And, you probably have one in YOUR house right now…it has been around for over a hundred years…
…it’s a mason jar! Yes, a simple mason jar!
If you don’t have these jars in your kitchen, we highly recommend getting some soon! They are, of course, great for canning, but they can be used for so many other things! Everything from mixing dressings to storing leftovers, and they are perfect for on-the-go salads and breakfasts, and even REAL food desserts!
Mason jars, as we all know, have been around for many years. When it all began, there were several variations, and in 1858, John Landis Mason patented the concept of the screw-on lid which is so popular today. He unfortunately never capitalized on his success because he assigned his patent rights to another company. But his invention helped spark the home-canning revolution and this is also why you may see “Mason” on many jars today. The most common brands of glass mason jars are Ball and Kerr. Be on the lookout for the cobalt blue ones - they may be worth a lot of money!
Here are some ideas on what you can do with these handy little jars:
Our favorite "go-to" dressing is a simple balsamic vinaigrette, which is just a combination of 2 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar - mix, shake and your homemade dressing is ready! And, when we are in the mood for a creamier dressing, we add 1 Tbsp of Dijon mustard. The Dijon adds great flavor and helps “emulsify” the oil and vinegar (preventing the oil and vinegar from separating, which they tend to do without an emulsifier). Even our kids enjoy it and can make this dressing - they will ask "2-1-1?" That’s 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard. You can read more about homemade dressings in our coaching tip "Friends Don't Let Friends Buy Bottled Salad Dressing!"
This is one of our favorite uses of mason jars!…especially when we have busy mornings where we need something to just grab and go. It is super-easy to put them together the night before, and then simply grab a spoon in the morning and you are out the door to start your day with a delicious breakfast in hand!
A couple favorites of Eat REAL America members are the Carrot Cake Overnight Oats and the Neapolitan Overnight Oats! Read more in our coaching tip "Success Does Not Happen Overnight, But Oatmeal Does!"
It is super-easy and all you need is vinegar, water, salt and sugar…and, of course, some mason jars and a refrigerator! It's a fantastic way to enjoy fresh in-season fruits and vegetables! Quick pickling is a little like marinating and uses vinegar to provide the acidity to cure the vegetables, creating amazing flavor and texture...no special canning equipment or processing required. It is as simple as adding your vegetables or fruits to the mason jars, and then add your choice of herbs and seasonings on top. Once your liquid is ready, pour the liquid into the jars and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Seal the jar with an air-tight lid, shake it to evenly distribute the liquid and seasonings and store the jars in the fridge! Read more in "Use This Simple Formula to Transform Your Veggies!"
Mason Jar Salads!
This is a great way to make on-the-go salads, like this delicious Mason Jar Chicken Pasta Salad! You can eat the salad from the jar, but we have found it much easier to grab a bowl (and of course, a fork), and then transfer the salad to the bowl before eating!
Since the dressing will typically go at the bottom of the jar, it is important to remember that whatever ingredient you put at the bottom, make it an ingredient that will stand up to your dressing and not get soggy — for example, chicken, turkey or chickpeas. Quart size jars works great and give you a good sized salad, and the wide mouth jars are much easier to work with!
Get creative - the combinations of ingredients are endless!
Mason Jar Omelette!
You heard right...Mason Jar Omelette!
Make your omelette mixture, pour it into several mason jars, bake it in the oven, and then you will have leftovers to grab, warm and go for your hectic mornings!
Make sure to use oven-safe jars.
Mason Jar Fruit Crisp!
Pint size mason jars also work great for fruit crisps. They are really easy to prepare and, again, you can mix it up with your favorite ingredients! And the taste - let's put it this way...it is worth buying a jar just to make this dessert! It is THAT good!
Again, make sure to use oven-safe jars.
A creative “homemade” idea that works great for friends, co-workers and teachers is to give homemade granola in a mason jar.
Add some ribbon and a festive tag or get really creative and paint the lid with chalkboard paint…and then write a special message!
What kind of lids should you use?
This is personal preference...some people prefer the plastic one-piece lids instead of the two-part metal rings and lids. Keep in mind, you can re-use the metal lids, except when using the jars for canning. When canning, you need to use new lids to get a good air-tight seal.
Recycle! Some plastic peanut butter lids will even fit mason jars!
Can you freeze mason jars?
We have heard stories about - and have personally experienced - mason jars shattering in the freezer. As we learned in science class, liquid expands when it is frozen. There are ways to safely store mason jars and their contents in the freezer.
Here are some tips:
- Use straight-sided mason jars if possible (instead of the jars that have tapered "shoulders").
- Leave 1" to 2" of space at the top of the jars (or below the "shoulders") to allow room for the liquid to expand.
- Completely cool your contents before freezing. You can even put them in the fridge overnight, and then transfer to the freezer the next day.
- When moving to the freezer, don't fully tighten the lid until the contents are frozen.
- To defrost your contents, do it slowly (in the fridge or in a bowl of water that you change out every 30 minutes or so).
Following these tips will increase your chances of a shatter-proof experience!
Even more great ways to use these handy little jars:
- Store pasta, beans, rice, coffee, tea or other dry ingredients
- Store soups, or divide leftovers and store them in the fridge or freezer
- Store your homemade chicken or vegetable broth
- Yogurt parfaits - layer yogurt, variety of berries or fruit, and top with granola
- Store your homemade pudding or whipped cream
- Snacks such as hummus or dips with raw veggies on top - you can even use snack cup containers on wide mouth jars for the dip!
- Salsa...such as the Simple Salsa Fresca
- Smoothies (some mason jars may even fit directly on the base of your blender)
We guarantee you will get way more than $1 of benefit out of one of these jars! Consider adding some mason jars to your kitchen - the possibilities are endless!
What are YOUR favorite ways to use mason jars?