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If you have a backyard garden, love farmer’s markets or just love cooking, no doubt somewhere over the course of time, you’ve canned something. Or you’ve “put up some jars” as the food preservationists say.

If so, you’re certainly familiar with Mason jars.

The Mason jar is a story in and of itself.

Born as a bi-product of the necessity to find a method of food preservation and food transportation for troupes during the Napoleonic wars, the idea of “heat-based canning” was successfully mastered in 1806 by Nicolas Appert, a French cook who repurposed the idea of Champagne bottles into bottles that store food. His idea, which won him a 12,000-franc prize allowed Napoleon Bonaparte’s armies to wage battles throughout Europe without worry that his troops might suffer from scurvy and starvation.

Later, in 1858, John Mason, a tinsmith from New Jersey, perfected that same idea by inventing a jar with a reusable lid that could be screwed on, sealing the container tightly.

The closure consisted of a zinc-coated, threaded lid and a reusable rubber ring, better known as a “jar rubber,” which made the jar airtight.

The transparency of Mason’s glass also made the contents very visible and appealing.

12 years later, Mr. Mason’s patent ran out and hundreds of other jar makers adopted it, including Ball and Kerr, which for decades stamped their glass creations with the date of the original Mason patent — Nov. 30, 1858 — and marketed them as Mason jars.

The features of the jars were also subsequently improved with square shoulders, thicker glass, better lids and better seals.

Today, canning for most people isn’t a matter of necessity or thrift but rather one of tradition or hobby. It’s been re-popularized by the television food channels, craft magazines and families interested in providing a healthier alternative to modern processed foods.

But beyond canning, Mason jars have also grown to be a popular vessel to prepare or serve meals, not just canned fruits, vegetables, jams or jellies.

And it’s become something of a fad.

Here are some great Mason jar meal ideas.

Breakfast in a Jar; Mason Jar Omelets: Makes 2

Besides the ingredients listed below, baby spinach, colorful bell peppers, sausage or ham are all fabulous additions to this simple breakfast.

4                      Eggs, Beaten
4                      Strips Bacon, Cooked Crisp in a Microwave Oven and Chopped
2                      Medium Red Skin Potato, Cooked in a Microwave Oven, Cooled and Cut into ½” Pieces
2 TBSP              Green Onion, Chopped
¼ Cup               Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
To Taste             Salt & Pepper

  1. Beat together all ingredients, and divide equally between two 10-ounce Mason jars.
  2. DO NOT put a lid on the jar while cooking.
  3. Place jars in a microwave oven, and cook for approximately 2 minutes or until fully cooked.

You can also make a quick and delicious breakfast out of pancake batter mixed with blueberries, poured to a depth of 1 to 1 ½” in a shallow Mason jar and then microwaved.

Hot breakfast meals aren’t the only way to start your day, Mason jars are often used to make yogurt parfaits layered with fresh berries and your favorite granola.

SALAD anyone?

Mason jars make wonderful shake-and-eat salads too. Simply pour your choice of dressing in the bottom of the jar, and then layer with greens, vegetables, lettuces and any protein you enjoy. Leave a 1-inch space at the top of the jar, and when ready to eat, just give the jar a good shake to toss the dressing with the rest of the salad ingredients. You’re good to go!

ENTREES work well too!

Pasta Bake: Makes 2

1 Cup                          Penne Pasta (uncooked)
Water                          As Needed
1 Cup                          Marinara/Pasta Sauce of Choice
½ Lb                           Ground Beef
¼ Cup                         Onion, Chopped
To Season                   Oregano, Granulated Garlic, Salt & Pepper
2/3 Cup                      Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded
2 TBSP                       Parmesan Cheese

  1. Cook pasta until al dente in boiling, salted water. Rinse and cool.
  2. Brown ground beef in a small skillet, and season to your taste with oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.
  3. Spoon ¼ cup of marinara/pasta sauce in the bottom of each jar.
  4. Divide the cooked pasta, cooked beef and mozzarella cheese into 4 equal portions and layer in order from bottom to top: pasta sauce, pasta, beef, mozzarella cheese, sauce, pasta, beef, mozzarella cheese, sauce and finally 1 TBSP of Parmesan cheese.
  5. DO NOT put a lid on the jars while cooking.
  6. Since all of the ingredients are already cooked, it’s only necessary to use the defrost cycle to gently reheat the layered ingredients and melt the cheeses in the jars. Alternatively, you can place the jars in a hot water bath, and bake in a 350 F oven (about 30 minutes) or until all of the ingredients are hot and the cheeses are melted.

DESSERTs are sweet!!

Perhaps the easiest Mason jar meals are desserts. From a simple toss of mixed fruits and berries with Grand Marnier and powdered sugar to using your favorite cake mix to bake (or microwave) a 2-inch high layer cake then topping it with pudding and whipped cream, there are endless opportunities to use Mason jars as both cooking vessels and then packing containers afterwards.

One of the recipes I’m MOST fond of is a Tiramisu in which you can layer Savoiardi biscuit (cookies) soaked in espresso with my Tiramisu Cream. Dusted after layering with cocoa and then sealed and refrigerated, these delicious dessert treats easily last a week in your fridge.  I demonstrated this recipe on Fox 2 Detroit as a suggestion for a 4th of July party. It’s great to use as a dip with fresh fruit, cookies, pound cake, sponge cake and much more!

The recipe for my Tiramisu Crème is below. Make 2 ½ Cups

16 oz.                   Mascarpone Cheese
1 TBSP                  Instant Espresso (powder or granulated)
2/3 Cup                Powdered Sugar
2 TBSP                  Chocolate Syrup
2 TBSP                   Dark Rum
1 Cup                    Heavy Whipping Cream

  1. Whisk all ingredients together until smooth.
  2. Adjust flavoring and sweetness to taste.

To make your Mason jar Tiramisu, simply arrange a layer of Savoiardi cookies on the bottom of the jar, and begin a layering of cookies, crème, cookies and crème with a final dusting of cocoa.


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