Odds are good that you wind up with extra glass jars cluttering up your kitchen from time to time. But rather than tossing them out or making another trip to the recycling drop-off, have you thought about how you can put them use around the home?
There are plenty of uses for old jam jars and the like, some of which you might guess and some that are likely to be brand new to you. Here we’ll take a look at some of the best uses for your stockpile of old jars.
1. Home Canning
Old fashioned mason jars were invented way back in 1858 by John Landis Mason and later licensed out to the Ball Corporation in 1884. That’s why you sometimes hear them referred to as mason jars or ball jars interchangeably.
Whatever the name, they were originally manufactured with one purpose in mind: home canning.
Before refrigerators or even iceboxes were commonplace, canning was one of the only reliable ways to preserve perishable for more than a day or so. And it remains a popular activity among homesteaders and hobbyists interest in trying out their own recipes.
One important caveat, however, is to avoid using recycled jars for canning. Canning jars need to be specially tempered to withstand the heat or pressure involved in the canning process. They also need an airtight seal to prevent contaminants from getting in.
Old mayonnaise or pickling jars are usually not made out of tempered glass. And once they’ve been opened it’s often impossible to reseal them because of how their lids are designed. For those reasons, brand new jars are the only way to go.
2. Home Pickling
Pickles are a lunchtime staple and have been for longer than you might think. For more than 4,000 years, we’ve been pickling vegetables to preserve them. And pickling jars are the easiest way for you to partake in that venerable tradition.
The modern method of pickling in jars got its start back in 1809. Napoleon Bonaparte offered 12,000 francs, about a quarter of a million dollars in today’s money, to whoever could come up with the best way to preserve rations for his troops.
Chef Nicolas Appert claimed that bounty when he figured out that if he vacuum-sealed food in a glass jar he could then boil the package to preserve its contents. This would, of course, be where modern-day canning comes from, as well as one of the most popular methods of home pickling. If you ever noticed how some pickles at the supermarket are shelf-stable while others aren’t, that’s the difference.
Whatever your preferred method, learning to pickle opens your pantry up to a wealth of new possibilities. Pickled jalapenos and banana peppers are always a popular choice when you want some spice in your life. But pickled garlic is an increasingly trendy ingredient.
Alternatively, you can prepare homemade sauerkraut for your next Octoberfest get-together, or try your hand at making kimchi for a Korean barbecue night.
3. Indoor Gardening
Glass jars aren’t only useful for packaging food you already have. They can also be a great way to start producing your own food right in your own kitchen.
During the 2020 lockdown, there was a run on seeds and home garden supplies. With food supplies interrupted, many Americans tried their hands at raising their own in whatever space they had access to.
One of the most cost-and-space-efficient ways to pad your pantry is by sprouting dried beans.
You can order dried beans specifically meant for planting online. You’ll probably pay a premium, but you can sometimes find heirloom strains or other oddities you wouldn’t find at the corner grocer.
But for your everyday black, garbanzo, or kidney beans, you can often have success sprouting store-bought dried beans.
To grow them, all you need are your beans of choice, paper towels, a little water, and your glass jar. The process looks a little like this:
- Soak a piece of paper towel in room temperature water
- Evenly space 3-5 of your beans on the towel
- Fold the towel over the beans so they are sandwiched between the two folds
- Use the paper towel to line the glass jar. Set it on a windowsill or other sunny area
- You should see sprouts in 7-10 days
Repeat this process for however many plants you’d like to grow.
4. As Country-Style Decoration
The design of the classic mason jar is synonymous with the old-fashioned homestead. It’s no surprise, then, that they’ve become a favored decoration for those seeking a more rustic feel to their living space.
Many saloons, for example, use mason jars as their standing drinking glasses. Hence, serving your guests a mason jar cocktail is one of the easiest ways to emulate that variety of country flair.
But they’re far more versatile than that.
We mentioned earlier that glass jars are an excellent vessel for sprouting beans and other foodstuffs. But they can also make ideal homes for charming table-top terrariums. Or for a more low-effort option, as a modest flower vase.
And around the holidays they can make for great decor accents as well. Filling one with a mixture of pine needles, peppermint, cinnamon sticks, and other seasonal scents can create a quick-and-easy holiday potpourri. Or they may serve as simple candy dishes if you have little ones around.
You can enhance the atmosphere further by picking out jars that will compliment the occasion. Looking through a selection of wholesale glass jars available will show you a greater variety than you might have expected.
Glass Jars Are Good for More Than You Might Think
It’s pretty impressive how something so simple can have so many uses. While glass jars are great for their intended purpose, their utility goes far beyond that.
From storing to foodstuffs to making country chic drinking glasses or festive holiday decor, their number of uses makes them an essential item in any home.
But they’re far from the only ones. For more simple but elegant ideas to organize and appoint your living space, be sure to keep up with all of our latest home and lifestyle guides.