An empty jar crisis

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Apologies for these photos - not very good and also not very informative because both show just a section of my jar storage area in my pantry. It's up high over the doors - a canny use of space that was intended for this use. Those jars are three deep and the shelf stretches the width of the pantry - a metre and a half perhaps. A lot of jars anyway.

And it's full. So full that I have had to resort to the floor of my pantry where I have a very small space for a few more. Normally this would not matter as the marmalade season is coming up, but last year I made a large batch of marmalade, and that, coupled with some jars from the years before, means that I don't think I need to make marmalade this year.

Of course I could just put them in the recycling bin, but I find I can't quite bring myself to do that. What to do?

Well of course there are dozens of things you can do with empty jam jars from crafty things to simple storage to the whole preserving spectrum. I checked out a few of the sites which claimed to have he answers and picked up a few very simple things - use them as a vase - now why didn't I think of that? Although I'm not sure there is much flowering out there at the moment, and I do have a few vases anyway. But really I ought to have more flowers around the house. And I di notice yesterday that the rosemary was flowering, so maybe I should cut a few sprigs and put them in the kitchen. Lovely smell too.

Or I could start growing more herbs in the kitchen. That's a suggestion I saw on a couple of site, but I wonder a bit about it. I mean don't you need drainage holes? Although I note that this particular examples has a whole lot of largish stones at the bottom so maybe that replaces the hole. Or maybe I should try growing veggies in water from the roots. Lettuce? It's very expensive at the moment for some reason.

I also remembered that little tip from a Coles Magazine some time ago which I shared I think - a jar in which to put recipe ides - in my case recipes I have seen somewhere and thought to make sometime - ready to pick out when you are uninspired - a sort of lucky dip. Yes I could do that. But that's just one jar.

There are two recipes sitting on my desktop at the moment - Orange and poppy seed cakes from Nigel Slater, and a Prune, thyme and shallot tarte tatin from Claire Thomson. Well I've still got all those prunes to use up. And there's a further thought. What can you do with prunes in the way of preserves - even though they are a preserve in themselves. A chutney I guess. Can you make jam?

So with that thought I searched the net - and found just one recipe, which to me implies that it's not really a good thing to do. The author from a blog called HerbaZest called it Drunken prune jam - the drunken bit being a cup of brandy - well Armagnac would be better I would think. But that's quite a lot of alcohol. No I don't think so. There are heaps of chutney recipes though, so maybe I could give that a go.

The real problem of filling my jars with some kind of preserve is that it's not the time of year for lots of fruit that is suitable for jam, which would get eaten. I know you can find recipes for apple jam and pear jam, but it's not really that brilliant. So I am resorting to looking for the more unusual. The problem with the more unusual though is that you end up with something that might be very daring and gourmet but which nobody, let alone David and I, is going to eat. Even chutney doesn't get eaten much in this house - although really I don't know why because when I do actually taste the ones I have made I think they are pretty good. I should just use them more in marinades and stews I think. As for pickles - well actually of late they have been a bit more successful I think.

Preserves are made from gluts aren't they? And winter is not a season of gluts is it? Well particularly when you are confined to shopping in supermarkets. And there is definitely nothing growing in my garden at the moment except a few straggling herbs.

Maybe I should have another go at sauerkraut. The trouble with sauerkraut is that you need a pretty large jar to start with and that it takes time. So I'm only marginally tempted. It would definitely get used though. We both love sauerkraut. You can even go really gourmet and make it with red cabbage. I made Donna Hay's red cabbage and beetroot version last year, although I didn't really think it was sharp enough for me.

Vegetable jams now - maybe I should try them. I came to this, because of another thing sitting on my computer desktop - a recipe for carrot marmalade from the current vegetarian favourite - Anna Jones. Now that does look tempting - but then carrot is a pretty orange colour. Would I use it though? Well maybe because I can see it could be used in a variety of ways - not just having it as a fashionable thing with cheese. There are actually lots of recipes for carrot jam or marmalade out there - even Mrs. Beeton had one, so maybe I should give it a go. I don't really know why Anna Jones calls it a marmalade.

And thinking along those lines I found that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - of course - had some ideas for Vegetable jams including tomato and chilli - you can find lots of them, pumpkin and ginger - those too, although I'm not personally a fan of pumpkin - or ginger come to that. Then there's courgette and lemon - possibly, green tomato marmalade - no green tomatoes and his version of carrot jam (shown above). Alas no pictures of the other ones.

I started off by saying that we don't need marmalade this year, but then I saw a recipe called Lemon jam from a blog called Tikkido (weird name), which specifically insisted that it wasn't marmalade. There is no pith or peel involved - just the puréed flesh of the lemons and sugar. Which could indeed be very nice.

Then there's some grapes I have which I don't think are going to last long enough to be eaten. Jam? Chutney? Pickle? Can you salt them?

The real problem though is that even if I manage to fill those jars with a jam or a pickle or a chutney, even a curry paste or pesto, where do I put that? Because actually there's not a lot of spare storage space in the pantry for anything in a full jar either. It's a sort of Catch 22 - not quite, but almost.

"Did you know you could cook eggs in jars? Use your empty jar to poach an egg by cracking it in and placing in a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the water covers around three-quarters of the jar. Leave to cook for around 7-8 minutes depending on how you like your eggs. Easy!" Expert Home Tips

Now that is not going to happen. We never have poached eggs, and wouldn't the egg stick to the jar? How would you get it out? Do people really do such things? Why not just do what everyone else does and cook it in the water?

Mind you we are Zoom cooking this afternoon and I'm not sure my son has enough of the right equipment - namely dishes to roast things in. I think we are going to have to improvise too with barbecue aluminium trays. So maybe I really ought to be looking at some of those other creative ways to use up empty jars. Release the hidden craft person inside. Alas I don't think I'm up to that.


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