What to Put in a Mason Jar





Howdy! When the fillies invited me a few weeks ago to toss my name into the Stetson as a permanent blogger at Wildflower Junction, I tingled with joy and nerves both. There I was, asked to join a stable of award-winning authors who inspire me, whose books I read and treasure. At a site that recently got its millionth hit and, on a daily basis, reaches hundreds of viewers. 

Writers and readers and cowgirls, oh my. Then came the decision on what to post first. Oh, I’ve done some guest blogs at the Junction that were well received. So I reckoned I had to devise some topic to eclipse those. 

Should I feature locales near my Southern California homestead where Western movies are filmed and totally evoke the inner cowboy in anybody who drives by on a busy freeway?  Here’s Rocky Peak, one of my favorite places.



Should I orate on the marvelous coincidence that both Pam Crooks and I have daughters with the same name getting married imminently? Share a sneak preview of The Dress? Nope. Had to nix that. Top Secret. The groom has been ordered to check out this blog today.  

Preview my book Marrying Minda that will be released in a few weeks?


carter-for-blogThen of course, there’s always my toddling grandson about whom I can emote endlessly. And who I believe has romance cover-model potential in about twenty years.


Ah I can handle all of that later on. For when the clouds parted, I realized what my inaugural Filly post should be about. 




My mainstay, my dear love. The ruin of my waistline, hips, thighs and every pound of flesh in every direction. And how to tie my vice, my guilty pleasure, into a Western blog?


The Mason Jar.      yellowmason


Said jar was actually invented as the first canning jar in 1858 by John Landis  Mason. However, it was Frenchman Francois Nicolas Appert, a pickler, brewer, chef and distiller who established the principles of preserving food in hermetically-sealed glass containers in 1810. 


In 1858, John Mason developed a shoulder-seal jar with a zinc screw-cap. Check the name and date on the yellow jar. Ten years later, he inroduced a top rubber seal above the threads and under a glass lid.


So why do most Mason jars come marked with the name Ball? 

Let me digress. I have an antique Mason jar of my very own, the blue jar shown below. It’s been displayed in each one of my domiciles starting with my college dormitory. Why? Well, during my years of higher education in Nebraska, I often spent weekend with my roommate Bel at her family farm in Fairbury. My overly-protective father had allowed me to leave my California home because it was a church college and You’ll Be Safe There.

 Oh I loved those long leisurely weekends. I loved farm life so much I stumbled downstairs one morning about ten o’clock stating I’d love to marry a farmer. Her dad, who had been up for five hours, had just come inside for his quick mid-morning coffee. I still hear his shouts of laughter as his wife started on cooking her second big meal of the day before I’d even wiped the sleep dust from my eyes. 

These darling folks happily sent me exploring the farmstead to acquire souvenirs to take home. Old rusty tractor gears decorate my patio to this day. And I found my Mason jar all by myself in their old-fashioned  disused wash house. It’s one of the ten things I’d save if a tornado was coming. Well, make that an earthquake.




My treasured Mason jar displays the name Ball and the date  1906. Because John Mason’s patent expired in 1879 , the name changed. When the market opened for competition in 1884, the Ball brothers swooped in and started a manufacturing company in New York State. However, three years later, Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company moved to Indiana.


In 1909, the first Ball Blue Book was published, full of tips on home canning. I am certain my gramma and mom used this book. You see, my brother found ancient Mason jars of canned peaches a few years ago when we started cleaning out mom’s old garage. We reckoned they were left from the Cold War years when you expected a nuclear blast and had to store up indestructible food to survive it.


ball-state-admin-buildling-1898But for the Balls, it wasn’t all about the jar.  Frank, Edmund, George, Lucius and William Ball endowed a small college in Muncie that later became Ball State University. Even more impressive, their company did not lay off a single worker during the Great Depression!


After 88 years as a family business, the company went public in 1972, and the Ball mason jar celebrates its 125h birthday this year. Through August 23, the exhibit Can It! 125 Years of the Ball Jar is going on at Minnetrista Cultural Center in Muncie. Details at minnetrista.net 

All right now. Lesson over. Can’t help it. I am a former teacher. But what does all this have to go with chocolate?


SAND ART BROWNIES!                       sand_art_brownies          

They’re easy to make and lovely to look at. Layers of cocoa, brown sugar, chocolate chips and other goodies in a Mason jar make this a gift to remember.

I’ve made these jars for all my neighbors at Christmas, and it’s a sweet homemade gift for first-day-of school, a thank-you or hostess gift. Cover the lid with red and white gingham cover tied with a blue bow and you’ve got a perfect treat for a Fourth of July BBQ.This recipe makes one gift jar using a wide-mouth quart Mason jar.  Cover the top with a circle of gingham and tie with a pretty ribbon. And don’t forget to attach the directions.

For 1 jar:

2/3 t. salt
1 1/8 c. flour, divided
1/3 c. cocoa powder
2/3 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. walnuts or pecans


In  a clean, dry canning jar, layer the ingredients as follows:

2/3 t. salt
5/8 c. flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. walnuts

Close jar, add fabric circle and attach the following directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9×9 baking pan.

2. Pour the contents of the jar into a large bowl and mix well.

3. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2/3 cup vegetable oil and 3 eggs. Beat until just combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool and enjoy! Or if you’re like me, eat warm. Hot, even.

Now, the big questions of the day:

1. Have you ever canned anything using a Mason jar?  (I myself am terrified of the process. I never married a farmer and am fairly helpless in the kitchen.)

2. What is your favorite way to eat chocolate? 

Thanks for stopping by today. To celebrate my first day at Wildflower Junction as an official filly,  I’ll be drawing the name of one poster to receive a pretty pressed wildflower bookmark! 

(Sincere thanks to  Country Living magazine, May 2009, Canning Pantry,  and Minnetrista for the fun facts.)

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A California beach girl, I love cowboys and happy-ever-afters. My firefighter hubby and I enjoy travel, our two little grandsons, country music, McDonald's iced coffee, and volunteering at the local horse rescue. I was thrilled last year to receive the CTRR Award at Coffeetime Romance for Sanctuary, my tribute to my cancer-survin' hubby!

55 thoughts on “What to Put in a Mason Jar”

  1. Hi Tanya,

    I enjoyed your introduction. Your grandson looks adorable!

    As for your questions…
    My Grandma Rose and my Mom canned dill pickles in the large mason jars and sweet sour pickles in the smaller version. They also canned raspberries. YUMMY. Finally, my Mom canned strawberry jam. I watched BUT have not done it on my own.

    2) Chocolate
    – Favorite way to eat it is by the handful: M&M’s, Hershey Kisses and Toll House Morsels. I also throw them on top of my ice cream and I put one kiss in my morning cup of coffee!!

    I love the idea of the sand art brownies. Great gift idea. I already passed it on to my daughter who is a teacher.


    • Good morning, Laurie! A Kiss in my coffee sounds awfully good about now. I’ll have to give that a try. Home-canned pickles and raspberries do sound yummy…two of my favorite thing to eat. What grade does your daughter teach? After a career teaching high school. I finished up subsitute teaching and found I totally adore second graders. Thanks for welcoming me today.

  2. Hi Tanya! Fascinating blog! Isn’t amazing how one simple thing like a jar can contain so much history? I’ve never done any canning, but a friend used to make homemade jam from the peaches in her yard. It was fabulous! Better than candy.

    Lately my chocolate indulgence has been bite-size pieces of sugar-free Dove. It’s really good. I like See’s Candy, too. Yum!

    • Hi Vicki! I know I enjoy learning tidbits of information myself, especially historical things. Mmmmmmm, See’s. I think I must confess to being unable to resist nuts and chews and have upon occasion practically eaten a whole pound box myself. Isn’t it great being here at Wildflower Junction? Have a wonderful day.

  3. Tanya glad to have you here. Your little grandson is so cute there.
    I can each year I usually do tons of Tomato’s and pickles. I am not sure how much will get done this year I don’t have my garden ready, and unless I can get hubby to do it (because I just had surgery Monday) I guess I won’t have any veg’s to get into ground.
    Chocolate well I have never really liked it but as I get older I am learning to like it and almost crave it from time to time. I like to put Hersey bars in the freezer and then eat them.
    Your sand art brownies are a great idea and I have plenty of jars thanks for the great tip.

    • Good morming, Brenda. Thank you for the welcome and of course I tend to agree with you about my grandbaby. Bulk instruction for the sand art brownies can be found on line, if you want to fill a group of jars at once.

      We’re busy planting a flower bed right now but never got into veggies…other than a tomato plant or two. Oh and I have a peppermint plant that gets wild and crazy by summer’s end, the remnants of an herb garden. I like to use it for iced tea or to garnish strawberries. Thanks for stopping by this morning. I hope your recovery goes well and quick.

  4. Hello Tanya,

    I never knew the history of the mason jar. Just that growing up, I had to can with my grandmother and mom. I hate to say this, it was my least favorite thing to do with the garden. I didn’t mind planting or hoeing the garden. I hated to pick and can. I’m a strange person. We haven’t canned for several years. However, I think this year I’ll pick it back up. Have a great day.

    • HI Roberta, I vaguely remember mom and gramma canning, but it became a lost art pretty quickly at home. I don’ t think you’re a strange person at all! Planting and hoeing are hard work, which is probably why I don’t do it 🙂 Thanks for stopping by this morning for my inaugural blog.

  5. Hi, Tanya. You seem to fit right in among the fillies. I enjoyed your post. I love digging up fun historical facts about little everyday things.

    Great to have you among the group.

    • Thanks for the welcome, Karen. It is good to be here. I also love facts and research. I reckon I could have been a historian!
      So glad you stopped by.

  6. Good morning, Tanya! Wonderful post. My heart always quickens at the sight of an old Mason jar but I’ve never taken up canning. My sister-in-law did and I decided I’d let her have all the fun. Mostly because I can’t have a garden in my condo. 🙂

    As for my favorite type of chocolate: whatever I can find is my fav at the time. lol

    • Hi Tracy, isn’t the junction a fun place? So many wonderful friends of the fillies. I too can eat just about any thing chocolate. I even managed to find my daily dose of calcium in chocolate chews at Coscto! They’re actually pretty good. Thanks for stopping by this morning

  7. FAIRBURY?????? Tanya, my mom is from Crete and they went to church I Fairbury–which, by the way, what a great name for a town, Fairbury, lovely. I might use it.

    Is Bel still there? I’ll bet anything she knows my mom’s people. What a small world.

    Of course this is Nebraska…it really IS a small world, not geographically but population-wise.

    • Hi Mary, yes, I remember Crete. Bel lives in St. Louis with her minister hubby but far as I know, her folks moved to town and her brother took over. I’ll e-mail you their names. Bel got married in September a few gentle decades ago at the Lutheran church about 1/2 miles from their place. You could see it from the farmyard across a fallow field. Beautiful. My dad and I flew out for the wedding, I was a bridesmaid and the church didn’t have a center aisle; we went up the left aisle and came down the right, and carried bouquets of lovely fall flowers.

      I also remember a watermelon feed in Wilber, and I also got my first store-bought antique there–a big cigar box that I still keep treasures in.

      Oh I’d love some of your picante sauce, and those dill pickles. I like pickles almost as much as chocolate 🙂

  8. I’ve done a LOT of canning in my life.

    I love canning dill pickles they are no fail and really fast and delicious. My husband loves them and eats so many that we really can’t afford to buy them.

    I can sweet pickle relish. I’ve slowed down these days and use the freezer a lot more for tomatoes and apples and peppers mainly but I used to can enough food for the whole family for a year. Green Beans, tomato juice and whole tomatoes. I made picante sauce one year. It took all day and had a dozen ingredients. It was so fun. I felt like I was concocting a witches brew, throwing in stuff, stirring and stirring, double double toil and trouble.
    I canned whatever my garden would grow.

    I know all about cold packing, hot packing, testing a seal, listening for that great POP when a jar lid would seal.

  9. Welcome Tanya, I love the Sand Art Brownies, this is such a neat idea for gifts. I used to do a lot of canning when I was growing up and my sister still does. I can remember having big gardens and canning all the vegetables. It was a lot of work but every thing looked so pretty in those jars. My sister uses a pressure cooker canner now but years ago we used just the large canners on the stove.

    • hi Quilt Lady! I assume you quilt…I have a gorgeous double-wedding ring quilt top my great-gramma made (all hand stitched) that some century I want to add a back to, stuff it and learn how to quilt. My mom recognizes swatches of her childhood clothes in it. Thanks for stopping by today.

      I also love the look of filled jars on a shelf. For a while I even had a few fake ones, (beans, herbs etc that were not edible and just for looks). I vaguely recall pressure cookers, but I didn’t realize canning could be done in a large canner on the stove. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I used to can tomatoes, pickles and peaches in the old days when I had more time. Boy, that sounds funny, since I had four kids and more time than I do now! I haven’t even made jelly for a long time, and that’s easy.

    I love the old blue jars, too, and have quite a few of them. I have several of the jaars with glass lids (and wires to hold the lids down) on a cabinet in front of the window in my bedroom. I filled them with sparkly jewelry and they catch the light and reflect pretty colors.

    Congrats on your first blog, and an awesone one it is!

    Hey, Brenda, good to see you “out and about” in Wildflower Junction this morning.

    I confess to having received several of the sand art brownie jars as gifts over the years. I think they’re pretty, so I leave them out until the contents are too hard to get out of the jar, and then I have to throw them away! LOL

    • Hi Cheryl, I echo your remark about having soooooo much more time in those child-raising days! I remember getting more done in a single day full of teaching school, running errands afterward, attending my kids’ athletic games in the afternoon and handbell practice at church after dinner than I accomplish in three days now.

      I ran an errand yesterday that took me by an antique shop, and I felt such an affinity for the Mason jars on display. Too funny about your petrified sand art jars! We got a “bean soup” one year that came in handy one night. But I agree, they are so darn pretty to look at.

      Thanks for the congrats and for letting me become one of you. I’m having a great time. oxoxoxo

  11. Hi Tanya, Congrats on being invited to join this group. I am reader of westerns and always glad to add another author to my stable. I loved your first blog and I am going to use this idea in my christmas baskets this year.
    My landlady cooks and cans a lot of things and I think this is an ideal gift for her. I will have to see if I can hunt up some old mason jars at antique stores and garage sales.
    Look forward to more of your blogs in the future.

    • Hi Kathleen, thanks for the good wishes, and I hope my future blogs are as much fun to do as this one. When I did the group sand-art for my neighbors, I got a whole box full of Mason jars at WalMart pretty cheaply. And I even found pre-cut round calico lidcovers so I didn’t have to try my hand at that. Oh, I am sooooo lazy.

      As for chocolate any way you can, hear hear! I’ve actually found a fat-free chocolate chip scone that’s no doubt horrible for me anyway but sounds healthy. Thanks for commenting today.

  12. Hi, Tanya,

    Enjoyed your “official” debut as a Filly! My dear
    mother-in-law introduced me to canning early in my
    marriage to her dear son. Of course, I was the
    assistant, never have canned on my own! I still
    remember her marvelous fig preserves, which would
    make excellent food for the gods, much less we of
    the mortal persuasion!! Thanks for helping me take a trip down Memory Lane today! As to chocolate, I gently suggest that it is safer to
    not get caught between me and the china cabinet
    when the urge for a chocolate splurge hits me!

    Pat Cochran

    • Hi Pat, oh, I share your adoration of fig preserves. What an underappreciated fruit that is. Yes, I love those hobbles down Memory Lane. These days I get to do more and more of them, it seems 🙂 At that antique shop I browsed in yesterday, I was horrified to see milk glass lamps identical to the ones in my girlhood bedroom…and my parents’ everyday dishes (that pale green stuff) that are now considered antiques and priced accordingly! Who woulda thunk it? If I’d saved everything ever, I’d be a jillionaire.

      Thanks for the warm welcome, Pat.

  13. Wow, you’ve outdone yourself today, Tanya! What a debut! I covet your blue jar–beautiful. And I’m going to save that recipe for neighbor Xmas gifts!
    Oh, the chocolate question–I can’t eat milk chocolate cause I’m lactose intolerant. But I’m addicted to Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. I munch on them while I’m writing, and if I run out of the I have to jump in the car and go buy more. If I told you how many bags I go through you’d die.

    • Hi Elizabeth, thanks for the good wishes! It’s so great to be here. I am sooooooo glad you found a way out of the lactose-intolerance. Those little ghirardelli squares are addicting, aren’t they. Bittersweet chocolate is such a pleasure. My favorite granola is bittersweet chocolate chips, walnuts, and dried cranberries. Health food, right? 🙂

      It’s okay to have a guilty pleasure. Right now mine isn’t even chocolate…it’s that darn McDonald’s iced coffee, regular flavor.


    • Hi Mary, I hear you. There’s something about nuts. Our daughter hates them, so whenever I do make brownies, there always has to be a “girl” (no nuts) pan. Also with cookies. Oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip have to be made without. Dunno. She isn’t allergic and we’re definitely a nutty family.

      I’ve seen a little craft cook-book full of sand-art recipes other than brownies in the coupon-clipper pages in the Sunday newspaper. I always mean to order it.

  14. Good morning, Tanya! Wow, your blog is beautiful and so insightful. Loved Carter’s picture and learning about Mason Jars… who knew??

    You know I love chocolate too. All those RWA meetings where we’d stop by See’s Candies after lunch! My favorite is … everything in dark chocolate! Sand art brownies are so pretty!

    Can’t wait until your release of Marrying Minda!!

    • Hi Charlene, well, thanks very much for the compliments about our little guy. I think I’ll be like Kay and Adam Beach and try to find a way to sneak him in my blogs.

      I definitely recall our forays in search of chocolate. Dark is my favorite, too. Now that Easter’s over and the basket emptied, I definitely need a chocolate run. Although, sigh, I am trying to shape up for the wedding.

      Like that will ever happen.

      Thanks so much for your good wishes! You definitely inspired my Minda. So I hope you like it 🙂


  15. Hi Tanya!
    I really enjoyed your post. Can’t wait to read more of your blogs in the future!

    I canned Bread & Butter pickles with a knowledgeable friend about 3 years ago. The one and only time I’ve ever canned anything. It was hard! And kind of scary…I was pretty sure I’d end up in the ER with serious burns. Anyway, the pickles turned out great and I didn’t get injured. Bottom line: Vlasic makes a pretty good bread & butter pickle. =)

    As for chocolate…I like chocolate all ways. My favorite though is in good, old fashioned, chocolate birthday cake. Yum!


    We are hoping to adopt, check out our blog at:

    • Hi Stephanie, thanks so much for sharing your blog with me. I just checked it out, and your little girl is positively adorable. Hold her close…they grow so fast. And keep that precious pre-school picture handy for when she’s, well, a teenager.

      Thank you for saying canning is scary. I’d keep thinking the pressure cooker is going to explode any second and I’d end up in an alternate dimension.

      Our daughter’s wedding cake is definitely having a chocolate layer. Yum already.

      Thanks for stopping by today. I look forward to hearing from you again!

  16. Welcome to P&P Tanya! Very nice introduction and post! My DH canned some tomatoes and green beans last year. Funny thing though – we haven’t tried to eat them! I love chocholate bars best. I love your Sand Art Brownies and think that would make a great gift item! Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi MartheE, thanks for stopping by the junction today. I did receive a jar of sand-art brownies a few years ago, which got me started on the whole idea, and I did bake it. Turned out great. My husband actually helped me layer and fill those jars although I can’t see him trying to can.

      Hey, have those tomatoes and green beans for dinner tonight and let us know how they came out.
      Thanks for the nice words. Have a great day, and I’ll see you again! oxox

  17. What a great debut, and a great recipe. I usually bake buttered, salted pecans as gifts for Christmas but this year . . . I have to try the recipe. It sounds terrific. And a huge welcome to the fillies.

    • Thanks so much, Pat, to you and all the fillies and friends who so warmly welcomed me today. I had a wonderful time. Buttered, salted pecans sound magnificent. I love to think ahead to what to do for the holidays so may hit you up for that recipe. Thanks again.

  18. you did great on your first time blog here; I have received the ‘cookies in a jar’ gift and ‘biscotti in a jar’ gift and have baked both. It is a very neat idea and I must try the brownie recipe for sure.
    I love chocolate in all ways. I, too, put chocolate chips over my ice cream along with coconut and golden syrup.

    • Hello Robyn, I so appreciate your kind words. Hope you enjoy making the brownie jar as much as I had making them. Your ice cream sundae calls to me! I totally love coconut also. Thanks for stopping by Wildflower Junction today. See you again.

    • Dear fillies and friends, had a great day, everyone. Thanks for making it so. Later tonight I’ll draw one name to send a lovely bookmark of pressed wildflowers and post the winner soon as well. Hope to see you around the Junction often.

  19. Hi Tanya –
    First time blogger, but a long time fan! I never would have thought that that Mason jar had so much history behind it. Thanks for sharing.

    Can’t wait for the release of your new book!

    BTW, Carter is adorable 🙂

    Love you

    • HI Betty, so glad you could make it. I too was surprised that something so ordinary had such a history. I had always wondered where Ball State University got its name, and now I know. Love you back!! oxoxox

  20. Welcome, Tanya! I taught myself to can a few years after I got married. Did a lot of vegetables, pickles, relishes, jellies and jams. Haven’t done much in the past few years. Showed one of my daughters how and she has been doing some the past few years. I have a box of blue Ball canning jars from one of my grandmothers.
    Interesting blog on the development of the canning jar.
    My favorite way to eat chocolate – my mom used to make fudge from the recipe on the Hershey cocoa can. I’ve gotten so I can throw the ingredients together and cook what I want – a cup or so or a whole batch. Sometimes I stop at the gooey hot fudge syrup stage and sometimes let it cook, add walnuts and drop it onto wax paper to harden. Little walnut fudge patties. Hmmm, haven’t done it in a while. Sounds good, think I’ll go cook up a small batch.

  21. Hi Tanya! I am so looking forward to your upcoming book, you’ve been missed by me! I have THE OUTLAW’S WOMAN on my keepers shelf! Gonna see what I missed of yours!

    1. My mom did alot of canning! I tried once with a book there right in front of me had borrowed the supplies and I ended up just making the tomato sauce and freezing it. Its just as good! I just think its too much work, LOL

    2. Chocolate! I have to have the sugar free but there’s alot of good stuff out there sugar free. I love the sugar free thick syrup for heated for over my sugar free ice cream! Its just something about very warm chocolate over the ice cream.

    (I’m now writing my list to get hubby to pick this up for me tomorrow, LOL)

  22. Welcome Tanya, Haven’t really thought about all the blue canning jars in my house. Used to use them a lot canning a variety of foods, including venison, carp, beef, and all kinds of vegetables and fruit. With just the two of us at home now it just seems likie too much work.
    Chocolate…well I’ll eat most anything covered in chocolate but the chocoate covered ants were a bit much.

  23. Tanya!! Fantastic blog!! The title cracked me up–having two teenage boys, the things I’ve come across some interesting and creepy-crawly contents in mason jars. *lol* Some of my most vivid memories of my grandmothers is sitting in their kitchens sorting rings and lids as sweet-scented goo bubbled on the stove–I think they could preserve just about anything 😉

    Soo sorry I didn’t get over here to give you a proper Debut CHEER & WELCOME. My baby boy turned 14 and I was off and running until I passed out last night 😉 Glad to have ya on the fence 😀

    Love the brownie recipe–thanks!!

  24. Tanya, forgive my tardiness. It’s so great to see your face up with the rest of the fillies! Wonderful post. I’m a big canner, and those jars are all over my house. I have a few of the old “blue” Ball jars I inherited from my grandmother. I also love the “sand art” gifts. Looking forward to seeing you here often.

    Only a few weeks until Marrying Minda!


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