Friday, June 27, 2008

Mason Jar hits sesquicentennial

There are two turquoise blue ones sitting on my kitchen counter. They've still got their original metal, twist-on caps. There's not a chip among them, and they're treasures in my culinary bits of jestam and flotsam. Old Mason jars.

This particular brand of jar (along with Ball) took up much of my summers growing up on the farm. Hundreds of quarts of green beans and tomatoes and pickles went up into the cabinets on the back porch. You could keep track of what month it was by how full the jars were. As the year moved from summer to fall to winter then spring, the jars went from full and colorful to empty, clear and waiting for the next harvest season like an unfilled honeycomb.

Those jars have been around a long time. Patented on Nov. 30, 1858, the Mason Jar is enjoying renewed relevance as our focus on eco-friendly, reusable materials continues to grow. Today, people are using the famous glass jars with the screw-on metal lids for everything from glassware, barware and serve ware to pencil holders, votive holders and vases.

Mason Jars have also inspired a cult-like status as collectibles with collectors buying and selling them through antique stores and auction sites such as eBay. While most sell for just a few dollars, the rarest ones, including versions in amber, dark green, cobalt blue and black, have sold for as high as $30,000.

In honor of the Mason Jar's 150th anniversary, Sweet Leaf Tea, one of the nation's fastest-growing beverage companies, is launching a new, limited edition (for the summer only) Blueberry Lemonade in an authentic, reusable and eco-friendly Mason Jar. The company will also be making its popular Peach Lemonade available in Mason Jars this summer.