A history of Mason jars and a recipe for lunch

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 7, 2018

By Jennifer Nicholson

Rowan Public Library

In 1795, Napoleon offered 12,000 francs to anyone who could devise a way to help preserve food for military use. Fifteen years later, Nicholas Appert, who created a method known as “appertizing” or what most of us know as “canning,” claimed this offer.

It was not until 1855 that the world of canning made another advancement by Robert Arthur, who created the patent for the self-sealing tin can. While the tin can did not appeal as much to home users, the cans themselves were expensive and not reusable; the food would also react with the metal, giving the food an unpleasant taste.

However, the tin cans would become a huge benefit for not only the military as a method to safely transport and preserve food, but also for hospitals, as well. This patent would also be the origins for today’s commercialized canning, changing the way we buy canned foods.

Just three years later, on Nov. 3, 1858, John L. Mason filed a patent with the U.S. Patent Office for the first Mason jar. Mason, a tinsmith by trade and a former farm boy, licensed the making of the Mason jar to Samuel Crowley’s shop and Clayton Parker, who made the first Mason jar.

Mason also licensed the making of the jar lids, which is why even today the glass jar lids are universal. When the original patent expired in 1870, many glass companies saw an opportunity to create their own jars and the use of Mason’s name, forever sealing the term Mason jar.

Yet, for most companies and jars, the main problem was the sealing of the jars. It was not until 1915 when Alexander H. Kerr filed his patent “for a jar lid with an integrated sealing compound that would flow when heated, creating a hermetic top seal on any jar that had a smooth, machine-made lip.”

While the Mason jar may have changed the canning world, John L. Mason died penniless in 1902.

The use and popularity of glass jars have seen many changes over the years, through war efforts of World War I and World War II, moonshine runners during the Prohibition era, and through canning clubs through out the U.S.

Today, Mason jars not only have a practical use, but have also become collector pieces and part of everyday décor. Mason jars are used as bird feeders, candleholders and everyday drink ware, to even wedding décor. Yet one of the most interesting aspects of Mason jars pays tribute to its original purpose — using them as salad jars.

The Mason jar salads are not new, as many have seen them on Pinterest. Mason jars are still a practical way to store food, even if one is not canning food. As the New Year is here, and many New Year’s resolutions will focus on healthy eating, Mason jars can become a great tool.

A pint-size Mason jar, equal to two cups, is a great portion control tool, as two cups are usually a good size for soups and salads. For heartier appetites, a quart size Mason jar will do, as well.

Mason jars are a great way make salads ahead of time. Typically, one can make five salad jars on Sunday night for lunches for the rest of the work week. While salad jars are compact, making them easy to store in the normal over-crowded work refrigerator, there is a method for how one should assemble a salad jar.

First, one would need to determine which size jars one would want, and ensure that the jars are clean. Secondly, prep all of your ingredients for your salads. Make sure that any ingredient that was washed, such as romaine lettuce, is dry before assembly.

When assembling the salad jars, start with your dressing. While vinegar-based dressings work best, ranch dressing can be used. Just know that it may separate as your jars sit for the week.

You will want to layer the bottom of the Mason jars with your selected dressing. Then add your firmer vegetables, such as carrots or cherry tomatoes, then add your softer vegetables, such as onions or corn. Make sure that you have a good layer before adding lettuce, as you do not want lettuce to sitting in the dressing, making the lettuce soggy.

Then add your protein or cheese to the very top, and close the lid tightly. Make sure that you press all of your ingredients in tightly, as they will settle. Another tip — do not shake or turn your jar over until you are ready to eat. One can eat right out of the jar or dump everything into a bowl.

Mason jars are also good for storing leftover food such as spaghetti, rice meals or even soups. One can also freeze Mason jars, just do not fill to the very top. Fill to the shoulder, allowing space for the food to expand. Also, do not microwave or heat up a Mason jar without reading jar instructions; these methods, if done improperly, can cause the glass to explode.

If you are looking for some great tips and dos and don’ts, or want some good recipes, check out “150 Best Meals in a Jar,” by Tanya Linton. Linton covers soups, rice meal recipes, pasta salads, fruit and vegetable salads.

For more uses of Mason jars or to know more about the history of Mason jars, check out “Mason Jar Nation: The Jars that Changed America and 50 Clever Ways to Use Them Today,” by Joann Moser.

Both of these books can be found at Rowan Public Library, by visiting www.rowanpubliclibrary.org.

While I love Mason jars, and yes, I have blue ones as décor around my home, I also love storing food, especially my lunches, in Mason jars.

One of my favorite recipes is a chicken BBQ ranch salad. Fill the bottom of a pint-size jar with ranch dressing — I typically make my own, but store bought will work. Add carrots, cherry tomatoes or black beans and other hard vegetables of choice. Then add your soft vegetables such as corn, cucumber and red onion. Add romaine lettuce, and top with shredded BBQ chicken and shredded cheddar cheese. When ready to eat, I just shake the jar, to cover all ingredients with ranch dressing.

If you ever come to the library and you see a librarian carrying a Mason jar, it is probably me. If you find any other really cool uses or have a great recipe perfect for Mason jars, feel free to stop and share.

Rowan Public Library headquarters and branches will be closed Jan. 15 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with regular hours resuming Jan. 16.

“Oh, look at that …” scavenger hunt: Jan. 2-Feb. 28, East branch. Olaf’s body has come apart yet again. Can you put all nine pieces back together again before he melts? Find the pieces and be entered into a raffle contest for a literary-themed prize. For more information, contact Tammie Foster at 704-216-7842.

Chapter Chats: Weekly book club for teens 14-17, primarily for participants with developmental or intellectual disabilities, though all are welcome. Mondays, 5 p.m. at East Branch, Rockwell. Contact Tammie Foster at 704-216-7842. Next meeting, Monday, Jan. 8.

Random Fandom: Anime and Manga, headquarters, Jan. 9, 4:30 p.m. Celebrate your favorite fandoms with a mix of games, crafts, snacks and screenings. For more information, contact Hope at 704-216-8258. Also Jan. 10, 6 p.m., at headquarters. Minecraft, Jan. 22, 6:30 p.m., East.

Bullet Journaling: Jan. 9, 6 p.m. headquarters. Bullet journaling is a free, fun and simple organizational system to turn any blank book into your ideal planner, journal, tracker and diary. Want to start 2018 off right? Bring a blank book to our free event and we’ll share the tools and the tricks to help you stay on top of all the things you’ve got going on in your life, from your job, to your family, your health, your finances and more.

Classic Cinema: “Jailhouse Rock,” Jan. 12, 2 p.m., East. 1957 Elvis Presley classicThis film is not rated and has a 96 minute runtime. While this is part of Adult Outreach Services and is designed for retired individuals, this free event is open to the public, and all ages are welcome. For more details, call 704-216-7842.

Beginning Genealogy: Headquarters, Jan. 20, 10 a.m. This event, co-hosted by the Genealogical Society of Rowan County and RPL’s Edith M. Clark History Room, is free and open to the public. Staff will provide an overview of essentials like census records, marriage records and death certificates as well as some of the best genealogy websites and databases.

Children’s weekly storytimes and programs resume Monday. Other programs resume Feb. 5.

Baby Time: Birth-23 months. Highly interactive 30-minute program for children and their adult caregivers. Headquarters, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.; East, Mondays, 10 a.m.; South, Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.

Toddler Time: 18 to 35 months. Highly interactive 30-minute program for children and their adult caregivers. Headquarters, Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Mondays, 11 a.m.; South, Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m.

Preschoolers: 3-5 years. Highly interactive 30-minute program for children and their adult caregivers. Headquarters, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; South, Mondays, 10 a.m.

Tail Waggin’ Tutors: 7 to 9 years old. Children can practice reading skills in a relaxed, dog-friendly atmosphere. Canine listeners provided by Therapy Dogs International. Headquarters, selected Tuesdays, 4 p.m. Call 704-216-8234 for details. East, selected Mondays, 3:30 p.m., Call 704-216-7842 for details.

Lego Saturdays: Jan. 13, 10 a.m.-noon, headquarters and at East. Legos available for free play. This program is for children.

Teen programs resume for sixth- through 12th-graders who are 11-18 years old.

Adulting 101: When you’re a kid, you think the grown ups have it all figured out, but now you’re almost a grownup and you have no idea what you’re doing. Come join us for this new series that will teach you about how to become a functioning adult without having to call mom for help. January’s program will focus on cooking. Headquarters, Jan. 16, 4:30 p.m.; South, Jan. 17, 6 p.m.

Escape at the Library: RPL now has its own escape room. See if you can solve the clues and codes to get out of the room before the timer hits zero! January’s escape room is “Back to the Future: Save the Clock Tower!” February’s escape room is Escape the DEATH STAR, a Star Wars escape room. Headquarters: Jan. 23, Feb. 20, 4:30 p.m.; East, Jan. 29, Feb. 19, 6:30 p.m.; South, Jan. 24, Feb. 21, 6 p.m.

Give Back Saturdays: Help us give back to the community through various crafts and projects, which we’ll donate to local charities. Teens can count participation to meet community service requirements for school or other organizations. Headquarters, Feb. 10, 11 a.m.

Teen Board: Want to be part of a Teen Advisory Board and make decisions about upcoming teen library programs? Or just want to play some board games? Now you can do both. Headquarters, Jan. 30, 4:30 p.m.

Displays: Headquarters, student art from West Rowan High School art classes and Salisbury Symphony exhibit. East, music boxes by Michelle Earnhardt; South, student art from South Rowan High School art classes.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.