Then, while looking for something else entirely, I uncovered the culprits – crafters!! Crafters and non-canning foodies are snapping up jars left and right for a dizzying myriad of projects!
Sure, I understand that canning jars are perfect for hot cocoa and other gifts from the kitchen.
I understand that cupcakes in a jar are still a hot trend.
And yes, mini pumpkin pies in a jar are such a fun idea I might even have to make some myself (if I can find enough jars)...
Who can argue with the creativity and frugality of using (and reusing) glass jars when there are awesome, photo-illustrated lists of 50 ideas at a time?
Still, with harvest season in full swing and canning jars at a premium, I'd like to offer a few humble suggestions for anyone who - like me - is finding canning jars in short supply.
1. Consider picking up antique canning jars at your local flea market or antique store. Although not suitable for canning any more, they're just as functional for things like organizing buttons or holding flowers.
2. Take advantage of pretty, similarly sized/shaped glass jars not designed for canning that can be substituted for mason jars in most crafting projects.
2. Make good use of chipped jars. Even tiny chips on the rim of a jar compromise their ability to seal and knock an otherwise lovely jar out of the "functional" category - but they remain perfect candidates for any other food-related uses like mini pies, cupcakes and as pretty display dishes. (Tip: mark the bottom of chipped jars with nail polish for quick and easy identification so they don't accidentally get put back with your good jars!)
3. Watch craigslist and local estate sales. Discretely spread the word that you can or craft. This hasn't panned out for me, but I know some people have made a killing when friends, family or locals clean out their stash of unused jars. It's worth a try!
4. Try to plan ahead and consider buying your jars in bulk. I've had great luck with two different locally owned hardware stores with this. I stop in during canning season (earlier the better) and ask if they'll bring in four cases or so for me. It doesn't cost any extra, since they were already bringing in an order, and I know I'm getting exactly the size and type I want. They call me when it comes in, and I'm good to go! (Added bonus: since I didn't wipe out their shelves picking up what I needed the first time through, I can go back and snag an extra case or two later if I underestimated or get a windfall of produce!)
(Psst... canners! Have you seen Tipnut's 85+ Recipes For Home Canning, Under the Table's 50 Different Foods You Can Put in a Jar and Marisa's Food in Jars Canning Blog? Wow!)