Canning jar etiquette

December 1, 2011

Did you know you're supposed to give canning jars back?

Me neither.

With the renaissance of home canning, and imminent holiday gifting, the rules of canning jar etiquette will surely be tested—perhaps re-written—and definitely broken.

"I try not to pay attention, but it does irk me when I don't get the jar back," said my dear friend and master canner, Catherine Lambrecht, "But I'm not like my one friend who won't give something to someone again if the jar's not returned."

Cathy pointed out the obvious to me: canning jars are meant to be re-used—for canning—and not simply recycled.

There are exceptions to the rules, of course.

My French chef friend Armand Arnal gave me a 1 liter Le Parfait Super Jar filled with preserved rare, red-fleshed Pêche de vigne. The peaches, vintage September 2007, are long-gone, and the jar kept. Armand knew he was sending it out into the world with me. It now holds my rough cut Demerara cane cubes, and a dried vanilla bean pod left over from baking.

Also added to my kinetic collection are the four Kerr pint jars from my friends in Alaska, sent filled with their new BBQ sauce, which is especially good with wild game meat, I'm told.

Among the many jars Cathy's given me, is a wide mouth Ball quart jar of small-batch rendered lard. That I will give back, eventually. She knows it may take a while, unless I get into a crust-making kick. Please note that the lard is not preserved, per se. I do keep it refrigerated, but many generations before us simply kept lard next to the stove.

The Ball regular mouth quart jar of Bourbon preserved peaches from my chef friend Troy Graves? I'm trying to save those for the coldest, darkest day of winter. But after I drink the last drop of last summer's sun, I will return that jar to Troy, overflowing with gratitude.

This Sunday, my chef friend Marianne Sundquist debuts her new line of preserves, called Mess Hall & Co., at the holiday edition of Dose Market. Marianne and her husband Hans are using the coveted glass-topped German Weck jars. I'm sure her apple rum butter within is wonderful, because everything I've ever had from her hands has been, but the best part about her beautiful preserves? Since I'm buying them, I can keep the jars too.