The Jar Nazi
Since I am in the thick of canning season, I cannot pass up sharing my story of the “Jar Nazi.” Personally, I love my canning jars, they have taken on personalities much like my quilt fabric stash. Just like all that yardage squirreled away that will never fall to a rotary cutter, I have jars that I probably will not use for canning, for fear they will emerge from the pressure cooker in shards. I have square jars I only use for pickles, and then there is the jars that only can have pumpkin pickles in them. Then there are the jars I don’t like, that I put preserves and such in for Christmas gifts. I don’t care if I ever see them again – when they come back I regard them haughtily, as if to say, “You will leave here again next Christmas!” And you thought I was just weird about cow manure ;) Now I am talking to my jars and admitting it!!
I have a hard time passing up farm/estate sales, so one day I stopped at a particularly interesting looking sale, and started to cruise the various areas of interest. I am usually torn between fighting women for kitchen or sewing stuff, or to go to the barn and look for tools or cow paraphenalia. I picked the kitchen this time and out of the corner of my eye I spied a pantry full of boxes of canning jars of all sizes! I quickly pushed my way through the crowd to get to those dozens of jars and there was a very loud man just making a deal for ALL of the jars – I mean there were probably 25 dozen at least, stacked floor to ceiling. He turned to me and barked, “Want some jars? – I’ll give you a good deal, $4.00 a dozen”
You know when a dog sees someone who doesn’t smell right to them, and they start that low guttural growl? Well, I was growling in my mind. I could plainly see the large sign that said CANNING JARS $2.00 PER DOZEN – OBO. I knew he got the jars for less than the $2.00 and he wanted double. No thanks. As I walked away, his voice was still following me… “I sell jars on Craigssslisssttt”
With my canning tail between my legs, I went to the barn, and found some garden tools. A little retail therapy never hurts, but I could not get those jars out of my mind, I have been looking for a certain Kerr jar made in the 1950’s to freeze my butter in. I love those jars. Ball makes a similar style of wide mouth squatty pint, but it just does not make my heart sing like those Kerr square babies :) And this farm looked like just the place to find such treasures. Frugal people must have lived and farmed there, I reasoned and they probably hadn’t bought too many new jars. What to do? Keep looking I guess.
Well, after I got home, I still couldn’t forget that jerk and the jars. While I was leaving the barn at the sale, he was arguing with the attendants who weren’t going to let him through the patio door, he wanted to take a shortcut, and they were getting tired of him being so pushy. I decided to stalk him on Craigslist. *Ominous music in the background* He was easy to find. His list of canning jars was stunning, a nice neat list, by size and use. And lo and behold, he had a few of the ones I was looking for. His location was in Hangdog’s old neighborhood, not too far away and his phone number was listed. I printed off the ad and then promptly forgot about the jars for a while.
I called him several weeks later about the Kerr pints, and he barked at me over the phone, telling me the jars had been gone for sometime – how old was the ad I was looking at anyway! He took my number and promised to call me if he acquired more of the that size. He never did call, but I checked Craigslist and there his ad was updated and he had some of those jars! I called, and he told me he lost my number, I had no idea what I was getting into, yet. We made an appointment for me to pick up the jars and he proceeded to tell me how to get to his house. I have a great sense of direction, and I also knew his area well, however, I was to write down HIS instructions “because no one ever finds this house, it is so difficult, long driveway and all, you know…” I mean I live where there are long driveways, some a mile or more, in my neck of the woods two car lengths is not a long driveway! Just when I thought the deal was sealed, he asked what I was going to use the jars for – I casually replied for freezing butter, not knowing this was a capital offense in the canning jar world. He hit the roof, “WHAT! BUTTER! FREEZE IT, IN MYYY JARRSSS!! THESE CARE JARS SHOULD BE USED FOR SELSA!!” He definitely needed a Midol sandwich I could tell, and I wasn’t quite sure what dialect he was speaking, Kerr was Care, and salsa was selsa. I got him calmed down, and promised not to be late, and to bring the right kind of box for the jars. He was quite particular about the box.
We found his house in record time, despite the “long” driveway, and he yelled out the upstairs window to wait by the garage! So Ruthless and I got out our milk crate and newpapers (big mistake, he said box) and proceeded to wait. The garage door rolled up, and inside, there he was, in all his estate sale glory, just like we remembered. The garage was like a little miniature Costco, with pallet racks and shelves all filled with canning jars, and other food storage type of containers, all neatly categorized.
After chastizing me for driving a gas hog, and bringing a plastic crate and newpapers for the jars, he settled down and got out the jars. Then he proceeded to tell all the reasons I shouldn’t be freezing butter, or canning, or even buying these jars. It was very strange, he has a regular ad on Craigslist, but he doesn’t really want to sell the jars. Especially if you don’t want to use them for what he deems is the proper use of that particular size and shape of jar. I took all of this “advice” with grain of salt, and got my jewels and left.
I did this several more times, buying several more dozen, and each time he began to get more irritated with me about the butter freezing. And then I took an egg case box (holds 15 dozen eggs in flats) which really was a great box for packing these jars, he went ballistic, accusing me of selling the jars to restaurants. He thought 50 pounds of butter for a year was too much for anyone, what was I doing with all that butter anyway? Now he was the butter police! We parted for the last time, on terse terms. I sensed I was being cut off from buying any more canning jars from him.
So what does a self-described jar hoarder do to get more jars? They enlist someone who understands the affliction. I called my canning partner-in-crime. So my friend called him the next time he had more of my wide mouth pints. She had been skeptical everytime I told her of the latest Jar Nazi episode, she thought I was embellishing the story just a tad. Well, she was soon to find out, I was not exaggerating. It was her turn in the barrel. He quizzed her up one side and down the other, and then he asked her again - “Where do you live? Do you know THAT Butter Lady?” She feigned ignorance and tried to keep her voice from cracking. She had carefully studied his ad, and memorized the “correct” uses of the Care squatty pint. She passed, but we had not studied enough, her and I, she failed the box part of the test too. She vaguely remembered him mentioning box protocol, but in a hurry she grabbed some dusty canning jar boxes from her shop, thinking that would suffice. She had no idea that she would be bringing in foreign dust, and molds to the inner sanctum of canning jars. He had extra boxes for slackers, and he wanted cereal boxes he saved cut up for dividers. She dutifully sat there and cut out cereal boxes. I definitely owe her big time, she’s a true friend. After all the lectures, she began to believe me. This guy was unbelievable. He cut her off too – “No more jars! How much selsa can you make??”
By this time Hangdog didn’t know whose neck to wring first, mine or the Jar Nazi. But he also knew he better not come home without those jars. As Laura Ingalls, says, “what can’t be cured, must be endured.” I had sent him with my nice boxes I get cherries in, and of course, those didn’t meet the criteria of proper boxes, but Jar Nazi let it go, after all, he wasn’t dealing with the actual canner. I won’t go into more details, but he gave Hangdog a thorough interrogation about where he lived, where he worked, what would the jars be used for, why his wife (the canner) could not just get the jars herself, and the most important question – “Do you know that Butter Lady that lives out east of here?” By this time, Hangdog was convinced we hadn’t been making up stories about this nutjob – he was as weird as we had described. He came home with the jars and made me promise not to send him there again!
I think I finally have enough jars, and we have many stories to tell about our trips to the Jar Nazi. However, in our isolated bubble between my friend, Hangdog, and I, we still thought it was probably just us, and that we had been a little mean, tricking him to get more jars, when it was obvious he did not want me to have more. And then while perusing Craigslist this past winter, we noticed ads with warnings about the Jar Nazi, they were hilarious and then his rebuttals were even better. Now I know Craigslist shouldn’t be used for entertainment purposes, but these ads were hysterical. It seems everyone gets the same treatment, so we weren’t the only ones. He is still at it.