When I moved to New York three years ago, I didn’t own anything to store my food in. I bought a few Tupperware containers, but then as I got into reading My Plastic-free Life I realized the error of my ways and started thinking about alternatives. At first I bought a few Ball glass jars. Gary Null’s Uptown Whole Foods had a once-a-month discount — I think store-wide — so I would buy a huge amount of raisins and nuts and things from their bulk bins, then fill up the Ball jars at home.
Then one day genius struck. I noticed I was buying a number things in glass containers. They didn’t need to be recycled when I was finished with them…I could reuse them instead of buying new jars! Thus began my quest for the perfect jars. Initially most of my glass jars were for olives, and those jars tend to be tall and narrow, which means they’re better at housing small grains that pour out easily. You can’t store very much of anything in there, so eventually I abandoned them.

Along the way I also discovered that the glass jars should be stored with their lids off. Glass is quite easy to clean — much easier than plastic, which retains residues of greasy foods — but the lids take a long time to lose the scent of their original inhabitants. If the lids are stored separately I think they get more air exposure and they lose the scent more easily.

All these years later I have now settled on one jar as being the best for storing bulk items like rice, coconut flakes, nuts, etc: Bubbies Sauerkraut.

It’s a good large size, nice wide mouth, and the pièce de résistance: the label comes off easily. I don’t have a dishwasher and some labels are really hard to get off. I was buying more tomato sauce for awhile because I thought those jars would fit the bill, but I don’t like having to take a steak knife to a label while running water over it, trying to separate the paper. Bubbies must use some glue with a similar strength to regular school glue — a little water and the labels glide easily off.

Then you can store your food in a beautiful, clear glass jar.

Bubbies jars have a great second life.

I’ve read Americans used to eat a lot more fermented foods than we currently do (perhaps even ketchup was fermented!?). Traditionally pickles and sauerkraut are fermented foods — the vegetable is packed under salt and left out for a long time. Good bacteria get in and ferment the food into a deliciously sour new food. But these days vinegar is often just added to the vegetable and then they’re packaged. While vinegar certainly isn’t bad for you, I want to get the benefit of those good bacteria in my gut, which is why I try to eat fermented foods on a weekly basis (I should daily, but I don’t always have the stamina. Or I forget).

Bubbies sauerkraut is the one sauerkraut I’ve seen that’s refrigerated because it’s the real deal. Fermented and all. I bought it, liked it, and kept going back for more. So now I can benefit my body and my wallet. Though it’s gotten to the point where I don’t need any more jars so finally, on the insistence of my husband, I began recycling the extras.

Just in case you want to branch out into other fermented foods, there’s always kimchi. And now through the farmer’s market I’ve found another variety I really like:

I know I’m not the first person to think of reusing their jars but what surprises me is that everyone doesn’t do it. It’s so easy, and you’ve already bought the jar so why not keep using it.
What about you: do you reuse your jars? What fermented foods do you like (and don’t say natto!!)?