…and everything in its place. This phrase is variously associated with Samuel Smiles, Mrs Isabella Beeton and Benjamin Franklin. The Oxford Book of Quotations dates it from the 17th century. If only life were so simple. On the one hand I admit to being borderline OCD (a misnomer if ever there was one), on the other I can live with chaos in between massive clean ups. One way to achieve a place for everything is through clever storage solutions. This ranges from built-in wardrobes and storage cupboards throughout the house to the containers you put into these storage areas. In the kitchen I love to use storage jars. I started out with a small number many years ago and have built on it ever since. You see I have a fetish for these items (yes, one of my many). They not only look great but are really useful too, satisfying not just one but both of my criteria for items in the home (see post “what makes a house home” )
It goes without saying that a great way of building up a collection is to keep all jam jars and indeed any other food jars, for re-use. Fill them with some homemade jams or preserves, cover with a piece of fabric and a sticky label and hey presto you’ve got an instant personalised gift. One Christmas many years ago I made a small hamper of homemade jams and chutneys for my long suffering family as presents. A few years later after one of our failed summers I was left with a greenhouse full of green tomatoes. I duly made a load of green tomato chutney, my children made some homemade labels and on one of the last days of the summer holidays they set up a stall at the end of our lane to off-load them to our very kind and generous neighbours in aid of charity.
Now I have quite a collection of jars from recycled jam jars with screw top lids to glass clip top storage jars as well as bottles with pouring nozzles. Some I have displayed on shelves in my kitchen seen below, others are housed in the pantry. A note of caution on the use of jars. Don’t just rush back from the shops and start emptying your goods into your jars. You need to prep them first. A clean sterilised jar is essential as any bacteria will infect the contents inside which will then go off very quickly and need to be thrown away. (See link below on sterilising jars). If its retro you are after then these traditional school milk bottles are great.
Traditional school milk bottles from the dotcomgiftshop
Imagine my delight when I had some friends over for dinner and they presented me with a fabulous jar of home made blackberry and apple jam (with their own home grown produce no less). This was no ordinary jar however but a very special one called a Weck storage or canning jar. It has two small clips either side to seal the lid on. They come in lots of lovely shapes and sizes from tiny for spices to extra large.
Weck storage jars from Alpack Limited
They come in boxes of 12…or 6 depending on the type and size.
Lately I sourced some blackboard style labels which can add a nice display element to any jars. Details below. However simple white sticky labels can also look great, just line them up straight!
Blackboard style labels
Labels on jars in my kitchen…
There are also a variety of ready made stickers available to purchase. As a keen cook I love to have these on display on open shelving over the prep and cooking area. I love the look of them but I also find it really easy in terms of cooking. I also have a small pantry with open shelving (hidden behind a streamlined cupboard door) where I also use jars to store food items. In the pantry I wallpapered the walls with a collection of images from my treasured collection of Gourmet magazines (now out of print so I scanned them in and printed them out wallpaper style on the office plotter)
I know not everyone would get as excited as me about receiving a present of homemade jam (it was delicious!) but we do all love presents and in my mind anyway there is no denying that food and design go together. Perhaps it is the wonderful colours of fruit and vegetables, or it could be the textures. Either way food makes a great display item as well as present. This got me thinking of foodie presents in jars (in the absence of having your homemade jam!) and so here are my suggestions…
1. Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar.
Next time you are going to someones house think about ditching that bottle of wine and instead heading to your local supermarket for a bottle of the best quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar you can afford. I defy anyone not to appreciate this gift! Carluccio’s shops have a luxurious range at not luxurious prices as well as lovely bottles and jars of things ranging from lemon oil to wild boar ragu.
2. Jar of Popcorn.
Not just any old bag shoved into a jar, these are very special jars of gourmet popcorn available on line from Joe & Seph. They have flavours ranging from goats cheese and black pepper to strawberry cheesecake, all served up in Kilner storage jars. Or you could purchase some of Joe, the Canadian popcorn chefs gourmet popcorn, made down the road in Ashbourne, Co.Meath and pop them in a jar. What a great present: eat the contents and then keep the jar for your kitchen!
3. Jar of Preserved Lemons.
One of my favourite cookbooks is Ottolenghis “Jerulsalem”. From the written descriptions of the sounds and sights of his hometown, to the wonderful photography you can almost smell the food wafting off the pages. Within minutes you will be salivating and rushing out to buy the ingredients. An accompaniment to many of his dishes is Preserved Lemons. At the back of the book are two recipes for this wonderful looking jar of goods: a quick one that can be used instantly and a slow one which needs to soak in for a while. If you are feeling creative you could make this gift for someone without too much effort required. Another (15 minute!) recipe for preserved lemons is to be found on foodie website thekitchn. See link below and have lots of fun.
So, that’s it. Love them or loathe them, storage jars are certainly here for the foreseeable. They last forever and offer opportunities to constantly change the look and feel of your kitchen, depending on your mood. Enjoy!
So, where can you get these? In Ireland due to the current trend for clip top storage jars they are available in lots of chain stores such as Heatons, Dunnes Stores, Meadows & Byrne and Woodies. Check out your local hardware store for kilner stoarge jars and they often have a range of canning/ jam making equipment also. Home Store & More and Ikea also stock them. If you wish to bulk buy then Alpack in Dublin have a huge range: everything from screw top jars to plastic to clip top and Weck. They also sell labels.
Alpack, Unit A2, Three Rock Road, Sandyford Industrial Estate, Dublin. For bulk buying of a huge range of storage jars and labels.
http://britishfood.about.com/od/glossary/ht/sterilizingjars.htm Everything you need to know about sterilising jars.
www.alpack.ie For bulk buying of a huge range of storage jars and labels you can purchase online or in person at Unit A2, Three Rock Road, Sandyford Industrial Estate, Dublin.
www.bradensgrace.com For stick-on blackbord labels using chalk to write names on.
www.carluccios.com For foodie jars that look and taste great.
www.joeandsephs.co.uk For gourmet popcorn.
http://www.jdp.ie for Irish made gourmet popcorn.
http://www.thekitchn.com/kitchen-experiments-preserving-144522 Quick recipe for preserved lemons.
http://www.dotcomgiftshop.com for old style milk bottles and other storage bottles and jars
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