All about Mason Jars

I don't remember when I realized I like Mason jars. I know that I liked them long before they became a Pinterest phenomenon, popping up everywhere from weddings to kitchens and home decor. Growing up we had a small collection of four-ounce jam jars. The kind Smuckers makes with characters on them, where you have to pop the top off to get to the grape jelly inside. We used these for drinking glasses - juice, milk, water, kool-aid. It was fun to drink out of a "glass" when I was small, and to think about how we were reusing and recycling something that was once used for something else.

It isn't just jars I have an affinity for: I like containers. My mother is an artist, and I dabble in many artistic endeavors - primarily photography. We reused a lot of containers growing up, which only adds to the appeal of Ball Jars - they are versatile. We reused plastic yogurt cups for painting - whether it was to add a dollop of acrylic to, or to rinse paint brushes out with. We used them for dying fabrics. Old jars in addition to the jam jars were often repurposed for something, and even now my mother uses canning jars to make cultured butter.

My love for containers is pretty apparent if you look around my home. I have a small memory box that sits in my living room, filled with photographs and ticket stubs from the past seven years of my relationship with Allen. I keep a jar of mustache props from our wedding on my computer desk, along with a cup filled with pens and scissors. When I finish a jar of jam, if I can, I keep it to use again - filled with yogurt for breakfast or lunch at work - it's a fun way to recycle.

That enjoyment of jars and containers even carried into our wedding day, when I decided that I would take a cue from Pinterest and another friend's wedding and use Mason jars for our centerpieces. I wanted floating candles, color, and simplicity, so that is exactly what we did: filling jars 1/3 full of glass beads, adding water and a candle. The effect on our wedding day was perfect, though at the head table we used the jars for our flowers instead.

After the wedding, I was left with just  under a dozen quart-sized jars. I hope to eventually use them for canning, but in the meantime have been working to find other uses for them. One was used to hold my bouquet from the wedding until it began to wilt, my flower stems tucked atop some of the red glass in the jar. Other jars are being repurposed to store dry goods, like oatmeal and quinoa. Another one is being used nearly daily, though, as it holds a small supply of simple syrup.

Why simple syrup? Well, it's summer, and summertime calls for iced tea, lemonade, and the occasional margarita. We keep a big pitcher of sweet tea in the fridge year-round, so I am always making simple syrup - I find it makes the tea sweeter with less sugar, as the sugar is completely dissolved before being added to the hot tea over ice. Single glasses of lemonade are easily prepared with a squeeze of lemon and a splash of syrup, and there is nothing like adding some simple syrup to a fresh cup of coffee.

I never make my simple syrup the same way twice, but I like this New York Times recipe for reference. A friend of mine makes infused syrups with basil, rosemary, berries, and much more, which all add fun flavors to coffee, soda water, lemonades and cocktails. We go through about a batch of syrup a month. I don't know what that says about our sugar consumption, or about our love for sweet tea - probably a lot. I rest better knowing however, that it's just sugar and water and nothing more.

Our summer is richer and sweeter with the addition of simple syrup, and my life is fuller due to jars - as funny as that may sound. I love keeping things organized and in containers, and jars are an easy way to accomplish that. Soon I hope to start canning, or at the very least, packing jars full of mixed greens to enjoy for lunch.

What about you - do you like mason jars?