Friday, June 5, 2009

Musing on Gift Cookbooks and Purchasing Mason Jars Near Bexley.

This afternoon, as I walked outside my front door for the first time, I found a package from I was instantly confused because I didn’t remember ordering anything. When I opened the box, I found a new cookbook—Jam It, Pickle it, Cure It and other Cooking Projects-- by Karen Solomon and panicked that I had forgotten that I purchased it in a few clicks after a few glasses of wine a few nights earlier. Imagine my delight when I scanned the packing slip and found a note:” Looked yummy and full of [my name]-worthy – full of bountiful harvest – Vicki”

A random act of kindness. She saw it, thought of me and bought it. Pretty neat. I can’t remember the last time I bought myself a hard-cover book. I wonder if she knew I was going strawberry picking tomorrow and hoped that I’d bring her some preserves when we get together next week. I think some preserves are definitely in her future . . . .

Anyway, once I recovered from the delight of an unexpected gift, I hopped into the car and rushed down to the Big Lots on Winchester Pike in Berwick. I had called a few weeks ago about mason jars, but they had not yet arrived. I called a few days ago and learned that they had sold out, but were expecting another shipment today. When I arrived, the shelves were half empty and the cashier was hording a few boxes for someone who called ahead. I bought two packages (12 jars each) of Golden Harvest regular pint jars for $6.75/each and two packages of lids for $1.25/each (half the price at the Main Street Krogers).

I then headed to the East Main Wal-Mart to comparison shop. Last year, the only Wal-Mart in Columbus to carry mason jars was the store on Morse Road. However, this year, my local Wal-Mart told me over the phone that they were also selling mason jars. I confirmed the accuracy of this information. However, while the Wal-Mart selection was better, it was also slightly more expensive. The same package of Golden Harvest pint jars were $6.85 and Ball mason jars were almost $8. Wal-Mart also carried extra lids, pectin (both liquid and powder) and – to my delight – a tool kit which included a jar lifter and lid lifter. (If you’ve every tried to fish the lids out of boiling water with only a set of tongs, you’ll appreciate how much I’m looking forward to pulling them out with a magnetic wand. I requested one for Xmas and my confused brother gave me an electric can opener insteadJ). Wal-Mart did not, however, have any of the half-pint jelly jars (i.e., the cut glass kind) in stock (but there might be some in the next to last southeast aisle at the Giant Eagle in Reynoldsburg). Another shopper warned me not to purchase any liquid pectin with last year’s date on it because it won’t work. She also told me that Aldi’s was selling strawberries for $1/pound, but I told her that I preferred to pick my own and preserve them within the same day. So there.

For those who are concerned about Wal-Mart’s reputation for squeezing their suppliers to get the best price and forcing them to outsource their production to third-world countries, Anderson’s General Store in Reynoldsburg also usually carries a full line of canning supplies, including mason jars and pectin. They’re usually right in front of the front entrance. As mentioned, some Giant Eagle stores also carry them. Kroger’s usually doesn’t get them until closer to Fall.

For beginner canners, I highly recommend that you purchase more pint jars than quart jars. You’ll need an awfully large stock pot (for hot water canning) or pressure cooker (for everything else) in order to can in quart jars. How often do you buy or use food in quart quantities anyway? I had to buy an extra tall stock pot last year so that I could can tomatoes and peaches (which don’t require pressure cookers) in my quart jars. My pint jars fit in both my pressure cooker and other stock pots. Just a word to the wise.

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