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Hopes and Goals for Food in Jars in 2015

January 7

Next month, this blog turns six. When I first started, I had no inkling of where a little idea to write about canning, preserving, and my personal obsession with mason jars might take me. Turns out, the answer is pretty darn far (literally, in fact. I did 113 events in 2014 and put 12,000 miles on my car in the process).

Before get I swept up in the momentum of 2015, I want to take a moment to articulate some of the things I hope to do this year. A couple are tangible things to do, while others are lofty concepts.

  • Higher quality content, a little less often – In recent years, I feel like I’ve fallen into a trap in which I post fairly frequently, but the value of what I’m posting is low. While I can’t stop writing about my classes and events, I want to make sure that the bulk of what I share is of value.
  • More personality – Fear not. I don’t plan on turning this into a vanity lifestyle blog. But I do feel like I don’t always bring a whole lot of myself to this space and I don’t like that feeling.
  • Make some video – Years ago, Scott and I used to make an online cooking show called Fork You. But then, other projects cropped up and we just stopped doing it. I’ve wanted to get back to video for a while, but in the intervening years, the quality of web video exploded and I felt like I wouldn’t be able to produce something that would measure up. This year, I plan on throwing off the weight of my own expectations and just do it.
  • More pantry basics – I love a good batch of jam as much as the next girl (probably more), but this year, I want to focus on those practical, pantry building projects that make it easier to make a quick, healthy meal.
  • Tee-shirts and bumper stickers – Before I went on my book tour last spring, I had some stickers printed up that I gave away at my classes and signings. They were a hit and I want to make some more fun Food in Jars logo-ed gear this year.

So those are my hopes for this year. I’m also determined to get the next book written with a minimum of stress and anxiety. I’ve also declared some more personal goals for myself, that I posted a few days ago over at my little personal blog (I’m trying to carve out some time to write about things beyond food and when I do, I post them over there).

Now let the new year come!

 

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Brewing Tea in Jars + Keeping Tea Bags in Place

clothes pinned tea bags

For the last year or so, I’ve been in the habit of brewing up a quart jar of herbal tea each morning when I make myself that vital mug of something hot and caffeinated (I’m currently deeply addicted to PG Tips with milk and honey, but I feel a coffee jag coming on any day now).

While I have no problem drinking water all day long, I’ve found that it makes for a nice treat to have something with a bit of flavor to sip with lunch. This quart jar tea fits the bill because it’s easy and helps me work through my embarrassingly large tea stash. It also frees me from the temptation of spending $3+ on an iced tea if I go out to run an errand or two in the afternoon.

verticle tea in jar

Most of the time I find myself using tea bags and have always employed the trick of attaching a clothespin to the tags on the bag to keep them from flying into the jar when I pour in the boiling water. However, back in January, I learned another way from my sister. She’s also in the habit of brewing tea in quart jars (funny how certain things run in families) and she keeps her tea bags in place with rubber bands.

When I first noticed that all the quart jars in her cabinet had rubber bands positioned below the 1 inch ring, I thought she was using them as a way for people to identify their jar. But when I asked about it, she relieved their true purpose and said that she leaves the on all the time, even when running the jars through the dishwasher.

rubber banded tea bags

I think her use of rubber bands is brilliant, particularly because it also identifies which jars are drinking glass regulars verses ones being used for canning (if you use certain jars for drinking all the time, you weaken them a little and so it’s best to keep them out of your canning ecosystem if you can as they’re more prone to breakage).

It’s also a trick to remember this summer if you have a stash of jars you use for parties and outdoor gatherings. Assign everyone a different color and pop the rubber bands on the jars to keep your drinks straight.

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Close Up on the New Green Heritage Jars

Green Ball Jars

Friends! I’ve finally gotten my hands on some of the new green heritage pint jars ! I’ve been on the receiving end of a goodly number of jars over the years, but I must confess, I was more than a little excited to unwrap these bad boys. They are just so pretty!

Green Ball Jars

They come in case of six jars and are packaged in the same way that the blue jars were shipped last year. The sturdy box is white and is printed in matching black and green and the jars come shrink-wrapped into it.

Green Ball Jars

The fronts have the traditional Ball imprint, along with the word Perfection (the blue jars say Perfect Mason). They come packaged with silver bands and lids, but if you’re looking for a more perfect color match, you can also get some of Ball’s new green metallic lids and rings.

Green Ball Jars

Don’t forget that these green jars are being made in both regular mouth pints and wide mouth quarts. I’ve not yet seen the quart jars in person, but I’m hoping to get my hands on some soon.

Have any of you seen these jars in person yet? What do you think?

Disclosure: The nice folks from Ball’s PR company sent me this box of green jars for photography and review purposes. 

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Where the Jar Magic Happens: A Tour of Fillmore Container

mason jars

Last month, while Scott and I were on vacation out in Lancaster County, we paid a visit to one of my very favorite source of jars, Fillmore Container (you may have heard me mention them before). They’re a family-run jar, bottle, and closure distributor that carries both traditional canning jars and smooth-sided jars of all shapes and sizes for commercial producers (as well as home canners who want a more sleek look).

jar display

Because I’m oddly fascinated by all aspects of jars, I asked owners Keith and Lisa Reinhart if they’d give me a tour of the warehouse during my visit (we also spent some time dreaming up some fun collaborations). They said yes and so, armed with my camera, I got a peek into the space where all the jars live.

Just to orient you, these top two jars were taken in the reception area at the front of their office space. They have samples of the jars they carry displayed there, which is incredibly useful when you’re trying to determine what shapes and sizes you want.

a neatly arranged wall of brooms

From there, you walk into the warehouse space, which is impeccably clean and organized (even the brooms and dustpans are well tended!). It also felt so very familiar to me because it smelled just like the warehouse that was once part of the business my parents ran for most my childhood. Who knew that the scent of cardboard boxes and packing tape could be so evocative?

down a warehouse aisle

The boxes along these shelves are full of lids. There are a very great number of jar closures in a dizzying number of shapes, sizes, and colors on these shelves. Keith told me that when they were first getting started, they counted every single lid out by hand for each order. Happily, they now have scales that make much faster work of that task.

glass

Despite the fact that they’re working daily with fragile glass, Fillmore’s breakage rates are actually extremely low. Part of the secret is that each order is hand-picked and hand-packed (no mechanization here!). Last year the warehouse staff picked and packed a boggling 23,000 packages.

biodegradable packing peanuts

The folks at Fillmore are working hard to be green wherever possible. Jars are always going to need to be cushioned for shipping, so they make sure to use biodegradable packing peanuts. What’s more, they reuse shipping boxes wherever reasonable and applicable.

ball jars

So many canning jars. The wide mouth half pints over in the far left of this shot are my favorite size and shape for canning jam and so I got an odd thrill to see so many of them in one place.

salt and pepper shakers

Jar shaped salt and pepper shakers! There’s a restaurant in Philly that has these on every table and a friend is always trying to wheedle them out of the servers for me. I betcha they got them from Fillmore! You can get them here if you’re equally charmed.

blue heritage jars

A pallet of the new blue heritage jars. From the looks of the stack, it appears that they’ve been mighty popular. Have any of you canned in them yet?

boxes at Fillmore Container

In addition to their stock of jars, containers and lids, Fillmore also sells an assortment of canning books and recently added my book to their stock. Right now, they’re offering my readers a deal.

When you order a case of jars and a copy of Food in Jars, you’ll receive a $5 off your order if you enter “FIJ” in the comment field at checkout (the adjustment will be made when order ships). Best of all, I signed every book they had in stock when I was there, so chances are good that you’ll get an autographed copy if you order soon.

I hope you enjoyed the tour!

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Jars on Vacation: Lancaster County and the Lehigh Valley

Lancaster Farm Fresh goods

In recent years, I’ve developed something of a habit of planning vacations to jar-friendly destinations and them coming back here to share what I saw. Recently, Scott and I spent a week bopping around Lancaster County and the Lehigh Valley, and really, there’s no better place for jar spotting.

preserves from Rooster Street Provisions

For the first half of our trip, we stayed in a fabulous condo across the street from Lancaster’s Central Market. On Tuesday morning, we zigzagged our way through the market (it’s only open Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday). Scott grazed on samples of baked goods while I snapped a few photos of jars.

smoked pepperoni sticks

I loved the preserves and charcuterie on offer at Rooster Street Provisions. I kicked myself that I didn’t get any of their cured meats.

yogurt in jars

I love that Linden Dale Farms is selling their yogurt in jars. They’re a type that is rated for home preserving, so not only can you get some delicious yogurt, but then you can turn around and can up some jam or pickles!

hot sauces

Hot sauces, jams, jellies, and pickles as far as the eye can see!

food in jars at Central Market

Amish-preserved foods. I used this photo as a header for a post recently, and a few folks thought it was my stuff. It’s not! So sorry for the confusion!

PIC_4413

This photo is from our visit to Good’s Store in East Earl, PA. It’s one of my favorite places to guy jars, because they devote an entire aisle to canning gear and they’re always fully stocked. I loved this tower of the blue heritage jars and couldn’t help but pick up a couple boxes.

Wall of preserves!

On the last day of our trip, we were headed to a friend’s annual barbecue in Allentown and so stopped at the Allentown Farmers’ Market to pick up something to bring. I couldn’t resist snapping an Instagram photo of this wall of preserves.

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Giveaway: The JarBOX (sponsored by Fillmore Container)

JarBOX

Once you start collecting jars and canning, you will eventually face the issue of storage. Do you build shelves or rely on boxes? If you have a basement, do you carve a section out for canned good storage? If the jars are tucked away, how to do you deal with the issue of out of sight, out of mind? What’s the best way to prevent breakage (particularly if you live in earthquake-prone areas)? There are so many questions and no one perfect solution.

JarBOX from above

Happily, there’s a relatively new product out there that can help answer some of these questions and might just make things a little bit easier on the storage front. Called the JarBOX, it’s a plastic container designed to snugly hold a dozen jars. It was designed by a home canner who was tired of having multiple jars break in a box when bumped or displaced (there’s a video on the JarBOX home page that shows off its many virtues).

They are sold in sets of two and snap together to create a sturdy, stackable home for jars. Once snapped together, the JarBOXes can be stacked, transported, or slid into tight corners for easy storage. It’s more than a little brilliant, if you ask me.  Currently, the JarBOX is only available for quart jars, but according to the website, a pint-sized version is coming later this year.

closed JarBOX

At the moment, I have two sets of the JarBOX and am using them as single jar trays as opposed to snapping them together. I put the jars in them upside down (to keep them from turning into dust collectors) and slide them under our bed. In our small apartment, this has freed up a huge amount of shelf space without making it hard for me to access these jars when I need them.

upside down jars in a JarBOX

Thanks to my friends over at Fillmore Container, I have one JarBOX set to give away this week. If you want to throw your hat into the ring, here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share how you currently store your jars and home canning.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Friday, April 5, 2013. Winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog that evening.
  3. Giveaway open to US residents, only (so sorry, further-flung friends).
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.
Disclosure: Fillmore Container sent me two sets of the JarBOX for review and photography purposes. My opinions remain my own.