• Kristin Cole

The Glass Jar: Resourcefulness on Display


Photo by Fiona Murray / Unsplash

My fascination with glass jars goes back to 2010 and the iconic farms outside of Chicago where I spent many delightful evenings serving guests at the newly established "farm-to-table" concept suppers. As a server, I would fill the drinking size jars with with hyper-local brews, wines or water and the smaller jars with Maldon salt-sprinkled June butter (the best month of the year for grass-fed butter!), decadent pates, dips, preserves, cured olives, and individual savory panna cottas. Before service, we'd even fill a number of jars with coarse salt and drop a tea light inside to create a magical evening experience as the sun set.


In short, these jars (usually Mason, Ball or Weck brands) started to inspire a creativity in me that grew into a bit of a jar obsession over the years. However, being a comfortable minimalist as well, I needed to balance the number of jars coming in and out of my household as to not become a collector. As such, I have gifted many jars, usually full of a new creation to share with a friend or neighbor. But I've also dropped off empties to donation centers, eager for their next owner to continue their life cycle.


I have learned to multi-purpose these glass beauties and to celebrate their iconic quality of resourcefulness, which I value strongly in my day-to-day experience. Jars are probably the most multi-purpose item that I have in my kitchen and in every room of my house.


In Sarah Wilson's book, this one wild and precious life, she exalts the Japanese concept of mottainai, " a Buddhist term that conveys respecting resources around you with gratitude and suggesting regret when something is wasted." In essence, saving, mending and reusing - concepts that often get ignored when we prioritize conscious consumerism. It's still buying and using of new resources after all!


So with mottainai in mind, I urge you to wash out and reuse any jars that come into your household and to experiment with some of the following ideas:


  • Sip your favorite beverage - hot or cold - and see what size jar suits the mood best. Pop a lid on for easy storage or a drink on the go.


  • Keep your pantry organized by storing grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, flours, snacks and other loose items for easy access and visibility. You can label them with a piece of masking tape to help out family members or let the ingredients shine in their simplicity. My favorite size for this purpose is the 3-cup jar with a plastic twist-on lid.


  • Fill one with epsom salt and another with baking soda to keep close to your tub for a soothing, replenish soak. We keep several tinies in the cabinets with homemade deoderant, toothpaste and miscellaneous beauty tools.


  • Rely on multiple sized jars for kitchen projects like fermenting, pickling, sprouting and preserving fruits. It's super easy to sanitize the jar in the dishwasher or with boiling water beforehand.


  • Display fresh bouquets of wild flowers or rosemary from the neighborhood bushes! Simple and lovely for the senses. You can tie some brown butcher's twine around the lip of the jar for a rustic touch.


  • Compose a salad dressing directly into a jar, seal and shake it up! No extra mess and you already have storage for leftovers.


  • If you open up a can of coconut milk, pour any leftovers directly into a jar since you don't want to store items in an open can long-term. And while you're at, add the probiotic powder from a few pills, stir and leave the mixture out for a day to make homemade coconut yogurt!


  • Keep on your desk to organize office supplies.

Photo by Jillien / Unsplash

  • Set the mood! Gently drop a tea light onto a layer of salt or rice, or bundle up a thin string of lights in the jar for the perfect ambiance.


  • Layer a hearty salad to-go, making sure to place heavier items on the bottom (beans, grains, roasted veggies) and delicate leaves on the top. Pour dressing into it and shake up before you dig in to this healthy goodness.


  • Send your guests home with leftovers or use as a hostess or holiday gift, filled with your loving creations (I always seem to have a new version of granola which is versatile and can sit out on the counter).


  • Freeze soups, broths, stews in larger jars (leaving an inch at the top for the liquid to expand) or separate out into individualized portions for easy weekday defrosting.


There you have it! I'd love to hear your ideas for how to multi-purpose jars around your home. Please share in the comments.