Canning – Mason & Ball Jars

Everyone has to remember their mother, aunt, grandmother or great aunt doing canning – preserving fruits and vegetables that can be stored safely on the shelf until needed by the family. Some members of the family today may have taken up growing vegetables in a home garden and canning them for future use which is the best method.

Well, there is an interesting history to the development of ‘canning’ and the use of Mason Jars and Bell Jars.

It began with the use of the mason jar some 160 years ago. In New Jersey, John L. Mason, in the 1850s needed a method to improve the recently developed process of home canning. The earlier method was to create an airtight seal above the food using wax. The jars had corks and sealed with wax then boiled. To preserve food prior to any type of canning, the food had to be dried, salted, fermented or smoked.

It was John Mason and his patent of Nov. 30, 1858 who developed the screw-neck jars that would be water-tight. Yet, there was a problem, he did not patent at the same time the flat metal lids with the rubber ring inside the lid which made them air-tight. That would not be patented until 1868. These jars were first called ‘Crowleytown Jars’, the name of a town in New Jersey where John Mason manufactured the jars. Without that patent on the rubber ring in the lid, many other people were manufacturing these jars.

Mason’s first patent of 1858 expired in 1880 and five brothers, Edmund, Frank, Lucius, William and George Ball purchased the Wooden Jacket Can Company in NY and the brothers changed the company to developing tin cans and glass jars for canning. They move production to Indiana to make their glass jars.

By the beginning of the 20th century and so many companies, there was a wide variety of jars like John Mason developed and people were preserving fruits and vegetables year-round. Special cookbooks and books on canning were very popular.

During World War One (1917-1918) and then during World War 2 (1941-1945) households were encouraged to have victory gardens, grow their vegetables and then can them. The slogan – ‘Can All You Can’ became very popular.

The Ball Corporation (under the name Newell Brands) makes the iconic ‘mason jars’ today. Some of the vegetables preserved in the jars are green beans, squash, potatoes, born, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, pumpkins peas, pickles, tomatoes, and peppers. The fruits include blueberries, apples, plums, nectarines, strawberries, pears, and peaches.

Check if any relatives had done gardens and canning what they have grown.

Photos: Vintage Ball jars, poster Can all you can and a modern Ball jar.

Related Blogs:

Foods of Our Ancestors

Early Methods of Food Preservation

Favorite Foods of Our Ancestors 1850-1900

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