Last year, I received the following email from blog reader Melliny:
Hi…I recently began converting plastic to glass in my kitchen. It has been such an exciting experience to me that I took photos along the way to inspire my family to hopefully do the same…. The fact is that storing good food in glass is very beautiful, which is inspiring.
Please enjoy these gorgeous images, as well as Melliny’s explanation of how she stores fruits and vegetables in glass in her refrigerator. At the end, I’ve added a few of my own ideas.
I got rid of the “vegetable bins” in my refrigerators where plastic bags filled with rotting produce are most likely to live and use glass jars to store almost everything. You don’t need veggie bins when each type of produce you have has its own transparent glass container. It is also more convenient sometimes to lay tall jars on their sides, such as when you have soft, heavy fruit like peaches and don’t want the weight of them to smush those on the bottom.
Larger jars for storing produce: Many of my largest jars somehow came my way free of cost. Wal-Mart, has a 1 gallon “cracker jar” and another large jar that I’ve found to be convenient sizes and shapes.
I’ve recently added to my collection a couple of excellent large jars from Sundance that are heavy glass, have heavy stainless steel lids, are useful and a pleasure to look at. An interesting assortment of good jars can be found at second-hand stores.
And of course, whenever you are still able to buy food in a glass jar, save it! If you have lots of canning jars and don’t need/want non-standard jars, they can still come in handy for giving food away to family and friends.
I love the jars that sit at a tilt with a loose-fitting lid for lettuce and other greens, and for grab-and-go fruit, such as peaches, apples, plums. Make a quick little salad or grab a peach without even taking the jar out of the fridge.
Fruits and veggies that contain a lot of water should have a floppy lid on their jar, or waxed paper with a canning ring screwed down over it. You can add or take away humidity also by using a piece of damp paper towel in the bottom of some jars (carrots, celery) and a piece of dry paper towel in the bottom of others (grapes, berries, cucumbers).
Beth’s note: To keep celery, carrots, and radishes crunchy, I actually fill up the jar with water and keep them immersed, rather than using a damp towel. Try what works for you.
(This is also a very handy solution if you have just one too many cherry tomatoes for the size jar you are using—use waxed paper instead of a hard lid and you get a little more room.)
Spinach and lettuce stored properly in large glass jars look as good a week or 2 later as when you bought them. In fact, I don’t always have access to premium produce. In Florida’s hot summers, the greens can be heat damaged. But if you give them a cold bath, spin it, toss the limp stuff and store it in glass, it is a nice crisp salad 10 days later. I refuse to go to the store any more often than once a week, and if I can go longer, that’s even better.
For mushrooms, I use a square of paper towel instead, as they need a lot of ventilation.
Convenient! Only TWO (2) standard sized lids! For all the many sizes available in canning jars, there are only two standard sized lids. So, hopefully the canning jar industry won’t decide to change that highly desirable feature. No more searching for a lid that looks like 10 other lids and doesn’t fit the container you have in your hand!
The lids that come with canning jars are metal 2-piece lids. If you don’t want plastic to touch your food, leave a little airspace when using jars or other glass containers that have plastic lids. If it’s not possible to leave airspace, you can put waxed paper between the food and the lid, or you can just flip the inside disk part of the lid over, so that the metal faces in instead of out, as long as you’re not using the jar for canning.
Other Benefits of Glass
Easy to clean! Glass is a non-porous material that resists dirt, is very easy to clean, and it’s clear at a glance whether it’s clean or dirty.
Fast dry in dishwasher or drain board. Plastic is porous, so drying is slow. Drying dishes is something I refuse to do. I think some people just put them away wet, and then wonder why their kitchen cabinets are disintegrating or warping.
Less waste! Because glass is transparent, you can SEE your food, and will be more likely to eat it before it gets old. If you are a foodie and love fresh fruits and veggies, you will be very pleased with how beautiful they look in your fridge!
Maintain freshness longer! Fresher in glass? I believe, and my friends and family who have switched to glass believe that many foods stay fresher in glass than in plastic. (We have not conducted any scientific experiment, it is just our experience.) For instance—raspberries? Very perishable. I put some in a glass jar with a bit of paper towel in the bottom, and a week later, they were still good. For most fruits and veggies I would recommend: Put a half paper towel in the bottom of the jar before filling with produce.
Healthier for you! Glass is inert, so you won’t ingest chemicals like those in plastic, BPA or otherwise, which are endocrine disrupters with an estrogenic effect. (See my tips above for reducing exposure to the plastic inside the lids.)
Healthier for the environment! Plastic makes its way into our rivers, lakes and oceans, where it breaks down and is ingested by the creatures who live there. Eventually, we eat some of these creatures and are eating our own plastic waste.
Two cents from Beth…
I personally have not spent money to purchase very many glass jars. I haven’t needed to because my cupboard is full of glass jars from store bought pickles, peanut butter, condiments, pasta sauce, etc.
I reuse those jars in the cupboard, refrigerator, and even freezer.
But recognizing that glass too has an environmental footprint (and in the interest of simplifying and de-hoarding), I have been cutting down on the number of new jars we acquire. For example, I make my own mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, and most recently tomato sauce so that I can simply reuse the jars I have rather than collecting new ones.
What are some other ways that you use glass instead of plastic?