by Gaye Levy, The Sleuth Journal: When I recently did some organizing of my supplies, I was a bit surprised at the sheer number of canning jars I had placed into boxes. By the time I got to the 20th box, I admitted to myself that I am clearly a canning jar hoarder. That said, I don’t think I am in need of an intervention. Yet. On the contrary, I think everyone should own more versatile and beautiful canning jars.
Canning jars, also commonly referred to as Mason Jars, have a long and colorful history.
The History of Canning and Canning Jars Canning as a method of preservation was first created during the time that Napoleon was in charge of the French Army. The army wanted a way to preserve food so that soldiers could be better nourished. The military offered a prize of 12,000 francs to the person who could come up with a solution to this issue.
It took 15 years for the prize to be awarded. After years of experimentation, Nicholas Appert, a Parisian candy maker and chef, won the prize in 1810 for his invention. The same year, he published the first book of food preservation, called L’Art de conserver les substances animales et végétales (or, in English, The Art of Preserving Animal and Vegetable Substances which you can view and download for free).
In the early 1800s, however, most people could not afford glass jars for food preservation, so they continued with their traditional methods until the Civil War, when John Mason invented the “Mason jar” with a reusable lid. Because of his ingenuity, to this day, many of us still refer to canning jars as “Mason jars” regardless of the brand.
Canning reached an all-time high during the 1940s, when the government declared canning the contents of your victory garden to be a wartime obligation. At that time, over 75% of American families preserved food by canning it, and over 12 million gardens had been planted across the country.
Once the war was over, however, people returned to shopping at the grocery store, and the number of people who canned dropped, and has continued to do so. Recently, though, as more people seek self-reliance due to climbing prices and terrible selections at the store, canning has experienced a bit of a renaissance and jars are back in style.
The Different Types of Canning Jars The thing that makes jars so darned addictive is that they are as useful as they are lovely. Some antique jars come in shades of aqua, and some modern jars are available in blue, green, and purple.
Of course, one of the most frequent uses for jars is home preservation. Not only can you preserve pickles, jams, and jellies, but you can branch out into pressure canning to preserve low acid foods like meats, vegetables, and entire meals. (If you are like me and have not yet gotten up the nerve to try pressure canning, read this! I guarantee you’ll be ready to take the plunge.)
Whatever you’re preserving, you need to choose the right jar for the job. Not only do jars come in different colors, but they also come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. This handy infographic can help.