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Modern Roots

Breathing New Life Into Canning Jar History

Modern RootsI got to the store at about 9 a.m. yesterday and many times I leave the door unlocked. It doesn't bother me if my customers or new wanderers stumble in before I open. I happened to leave the door propped as I stirred and poured lotions. A tall man came in, and I yelled 'hello' from behind the curtain as I typically do. I came out to the front and talked with him a bit, he looked familiar. He asked if I wanted some old jars. Probing for more information I asked him what they looked like and how many he had.

He replied, "Hundreds."

old jars covered in dust, bugs and dirt

I asked if he had a sample of the sizes so he went out to his vehicle to retrieve some. He came back with very vintage blue and blue/green mason pint and quarts jars. I asked, "Do you have any 1/2 gallon sizes?" and he said, "Boxes."

"How much you want for them and how many do you have to buy?" I questioned.

"Oh, 50 cents each, and as many as you'd like. I'm cleaning out an elderly lady's shop. Her husband passed away quite a few years ago, and she wants it all cleared out," he answered.

Quick to respond, "I'll take 200 and see from there." Besides, I can always use more canning jars, I thought.
He was excited. He had a place to drop them off so he could finish his handy work for this woman. He'd already dumped some off with an antique vendor who took about 100 jars, he mentioned. So what the heck. If they weren't what I expected I can always use jars.

He said, "OK, be back in a couple hours." Well that's quick, I thought. Alright.

As he was walking out I said, "No chips, and no cracks. Bring various sizes."

He said, "Yep."

How interesting. Does he know I have a jar obsession? Skeptical of quality and what he was going to bring I got back to work.

globe tobacco containerCouple hours later he came with boxes. I had cleared a spot in the back and in between helping customers I dug through the boxes that he kept stacking up.

These were not just jars. Some were from the patent date era 1858 while others were from 1910. I didn't have time at the moment to date them (especially since there were so many). And lucky for me, there was more than jars. There were a few pharmaceutical bottles for tinctures, glass tobacco containers, and the list goes on.

This woman's husband was a collector. There were written notes on the jars with the date he bought them (many from the 1970s/80s, including the newspapers he wrapped them in), whose estate sale he bought them from, the town name, what he paid, and the approximate value at the time. He collected these. They meant something to him to record that much detailed information about his treasures. Jar collecting became very popular in the early 1960s and given the notes and dates of the newspapers, this too is when he started his treasure hunt.

After dropping off 200 jars, etc., I asked if he had gone through everything else she was getting rid of.

"I am particularly interested in milk jugs, some more smaller jars, and anything amber or amethyst colored."

He said, "Yea, I'll take a look and get back with you." I phoned Mr. Hunky to let him know my jar collection just tripled/possibly more.

He tells me, "I wouldn't expect anything less of you."

I said, "So glad you know me." And got back to work.

My fun new friend came back with more boxes. This time he had really old milk jugs and asked if I wanted any crocks. Being the extreme fermenter that I am, "Sure, I'll take a look" was my reply.

The crocks were by The Weir Co., typically circa early 1900s. He wanted $5 each. Not digging into their quality I took all seven. They are usually used for sauerkraut and fermented pickle making. Their sizes ranged from 1 quart to 1/2 gallon. I was now just short 400 jars plus a bunch of miscellaneous glass jars.

I asked him where he was headed next or if he got rid of everything he needed to. He said the back of his jeep was still full of the large 1/2 gallon blue masons. I said, "Ah, shoot, let me see 'em." Went out and these were all circa 1858-1910 with the galvanized tops and inserts. I said, "What do you want for these? He said, "For you, the same, 50 cents each."

I answered, "Alright, hate to see them separated from their siblings, I'll take 'em all."

He said, "Oh good." And he dumped all the rest in the back with the others.

As he was leaving I asked, "Why did you stop at my store next?" He replied, "Well you're that girl at the farmers' market. I thought you would use them." And use them I will.

After I closed, I was so excited to go through my boxes. I love old packaging, glass and history.

These kinds of finds are my favorite. In fact, they found me I believe, for a reason. This man who collected these jars cared about their worth and their quality. If he knew that I bought all of his treasure for 50 cents a pop, he may be rollin' right now. Or perhaps smiling because he knows I will use these, breathe life into a little piece of canning history, and be able to pass these true treasures onto my daughter (when she values such things).

I brought some of my treasures home and start cleaning. I was up late washing and scrubbing jars. I am still washing jars today. I won't be done cleaning these babies for a week.

After skimming the surface on canning jar history – I have bought several books to help me distinguish exact or close dates of production. Really, the only way to tell is by the writing on the jar. The numbers on the bottoms of the old jars only reflect the number of mold used. It was a quality control measure. If mold #4 was producing jars that easily cracked or chipped, they chucked it.

Most of the jars were 'Mason' jars. In 1858, John Mason created a twist-on opening with threads to use re-usable tight fitting lids, revolutionizing the canning industry. Which is why the large print "Mason's Patent Nov 30th 1858" is labeled on jars that were made between 1858 to the early 1920s.

Mason sold the patent a year later to the Sheet Metal Screw Co. run by Lewis R. Boyd. Boyd created the galvanized zinc lid with glass insert to keep food from touching the metal. Boyd and Mason partnered together and made thousands of jars between 1859 and 1910. Mason jars came in several colors with black and emerald being most rare. Amber and cobalt blue are also rare while blue and light green being more common of the colors. Depending on the maker and date of the logo, some jars have been worth $30,000 with many falling into the $1,000-5,000 dollar range.

It wasn't until 1884 when the five Ball Brothers started manufacturing jars. There are several manufacturers up until that date and after, making the ones that were not common worth more. Jars that were made with the smallest date range, unique lid style and color typically are worth more. Other manufacturers are Atlas (Hazel-Atlas), Boyd, The Mason, Jeannette Mason, Anchor Hocking, Pine, Duraglass, LongLife, Presto, and more.

Here are some photographs of my jars that found me.

Catch more about me and my self-reliant journey at my website or "like" on Facebook.

half gal  rough top ground

1858 patent mason 

v  atlas

amethyst milk jug  atlas pint


Ball in all caps  dusty old crocks

gallon pharmaceutical  half gallons with zinc lids

jeanette mason  large wine bottles

Ball logos dating

longlife sprouting jar   hazel atlas pint with bail

getting them put in the canning closet 

the mason

cleaned crocks

My New Canning Closet

Modern RootsOne of my favorite parts of homesteading is canning. I love to see my garden in jars during the winter months. Preserving the bounty of summer is great fun, but conveniently storing the jars is another chore.

Our staircase downstairs turns halfway back on itself creating a nice cool space under the steps. It was used mainly as storage for Christmas stuff before I started to set all my canned goods in there. I was getting loads of jars from the garden during the hot summer months. This presented an issue, since floor space was being taken up by all the jars I had. I would tip-toe around stuff and occasionally break a lightbulb that hung down from the low ceiling with my head. However, I did not complain, but Mr. Hunky certainly saw this as an eyesore.

The storage area under the steps has a door so I would just keep it shut, didn't bother me any. A couple weekends ago, Mr. Hunky said he was going to make it into a pine-board canning closet. Pine, keeping it dry and still cool; I thought that would be fantastic. I never thought it would turn out the way it did though.


Usually when Mr. Hunky is going to 'improve' my life in some way, I generally let him go with it. The new closet with shelves and new lighting is economical and space saving. Canning is going to be even more worth it with a convenient, cool, dry place to store my goods for winter. Hopefully, with the added space I can produce enough vegetables for two years worth of canned goods instead of one.

We used pine: tongue and groove, 2-by-2-inch square boards for shelving brackets/wall stabilizers (instead of metal brackets), 10-foot boards in 8 inches and 12 inches for shelves, and pine molding.

Additional supplies include miter saw, nail gun, screws, hammer, and one Mr. Hunky.

Here are some before and afters of the completed canning closet!

before canning closet 

before canning closet 2   lights

without shelves   left

finished back canning closet 


Be sure to checkout more of my homesteading mayhem at my website, and my online natural soaps and body care store here!

Rosemary Sage Venison Sausage

Modern RootsRosemary complements venison and eases the gamey taste while sage enhances the overall flavor of this sausage. In addition, I use un-rendered lard to create a happy, juicy, flavorful sausage that marries the ingredients nicely.



rosemary sage venison sausage

Rosemary Sage Venison Sausage

6 pounds venison, cubed and cold (got a roast
     you don't know what to do with?)
2 pounds pork fat (un-rendered lard), cubed
2 tablespoons chopped or crushed sage
2 tablespoons chopped or crushed rosemary
3 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (does not give
     heat at this amount, just depth of flavor)
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 cup COLD water

Mix all ingredients except the water together in a large bowl. Let sit 20 minutes.

Run through a meat grinder on the largest dial setting. I prefer the largest because mushy sausage is not as desirable. After running all the sausage mix through the grinder, place in mixer bowl. Add the 1 cup cold water and mix on low for 1 minute EXACT (I use my Kitchen Aid for this, but you can also just use a hand blender or any standing mixer). This creates a beginning emulsion and marries the flavors together.

packaged venison sausageAfter mixing, package in 1-pound 'loaves,' wrap with plastic wrap and place in freezer bags. Keeps up to 1 year.

You can also create sausage links/brats with adapter and hog intestines if you chose to from this point with this recipe.

Enjoy your healthy venison!!




Zuppa Toscana Soup

Modern RootsI love this soup because the ingredients follow the gardening calendar, especially for Minnesota and other cool states in the fall. Enjoy!

Zuppa Toscana Soup

1 pound Italian mild sausage - use bulk loose sausage, not in tubes
5 medium garden potatoes - skin on diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large red onion, diced
3 slices of bacon, cut into bite size pieces
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
5 large leaves of kale, middle rib taken out and sliced into strips
1 1/2 quarts best quality chicken broth
1/2 quart water
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper to taste
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Fresh grated Romano cheese

Zuppa Toscana Soup | Fotolia/chiyacat 

Photo: Fotolia/chiyacat

Cook sausage in large soup pot until done. Remove from pot and set aside. I like to leave the pan drippings and fat in, drain if you'd like. The benefits from lard are plenty, very high in Omega 3s, especially if you buy organic or non GMO sausage.

Saute bacon (until crispy), garlic and onions in sausage fat. Add all ingredients EXCEPT cream and Romano cheese to soup pot. Bring to a medium boil until the potatoes are done (25 to 35 minutes). Lower heat, add cream.

Serve in bowls, grate fresh Romano on top. Wonderful served with crusty sourdough bread.

More recipes and homesteading mayhem at my website; and like on Facebook for updates and new recipes.

Cucumber Antioxidant Salad

Modern RootsA super dose of antioxidants in this cucumber salad. All the ingredients are fresh from the garden making it cost effective and easy to put together.

Yields 2 side salads.

2 leaves of kale – core removed, Julianne cut
10 to 15 Sungold, or any grape tomatoes, sliced
5 leaves Swiss chard, Julianne cut
5 leaves purple opal basil – any basil will be great – Julianne cut
1/4 cup feta cheese
1 long cucumber, cut in half moons
1 tablespoon fresh parsley

Toss all together.

1 teaspoon flax oil
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 cup raw apple cider
1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt – sea salt is great, too
1 to 2 tablespoons raw honey – I like 2 tablespoons but if you don't like as sweet use 1
2 pinches of pepper

Whisk together until it emulsifies, pour over salad – enjoy immediately! Wonderful with pizza or serve with a grilled chicken breast, salmon, or flank steak for an entree.

Antioxidant Salad - Meg 

More recipes at or click here. You can also get connected with my Facebook page to read about fermenting, heritage hogs I raise, and how to become self-reliant yourself!

My Heritage Breed Pigs Tamworth Berkshire and Mangalitsa

Modern RootsFinally, all my pigs/sows are here on the Modern Roots Homestead. Getting the fencing ready, the huts for farrowing, and the specific breeds I wanted all took quite a bit of planning and effort. But they are finally adjusted to their new home and thriving. I love heritage breeds for their abilities to mother naturally, fight disease better than the commercial breeds, and they taste so much better! Therefore, I am raising Tamworths, Berkshires and Mangalitsas. 

Tamworths – our Tamworth's name is Tammy – are long rusty red colored, lean and athletic. Known for the best bacon in the world, they originate from central England. In this region, there were dense forests of oak and beech trees where the pigs were kept to forage in the autumn and winter. Which is why I wanted this breed, to easily free-range. The breed takes its name from the village of Tamworth in Staffordshire. The Tamworth first entered the states in 1882. The characteristics of the Tamworth reflect the breed’s long lived selection for life outside. Pigs of this breed were expected to find their own food. Long heads and impressive snouts enable these pigs to be efficient foragers. Long, strong legs and sound feet give Tamworth pigs the ability to walk for considerable distances. Ginger red coats make the pigs adaptable to a variety of climates and protect them from sunburn. When I raised Yorkshire's, they would always sunburn unless I had a large mud pit for them to coat themselves in. Tamworths have an active intelligence, and they are agreeable in disposition. Sows are prolific, able to produce and care for large litters. The piglets are vigorous and often have 100 percent survivability. Super important for the natural way of raising pigs. I want them to farrow on their own not be put in crates away from their piglets. In nature, sows obviously would need to do this on their own and that's a huge benefit to the heritage purebred breeds.

Berkshires originated in Berkshire England, an English county. They are black with some white-dark colored skin to reduce sunburn. Shorter snout, stockier legs, arched back, and strong feet. Our Berk, Olivia, is quite the character. They are known for being curious and having a great disposition. This couldn't be more true. I really look forward to breeding Olivia next year as she is so much fun now. She especially likes Mr. Hunky. In fact, tries to climb him like a tree?! Yes, she's a pig. I know, it's weird. In 2008, there were less than 300 breeding Berkshire sows in existence and were considered vulnerable. So glad I have one of these beauts. The meat is finely and equally marbled, and prized for its juiciness.

Mangalitsa's are a Hungarian heritage breed prized for it's flavor and fat. Originally descended from a wild boar breed it is currently the most sought after pork in high end restaurants pricing well into the thousands for one raised hog, making it five times the cost of regular pork. One of the reasons for this is they take about twice as long as regular Yorkshire or cross-bred pigs to raise. Therefore, over a year's worth of keeping before they are slaughtered. Just 20 years ago, there were only 198 of these wooly creatures left in existence when a Spanish ham producer starting breeding up the numbers. Super pumped I have one. Mangalitsa's are also known as the wooly pig because they have more hair than what we "Americans" think of a pig having. The hair helps them stay warm and protected in cold climates during winter – hence perfect for Minnesota! All the heritage breeds I want to raise have not had the "fat" bred out of them. When you breed the fat out ... there goes the flavor and great omega's for brain development and maintenance. I am selling 5 of the 7 Mangalitsa piglets I have and am selling them for $275 each. Steal of a deal compared to other states at over $1700 for a 3 month old!

Feeder piglets were/are very hard to find this year as a disease wiped out many young piglets which would explain the increase in cost for your plain ol' Yorkshire at about $120.

Be sure to read more about my natural homesteading at and 'like' my Facebook page for recipes and new product information at my Modern Roots Store

Blackberry Cream Cheese Coffeecake

Modern RootsBlackberry Cream Cheese Coffeecake becomes an easy and wonderful pastry/cake to bake in the evening and serve in the a.m. with a hot cup of Jo or tea. This recipe is easy to manipulate to your taste. Want to make an apple butter, strawberry or pumpkin coffeecake? Easy peasy, just insert the sweetened preserves, jams or butters where I have my blackberry preserves listed. Done.

Blackberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white cane sugar, divided

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3/4 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 eggs, divided

1/2 package (4 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup blackberry preserves

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/8 cup powdered cane sugar

10 to 15 drops vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-inch spring form pan. Yes, you should use this, it will make your life easier.

Fork together flour, 3/4 cup cane sugar and butter until well-mixed and resembles small peas. Remove 1 1/4 cups of mixture, set aside.

To remaining mixture, add baking soda, baking powder, salt, sour cream, almond extract, vanilla extract and 1 egg. Mix until just combined.

Spread batter into prepared pan; be sure to get up the sides at least two inches. You want to create an edge or crust for the filling to sit inside of.

Beat cream cheese, remaining white cane sugar and remaining egg. Spread on top of batter, try to get some up to the edges.

Now spread your preserves on top. Don't mix it in, just lay it evenly on top. And don't be perfect, that's what makes this 'cut' look so pretty. Imperfections.

Combine the reserved crumbs and almonds, spread on top. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Top should be a light shade of golden brown.

Cool 15 minutes, then take the spring form sides off. STARE it down and let sit another hour in the fridge. Drizzle top with combined powdered cane sugar and drops of vanilla extract. Delish! Be sure to stun someone with your awesome creation.

Be sure to checkout my natural homesteading blog at and 'like' on Facebook at for more recipes and fun homesteading projects!

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