The French serve their preserves in pretty ceramic ‘confiture’ jars. The Germans pop their pickles in Weck jars and we Brits have the classic Kilner kind, first made in 1840 by Jeremy Clarkson’s great, great, great grandfather, John Kilner. Strange but true.
Yes, I have all these jars. They’ve got me so far. But I’ve recently got a new obsession: vintage American Blue Ball Mason jars, first used for ‘canning’ in 1884. (The Ball brothers apparently pinched the Mason jar design from John Mason who first made a zinc lidded jar in 1858, but that’s by the by). Ebay and Etsy are fruitful, as always, but shipping costs are pretty steep for large quantities of heavy glass jars from the USA. Luckily, they can often be picked up at antiques fairs if you keep your eyes peeled.
The history is fascinating; Coloured glass was considered best for preserving as it reduces the amount of light reaching the food, which means the food lasts longer. Some say the jars got their signature aqua blue hue because they were made using sand from Lake Michigan which contained blue minerals, but eventually ran out.
If you want to get really geeky about Balls, there are websites for serious collectors. But these online realms are not for the faint of heart – members of the ‘BallJarz’ gang believe in ‘Jar Karma’, spend every waking moment attending fruit jar events and even have their own ‘Jar Bling’ poem (‘I will chase to the end, this form of bling, because in the world of jars, simply put, colour is king…’) You can pinpoint the age of a jar just by looking at the logo, as it evolved a lot over the years. For example, if the word ‘Ball’ has no underscore (as on mine), the jar was made between 1923 and 1933. Because of the rusty ‘patina’ of the lids, sadly, you can’t use vintage Blue Balls for preserving, but they make great vases – I filled a few of them with white hydrangeas for my wedding last year – or handy storage pots for kitchen utensils.
Images courtesy of Velvet Ribbon, http://www.velvetribbon.co.uk