
I once found, at a garage sale, a set of four square blue glass canister-style, ring-sealed jars with the words “Peace” and “Plenty” molded into the glass on either side of a sheath of hay. On the right side was the measurement, in quarts. On the left side were the words “Granny’s Products Inc., Registered Centerville, USA” and on the bottom of each, to my joy, was stamped into the glass “1968 Jar Made in Italy.” I asked the lady whose garage it was how much she was asking for the set.
“Five dollars,” she said.
Sold! Those jars went home to my kitchen counter to hold dried goods – sugar, popcorn, coffee, and the biggest one became the cookie jar. I tried looking them up on the Internet for their origins, since I forgot to ask the lady, but never found another blue glass set exactly the same.
Glass jars have a presence in every room of my home. Tiny ones that once held jelly samples now hold small beads and findings for jewelry-making, and children’s craft items like googly-eyes and pom-poms. Years ago, I used them to store homemade baby food in the refrigerator for a day or two. Spaghetti-sauce jars, washed and dried, have morphed into gift jars for Russian tea or a stack of homemade cookies, the top wrapped in country fabric and a ribbon.
Pickle jars – well, they just never stop smelling like pickles, do they? For me, those work best holding nails and nuts and bolts and tool-related things in the basement workshop.
With summer coming up, glass jars can also be useful as flower vases and (temporary) homes for lightening bugs – remind youngsters to set them free, and on the sooner side – or upside down as protection for seedlings outdoors in the vegetable garden. They can also be used to store marinade or homemade dressings for a few days in the refrigerator, with no worry about possible leaching from plastics.
Be careful with canning in glass jars - be sure the jars are made for canning, and never reuse a canning top twice, always use a new one because that red ring seal wears out with each use.
I have a friend who makes “summer soup” all chock-a-block with vegetables and then freezes it in batches in glass jars in her freezer. Her soups are always great when they defrost. Mine, not so much. I have tried this for years with no success – sadly, my jars always split open and break into shards, even when leaving room at the top – and because I am not a fan of picking glass out of my teeth, I had to toss them. So if using glass to freeze, or before any canning, consult with either usage directions (if the glass jar is new and tempered for freezing) or call an expert source on freezing and canning such as the local Cooperative Extension Service in Fort Kent for safety techniques.
Other ideas to reuse glass jars, especially if in an area that does not recycle them, include use as a tiny terrarium or short-term home for a snail, or as a pincushion for Mémère or for a teacher (cover the top lid with foam, wrap in cloth and glue the cloth to the inside of the lid – add new sewing pins inside and a ribbon around the jar).
Large glass jars are also excellent for making sun tea, something my mother always did and that I still like to make now and then.
To make sun tea, add 4-8 tea bags to water, depending on the size of the jar. Seal the jar, then set out in warm sun for a few hours. Voila! Sun tea. Refrigerate after the tea has seeped out of tea bags, and serve over ice within a couple of days. Sweeten in the glass if you prefer sweet tea. This is best served on a shady porch, preferably with a snoring dog nearby. A purring cat or children playing in the yard will do nicely as well.
If you don’t have any nice glasses to serve the iced tea, glass jelly jars will suit the job perfectly.