I’ve always had a fraught relationship with my kitchen canisters. What color, size and shape is best for food prep and counter top display? In the kitchen of my childhood, we always had four marked containers: Flour, Sugar, Coffee and Tea.
Kicking the Can(ister)
When I married, I got a wooden set with roosters embossed on the side. They served well until I entered my antique collecting phase. One by one, I acquired a set of the original, bluish canning jars with wire, swing-top bails. I even found the half-pint size, though it cost me dearly. The set added an authentic touch to my farm kitchen, but was the devil to open and close. They became my dried bean and split pea containers.
When the farmhouse burned in 2001, the set of Ball jars were packed away and sent to the barn for storage—I suspect with the contents still intact.
I replaced them with a folksy, metal set (shown below), that accented my new farmhouse motif, but took up far too much space. I relegated them to a shelf over the stove and went out into the world in search of the perfect canister set.
Today I have glass canisters, that I can see through. Never again will I open a canister and find 3/4 cup of flour, when I needed 2-1/2 cups. I got the various size containers some years ago at the Container Store. Each has a tight-fitting, screw lid, that’s flat, allowing me to stack a small something atop, if need be.
Costly, but Elegant Canisters
This year during Covid boredom, I went on line to see what’s de rigueur in kitchen accessories. I found a set of three, lovely designer pieces by Jan Barboglio for $250. Another three-piece set was fashioned of red glass with metal chicken-shaped knobs. Williams Sonoma offered a spiffy black and white checkered model with gold trim, also in the $250 range.
Not All Canisters Are Equal
But it was the old British canister labels that sent me into culinary culture shock. There was: Oatmeal, Barley, Lentils, Peel, Bread Crumbs, and Moist Sugar. Moist Sugar???
I turned to Siri on that one. She paused before replying, “What the $#@&^ are you talking about?” I was embarrassed to summons her again. So I scoured Google and found that Moist Sugar is a 17th century term for unrefined, or partially refined, sugar.
A Fun Touch
Rather than indulge in any of the costly online offerings, I took an imaginative step. It was completely unnecessary, but I did it anyway. I applied a nicely scripted decal to each of my glass jars. In addition to Flour and Sugar, I now have a label for Kosher Salt, Pasta, Lentils, and Brown Sugar. (The decal set came with dozens of other labels I might be tempted to use sometime—though, sadly, Moist Sugar is not among them.)
Today I can both see and read the contents in my glass jars. (But I do get mildly irritated when family members, who frequent the farm, disregard my labeling, and position the canisters any which way.)
A Merry, New Look
Even so, I love my two, make-shift glass sets. I tell myself that kitchen staples look, taste, and keep better in glass. With transparency back in vogue, glass containers are the perfect kitchen companion.
Whatever containers you choose (or why), there’s nothing that brightens your counter top and encourages baking more than a new, or upgraded, canister set.