I have a special announcement about iTunes. We are having a give-away. Okay, the top, the number one prize is an Excalibur dehydrator, valued at $350.00. That is our first prize. Our second prize is a Presto Canner, valued at $85.00. Then, our third prize is a Mr. Coffee Brewer/Grinder, valued at $45.00.
Later in the show, I’m going to be telling you how to enter that giveaway for those prizes. Right now, I am going to welcome our guest. Her name is JoAnn Moser. She is the author of Mason Jar Nation. I love that name, that title. I’m just going to go ahead and read her bio. I always like to read bios because I don’t want to get anything wrong.
JoAnn Moser is a graduate of Hamline University. That is in St. Paul Minnesota. She holds an MFA Degree in Creative Writing. Besides being a writer, she’s also a Photographer. She is a DIYer and has been a featured blogger on the DIY Design Community Curbly.com for the past ten years. Her fiction writing has appeared in such periodicals as Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Wow. She’s currently working on a young adult novel entitled Making News.
Jennifer: Welcome, JoAnn.
JoAnn: Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.
Jennifer: Okay, so we’re just going to kind of dive in here. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your passion for all things DIY?
JoAnn: Well, a little bit about myself. I live in Minnesota, and I actually was born and raised in North Dakota. My parents were products of the Depression, so like a lot of people that had parents of that age, we were very self reliant. Dad fixed everything before it was … You know, we didn’t throw out anything. We didn’t replace anything if we didn’t have to. We fixed it, if it was broken. Mom sewed. She baked. She canned. She cooked. Bread in a sleeve, like in a plastic sleeve was the last resort. You know what I mean? Every week was baked bread. That’s kind of where it all started, with my mom and dad.
Jennifer: Wow. Okay. I love that, because you and I are … I don’t want to give away ages, but my parents had similar experiences, so I totally get that. I was raised in a similar way. What made you decide to write this jar? This jar, listen to me. I’ve got jars on my mind. Oh, I just love them so much. What made you decide to write this book, because the thing is, it’s not … To a lot of people, it’s just kind of a mundane object, but to those of us that love Mason jars, it’s a little bit more. Like I said, I have this addiction. What made you decide to write this book?
JoAnn: Well, I hate to break it to you, but it wasn’t actually my idea. It was my editor’s idea, Mark Johanson from Cool Springs Press. I did some work for them, technical editing, a couple of years ago. Then he had this idea, you know, for a book about Mason jars. He just needed somebody to write it and do everything, so he got in touch with me. Plus he knew my work from Curbly. He was familiar with that. He got in touch with me about a year and a half ago and said, “Hey, I have this idea. Would you like to write it?” I said, “Sure,” so that’s how it started. The great name, that was Mark’s idea, too. That was its name from the beginning. I’d love to take credit, but I can’t take credit for that.
Jennifer: Yeah. Well, yeah. It’s a wonderful name. I assume that since you have the name to begin with, that maybe shaped a little bit of what’s inside of it. Can you give us a brief history of the Mason jars and some of the ways they have changed our nation?
JoAnn: Well, the Mason jars, in the beginning, before they were Mason jars, they were called fruit jars. Collectors still call them fruit jars because it’s more inclusive, because there’s plenty of jars out there. It all started, as far as the canning process started, that started around 1795 in France with a gentleman named Nicolas Appert. That was because Napoleon needed some way to feed his army. He kind of put out this call for someone to come up with a way to do that. Appert worked quite a long time and he came up with this system, or this process called Apperitizing, which was named after him. It was basically canning.
His jars were very rudimentary. They were glass with just stoppers. He closed them with corks, basically, that’s it. You know, a cork and a batten. He would knock that cork in there. He would boil them, and boil the jars and their content, and that was it. He thought that the reason why the things that he canned, preserved was because air didn’t get into the jars themselves. He was not aware of pasteurization. That took Louis Pasteur to tell us, to elucidate everyone as to why boiling actually worked to preserve that food.
As far as Mason jars was concerned, it wasn’t until 1858 when John Mason filed his patent for the Mason jar that we know of today. His contribution to the Mason jar design was actually something called the disappearing or vanishing thread. I have some jars right here. If you look at your beloved Mason jars, you’ll see that there’s a thread that kind of … It begins right before the lip and it disappears right before the bead. That closure in itself was able to actually perfect the hermetic seal. Was it the best hermetic seal? No, but it was leaps and bounds better than a cork, you know?
Then, when Mason did develop this particular cap, this vanishing thread cap, the opal glass that we see in the top of these antique or vintage caps, that wasn’t there. It was just all zinc. The problem with that is the zinc made the contents inside the jar taste really bad, so people didn’t really can much when Mason first came out with his jars. It wasn’t until 1869 or so when Lewis Boyd filed the patent and put this opal glass, this milk glass inside the top of the cap, and that protected the food from getting in contact with the zinc. It was better.
Mason filed a bunch of patents in 1858. They expired around 1870. That’s when all fruit jar manufacturers kind of swooped in and started making Mason jars and put Mason’s name on every brand you could think of. They really hijacked his name. Then the Ball brothers got into the jar making business around 1880 in Buffalo, New York. For two years, they manufactured jars called Buffalo jars. I happen to have an example. This is a replica. I don’t know if you can see it. It’s the amber color. That’s what it looked like. It was the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company, so it’s a different logo than we know now. That jar was only manufactured for a couple of years because the factory burned down, which makes that particular jar very collectible, one of the most collectible that you could possibly … You know, if you come across one, it’s kind of like winning the lottery. Anyway, the factory burned down around 1888, I believe, and then they moved to Muncie, Indiana. That’s where things really went crazy for the Ball brothers. They just made millions and millions of jars. In 1905, they made like almost 74 million jars. That’s in one year. That’s how much canning was going on during that time.
It wasn’t until about 1915 when Alexander Kerr made that two part that everybody knows now. It’s the disk and the ring. He invented that, and it wasn’t until then that canning became kind of a more in-home process. Before then, it was difficult. It was a long process. I shouldn’t say that. Everybody’s grandma did canning, it seems like, and they did use these old … This is one of my grandmother’s old caps, but it really took off then when it became easier. The opal glass, when Boyd did that, that helped. It just really gained popularity. Then everybody, every homemaker in the United States was canning.
With the advent of World War I, of course rationing. People self-rationed. That was huge. World War II, the same thing. Of course we were expected, people were expected to ration. That just exploded both the jar industry and also the steamer. What’s the thing called? You know, the steamer thing.
Jennifer: The pressure canner?
JoAnn: The pressure cooker, there you go. The pressure cooker, just like the sale of them went through the roof, because people were growing Victory gardens and then canning their produce.
Jennifer: That leads me to the next question. If we are collecting them, because I have a suspicion that a lot of people watching this video, this show, are probably collectors or maybe kind of want to know a little bit about collecting. Can you give us a little bit of information about things we should look for if we should just happen to find a bunch of Mason jars sitting on the curbside somewhere? How do we know those are really good, or really not good?
JoAnn: Well, color is always going to be prized. Like the aqua, the Ball brothers, because they made so many, they’re not as collectible as we wish they would be. They’re more sentimental as far as the sentimental value is there for me. You know, my grandmother’s Ball jars, I have them. I love them. They’re priceless to me. If you should happen to discover one of these amber jars, yeah, you want to make sure you … Yes, you guard this with your life.
Like I said, this is a reproduction. Even the reproductions, this was made in 1976 for the bicentennial I think. That was kind of the deal. Even these are quite collectible. These are worth more than like the original, the aqua Ball blue jars. If you should find jars that have an interesting closure, like a bail or a clasp or some sort of a clip, those are more collectible because they broke. Those glass covers broke and … My friend, John, who is an avid collector, who has a priceless collection of fruit jars, that’s his specialty. To find a jar with the original glass cover intact, with some sort of clip or bail or something like that, that’s unique. You want to keep your eyes out for something like that.
Jennifer: That would be a really good find.
JoAnn: Yeah, that would be a very good find. Also, color is, like violet more desirable, light yellow, that sort of thing. Those particular jars that are those colors were actually clear when they were manufactured. They turned those colors because the glass manufacturers put a decolorant in them, so like before World War I, they used manganese and when that is exposed to extreme heat or ultraviolet light, meaning sun, it turns violet, like a light, very pale violet, watery violet. It’s a beautiful color. After World War I, their supply of manganese dried up, which was coming from Germany, so they switched to selenium. That turns the jars yellow. If you happen to have an amethyst colored jar, it was probably manufactured before World War I. If it was yellow, it would have probably been manufactured after World War I.
Color is really … You know, people desire color, those odd closures, and also by the way, things with errors. If the Ball … Actually, there’s quite a few Ball jars that have errors. A lot of them have to do with the perfect Mason, like the E is backwards or there’s two Ts or there’s just this very weird thing. Anything you find out of the ordinary, you know, keep an eye out for that, for sure.
Jennifer: Oh, wow. Yeah, I had no idea about the colors, but that is really a great way to keep those straight as to when they were made. That’s great information. Okay, can you tell us a little bit about the Mason jar projects that are in your book.
JoAnn: Well, I try to include a lot of things, a lot of variety, so there’s crafts, there’s garden projects. There’s kitchen projects like storage and even a few, very easy, adaptable recipes. I am not a cook, so I’ll just throw that out there right now. These are very easy. Storage, and then lighting, lanterns and actually electrical … We did some wiring. I did some wiring an made some lamps that way, as well. I try to cover a lot of bases.
Jennifer: Okay, so which project is your favorite?
JoAnn: People have asked this before, and every time I say, I think later, I’m like, “Wait a minute. I have … That other one was my favorite. There’s a lot. I have a couple on my desk right here. I have a jar that I turned into a music box. I just used the musical innards of a music box from the second hand store, then filled it with just memorabilia from a vacation from northern Minnesota, as a matter of fact. I love that. I made a squirrel feeder that’s enjoyable to watch. Even if you don’t like squirrels, it’s fun to watch them just be so active and eat those nuts out of that squirrel feeder.
There’s a lucky bamboo water garden, a lion’s paw lamp. This one actually I shocked myself. I didn’t think this was going to turn out. It’s a swizzle stick pop-up thing, so you know, you hold your … Some of the projects are literally you can get them done in minutes. Others, you’re going to have to exercise your DIY muscles just a little bit.
Jennifer: Okay, so this book is about Mason jars. Do you cover canning at all in this book?
JoAnn: No, my editor and I did talk about that, but we decided that because I’m not a cook, I didn’t want to kill anybody. I didn’t want to worry about botulism or anything like that.
Jennifer: Well, that’s good to know. Okay, so I wanted to say that one of the reasons that I love this book is that you see all these projects all over the internet, all over Pinterest, and things. They are painting the jars and kind of covering them up. I really love the fact that most of your projects, I don’t any of them actually cover it up with paint or make them look like something they’re not. Was that intentional?
JoAnn: Yes, there’s only one. There is one painted project in there, but I thought, you know, it’s like painting a jar is painting a jar. If people would want to do that, they can do that. They can apply that technique to any of the other projects in the book. Yeah, they’re beautiful, especially you know, like the embossing is beautiful. The older jars, just when you start learning the history of how they were made, it was an art form. It’s still an art form when you see people blowing glass, that sort of thing. That’s the way they made jars back then. There was a guy blowing that glass, so to cover them up seems a shame.
Jennifer: What about older jars? Now I know that we’re not going to take any of those jars that were made before World War I or anything like that, and take them and use these as part of the projects, but at least I hope not, because that would be a shame, but there are some older jars out there. They’ve been used over and over again for actual canning. Is there any kind of precautions that we should take when we go to make something out of those jars, as opposed to like a new jar?
JoAnn: Just if you’re storing food stuffs in them, maybe, you know, dry goods, that’s fine. If the lip of a jar is chipped or something, use your best discretion. Canning, really I would … Although I’m not a cook, I would probably not encourage anyone to use a chipped jar, you know, a jar that’s chipped on the lip for canning. As far as the crafts are concerned, whatever. Really, there’s nothing to hold back, as far as using those old jars, except if you’re going to cut them. There’s a few of the projects in the book where I use a bottle cutter. There’s only a handful, but they are in there. The reason that I don’t care to use the older jars is, not only because they’re worth a little bit more money or whatever, it’s because the glass is quite thick and it’s harder to cut than a newer jar.
Also, speaking of cutting jars, the embossing is kind of difficult, too. If you’re going to cut a fruit jar, a Mason jar, you want to avoid the embossing, or use a jar that doesn’t have embossing at all, which you can buy these. That’s what this one is, this music box or music jar. It has no embossing, so those are perfect, especially when you’re first starting out cutting bottles or jars. Find ones that don’t have any embossing or very light embossing or if you can avoid the embossing altogether. Otherwise, if you want to use an old jar to … If you’re not going to manipulate it in any way, you can still use those old jars, those even collectible jars for some of the projects in the book.
Jennifer: Well, that leads me to ask you, because there’s some really easy projects in here, but like you said, there’s a few that require a glass cutter. You talked about that a little bit just now about, okay, well, these are the things you need to look for if you’re going to use a glass cutter. I just wanted to ask you, as a DIYer, how difficult is it to cut glass. We think of that, and we’re like, “Oh, my gosh. Am I going to chip the glass or break the glass?” What are some steps that you recommend starting out with that?
JoAnn: Oh, well, cutting glass of any kind, like wine bottle, wine bottle projects are huge on Pinterest, as well. There is a little bit of a learning curve, so that’s why you want to start out with maybe not the thickest jar or bottle. As far as in wine bottle world, maybe not a champagne bottle, you know, those thick bottle like that. Really, it just takes a little practice. I mean, a smooth jar, even if you would like to practice on a mayonnaise jar, that sort of thing, I would suggest that’s where you start. Then move up to something maybe a little trickier, if it has some light embossing or if you can avoid the embossing altogether. Really, cutting glass, it sounds tricky, but with the right cutter, with a little bit of practice, actually, it’s kind of surprising the first few times you do it, especially the first time you get a really successful one where it breaks perfectly. It’s almost a miracle that it breaks exactly where you want it to. It’s just exactly perfect. It’s like, “Wow. That actually worked.” It does. It’s fine. Yes, you can cut a Mason jar.
Jennifer: Okay. What are some favorite ways of yours to use Mason jars besides canning. I mean, do you use them like for storage and that sort of thing or just use them for crafts? Can you talk about … You say you don’t can, so do you use them like just for dry storage or other kinds of storage? I know I do, but I just love to hear ideas about how other people use them.
JoAnn: I do. I use them for dry storage a lot. I use them for craft supplies, little things that I don’t … Something to contain those little craft supplies, in the bathroom, Q-tips or cotton balls, that sort of thing. I was thinking about this earlier, and it reminded me of a story when I was a little kid, I was probably second grade. My mom was actually the janitor at my school. She came in and she was cleaning the school. It was a tiny school, and she came in to clean the school one evening after school. She had made chocolate chip cookies that day, and she brought in, for me to have a snack after school because I was still there. She brought in some chocolate chip cookies, and she brought in a Mason jar of cold milk. I remember that. It was like, “That’s right.” When we would go like even take a drive, instead of now you grab a thermos or whatever, she would use a Mason jar.
Yes. I mean, they’re just incredibly handy from the kitchen to the craft room to even out in the tool shop with nuts and bolts and just about anything else that you can think of. The great thing about them is they’re pretty to look at, so they’re not just another funny looking container or piece of plastic or whatever. It’s for food stuffs. You don’t have to worry about PBA or anything like that. You know, they’re just incredibly handy.
Jennifer: Yes. I put everything in Mason jars. It’s like the commercial, ‘If it fits, it ships.’ Well here, if it fits in the Mason jar, if stores. Thank you so much for joining us, JoAnn. It’s just been an absolute pleasure to talk about Mason jars and have you on.
JoAnn: Good. Thanks for having me. It was my pleasure.
Jennifer: Okay, so now I’m going to tell you guys how to get a chance to win that Excalibur dehydrator or the canner or the coffee brewer/grinder. I’m going to have all of these in the show notes, so rest assured they will be there, but if you go to SelfReliantSchool.com/iTunes and leave a review of this show, the Self Reliant Living Show. Then, after you click the subscribe button, of course, leave an honest review. Then, if you go back to SelfReliantSchool.com/giveaway, then all you need to do is fill out that form. It’s just that easy. It’s just two steps. Then you can be entered to win one of those three prizes, the top one being an Excalibur dehydrator, the second one being a Presto canner, so that would be a pressure canner, and then the coffee maker/grinder, because I know that a lot of us who dehydrate like to grind up and make our own powders.
You need to hurry though, because that giveaway is going to end on October 12, 2016, so hurry and go over there like I said. The links will be above this video or beneath, depending on where you’re viewing it. Good luck and I hope to see you guys over there. Like I said, I will be announcing the winner through email, so I will look forward to sending out those emails. We’re also going to have daily prizes because I have a big grab bag. It’s actually sitting over here. I’m going to take out one thing per day. You will be entered if you have entered this contest already. We will also be emailing those winners out, as well.
Link: Mason Jar Nation at Amazon.com