Monday, October 28, 2013

The Mason Jar



Since the beginning of time, acquiring, harvesting and preserving one's own food had been essential to one's survival.  The process took on many methods including salting, brining, drying and the use of different variations of seasonal and cold storage.  In 1858, the invention of the home canning jar by tinsmith John Landis Mason (who invented a machine that could cut threads into lids, which made it possible to make a jar with a reusable, screw-on lid) took the art of the preservation of food to a new level.

Farmers, pioneers, settlers and even urban families quickly adopted this 'mason jar' method of preserving food.  The popular transparent storage container was ideal for readily identifying its contents and for the proper monitoring of the preservation process to ensure food safety.

In fact, home canning spiked during the World War II years, with Americans buying more than three million jars.

Yet, sadly, during the 1950's the popularity of mass food production in tin cans and plastic containers along with the invention of the home freezer as an alternative preserving method and the migration of people into urban centers caused the decline of the home preservation of food using mason jars, or more pointed, as a necessity to survival.

Alas, in less than a century, the beautiful mason jar's hardcore, purposeful life was over.

Nowadays, there are still a number of believers whom still preserve their home grown produce and flavours using the mason jar method - and why shouldn't they?  A mason jar full of fruit, jam, pickles or relish is visually appealing, customized to one's particular taste and healthy in ensuring that one knows exactly what is in the jar they are eating.

The mason jar has also found other uses as excellent alternatives to modern storage systems, and still, the romantic, organic symbolism - possibly, the representation of a more simple time - of the old vintage jars combined with the sheer purpose of the physical design makes for great arts and crafts and has influenced many designers in their modern home and restaurant decor.