What to Put in a Mason Jar

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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.

rocky-peak

 

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. 

 

Chocolate!

 

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.

 

blue-mason-jar-two

 

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

Instructions:

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.)