Saturday, October 13, 2012

Having a Ball in our 1940's Kitchen

Happenstance events bring this conclusion, Mason jars, whether Ball's or Kerr's, are one of the best kitchen storage inventions ever!  As any mother from the 1920's-60's might say, "Tell me something new."

Distributed by Division of Public Inquiries, Office of War Information 1943, courtesy Northwestern University Library
Event #1:  For several years after reading about BPA chemicals from plastic and canned food leaching into our food, I was on a mission to swap out our plastic containers with glass ones.  Convincing my husband was part of the challenge.

Event #2:  John is Mr. Organization.  I have lost count how many times he has reorganized our small kitchen.  Never would I stand in the way of his mission of finding ways to better contain our kitchen clutter.   It almost seems like therapy to him.  Let him go!

Event #3:  Enter Judy, a respected co-worker of my husbands.  After many mutually shared cooking stories, a theme emerged.  Both were a little, shall we say, possessed with finding storage solutions in the kitchen -- and in Judy's case -- solutions not involving plastic.  She shared her light bulb moment.  Every leftover, pantry item and so forth goes in a Mason jar. Her refrigerator and cabinets were so clean and orderly -- we know because she took pictures; John was inspired.

Off to the store!
Mr. Organization needed little more inspiration -- Smart and Final hardly knew what hit them.  A middle-aged guy with a shopping basket full of their entire stock of wide-mouth Mason jars.  Like John's co-worker, every last pantry item is now contained.

As John was organizing once again our cabinets with our new containers, he observed how perfectly they fit in our 1940's cabinets.

Prior to our Mason jar purchase splurge, packaged goods and plastic containers would never quite fit properly.

Doors would remain slightly ajar, containers would be propped up or a shelf might have been nudged up to accommodate.  Not with Mason jars.

This observation caused me to daydream as what it was like in my humble little 40's kitchen when it was first designed and built.

With a bit of research I was reminded the 40's were all about rationing, stretching ingredients, cooking from scratch all the while the Great Depression in vivid memory.  Does this scenario sound vaguely familiar today?

U.S. Government Printing Office 1944, courtesy Northwestern University Library
The food shortage of the 40's was caused by the need to feed the soldiers in World War II.  Farmers and food manufacturers were dedicating their efforts to the cause.  To fill in the gap back home, rationing was introduced as a way to equitably distribute food.

The federal government encouraged homeowners to create their own vegetable and fruit "Victory Gardens" to help supplement.

OWI poster ; no. 77 (War Information Office) 1943, courtesy Northwestern University Library

Of course Mason jars fit in our cabinets so well...duh! 

There are so many applications for their usefulness such as storage, packing a salad for lunch or yes...even canning!  Did I mention the smaller jars can go in the freezer?

And when one's exuberance in acquiring Mason jars has exceeded the need, creativity kicks in.

Even though Mason jars were invented and patented in 1858, they are far from being an antiquity!  I stand by my first statement, Mason jars are one of the best kitchen storage inventions ever.


  1. not to be a downer or anything, but the rubbery material on the mason jar lids contain alot of bpa. its what makes it so soft. to be fair it probably doesnt hurt much unless the food is in contact with it for an etended period of time. i cant think of anyonee who overfills mson jars or stores thm on their sides. just dont lick the lids ;-)

    1. Say it isn't so....looked this up to verify. It IS so. :( But there is a work around!

      There are two companies who manufacture and distribute BPA-free lids. Quattro Stagioni Jars and
      Tattler Reusable Canning Lids.

    2. I like the versatility. I might need to consider this more seriously.

  2. Hi there, this might be a silly questions, but I'm new to this so bare with me! I am curious as to what you do with the ingredients that don't fit neatly into a single mason jar? For instance I bought a large bag of Craisins from Sam's Club and transfered to 3 quart jars. I don't have extra space in my kitchen to stack these jars, no pantry, and am slowly building my jar collection so I don't have a lot of jars to spare either. Just wondering if anybody has come up with any neat solutions for this or if I am just going to have to figure out a way to deal with it?!? Thanks!

    1. Not a silly question at all. When we've need to store larger items, I admit I've used other glass/bpa lid free options from Pyrex. Good luck in your quest!!

  3. Thanks to The Kitchn honor of 100 year anniversary of Bell jars... blue vintage Ball jars:


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