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October 2012

Mary's Modern Homemaking

Canning Jars: Good for More Than Canning
By Mary Frances

Mary's Modern Homemaking archive

 

 

EEK! A mouse in the house! Who knew such a small critter could be a massive, destructive machine?

Late one night I heard a noise. A little clawing here, some gnawing there, and downright annoying. I awoke to a mess. Some pans had been knocked over, packages chewed on, rice and noodles all over the inside of my cupboards. The little stinker left teeth marks on my plastic containers where it had tried to gnaw its way into my flour and sugar!

After a week or so of cat and mouse, literally, with our indoor cat, Trix, stalking the little critter, the mouse was caught and cleanup began.

Too much food had to be tossed out due to the fact that packages had been chewed. So before I replaced any food, I went in search of an indestructible container. I ruled out plastic immediately because there were too many teeth marks on the outside of the containers I already owned. Tin canisters would work, but they are hard to keep clean and ever so expensive. I considered glass jars that were made for food storage but again, too expensive, and they looked out of place in my old farmhouse.

One day it came to me. The clerk at my post office grew up in the house where her mother grew up and canned all her family's food. They raised their own meat, grew their own vegetables, and had a small apple orchard. The clerk suggested using canning jars. What better way to bring order back to my kitchen cupboards, save money, and pay tribute to the "woman of the house" than to use canning jars for storage?

Since glass is clean and environmentally safe, I am going green! Canning jars come in so many different sizes that you will find the perfect ones for all your storage needs. You can use the regular-size mouth or the wide mouth. I chose the regular-size mouth to discourage the use of hands reaching into the food.

I have an open cupboard where I now display all my everyday spices in 4-ounce jelly jars. All the different colors of spices decorate my kitchen better than knick-knacks.

Quart-size jars are perfect for brown sugar, powdered sugar, rice, coconut, dried fruits, and so on. Since we love Jell-O, I buy restaurant-size packages that look beautiful when stored in jars.

At my local hardware store I found gallon-size jugs that are perfect for flour, beans, sugar, cold cereals, and oatmeal. This size is equally good to store sun tea and juices.

Storing in jars makes it easy to know when you are getting low on something so you can add it to the shopping list. Keeping things like nuts and dried fruits around makes it easy to mix up your own blend of trail mix. Just think of all the fun kids will have creating their own version of "junk food" that is actually mother-approved.

Considering baking a cake or making some cookies? Just one glance at what's on your shelf, and you are on your way to something healthy and unique.

Food should be visually attractive as well as tasty. Keeping ingredients at your fingertips helps to bring back the fun in cooking and baking. Plus, having everything you need right at hand saves time as well as money.

To make the jars look even prettier, you can buy decorative, painted lids and bands. Or better yet, buy some fabric and ribbon to place over the tops of the lids; screw the band on to hold in place and tie a ribbon around. So beautiful! If you decide to change the color and décor of the kitchen, simply change the lids.

Need a gift? These jars are perfect for that as well. We all know about putting mixes in a jar. Anything from cookies or brownies, to your favorite chili recipe works.

Fill at least one quart-size jar with this easy-to-make trail mix.

Trail Mix

Put the following in a large bowl:

  • 1 cup each of 2 to 4 of your favorite cereals. Chex or Cheerios are good choices. This time I used Cheerios: Honey Nut, Apple Cinnamon, and Chocolate.
  • 1/2 cup or more, as you wish, of your favorite dried fruits. I used cranberries, banana chips, and a tropical blend (pineapple, mango, and papaya).
  • 1/2 cup or so of your favorite nuts. At my house, we love peanuts.
  • A bit of coconut: about 1/4–1/2 cup. If you can find them, coconut flakes are the best, but since I already have shredded coconut at hand, that is what I used this time.

Gently toss it together—and enjoy!

 

Mary Frances lives in Ravensdale, Washington, and loves finding healthy ways to keep her castle clean. She believes that what we clean with can be just as important to our health as what we eat. When she's not cleaning, Mary Frances battles the blackberry vines in her yard. Also enjoy Mary Frances's blog, All American Gal.

 

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