The Incredible Shrinking Pesto Jar
One of the earliest signs of inflation and financial stress is the shrinkage of products. Candy companies have been at this for years (that is why you find candy bars with strange sizes like 53/64 ounce…) and Hershey is a past master at it. No surprise there.
But when it starts to hit larger sized things, you know something is up.
For example, car tires have gradually gone from a size with a tall sidewall to ever shorter sidewalls (and ever larger rims). This has become a fad to the point where some of the tires are just a giant tread band on the rim. So before it was 175/80 then 195/70 and now 205/60 (the first digit is the tread width section, the second number is the percentage of the width that is used to make the sidewall, or the height of the sidewall.) Some tires are down to the 50 or even 40 ‘aspect ratio’. So as the numbers shrink, so does the sidewall height.
The major beneficiary of this is the tire company. It takes less rubber. Ride quality is OK down to about a 60 ratio, but it is a softer ride when you have more ‘give’ to work with from the sidewall. At a 50 or 40 range, you get an inch or two and that’s about it. Any pot holes will either bend the rim or jar your spine. ( I prefer to run 70 aspect ratio or larger due to ride quality.) Some folks like the look and go for radically thin tires. They have younger and more rubbery bones and joints…
OK, I was willing to take a 70 to 60 transition ‘for the good of the planet’ as it does reduce oil used in making rubber. But no more than that. (And I’ve got my eye on some old 80 aspect ratio “H” and “V” speed rated tires from a specialty maker…) But when you start messing with my food, I get cranky.
First They Came For The Ice Cream
And I Said Nothing
The ice cream companies all shrunk the “half gallon” to be some weird size like 3 quarts. And I said nothing. (So much for all the punch recipes that said “add 1/2 gallon ice cream”…)
Well, I said a lot, but mostly to my family who got tired of hearing it, and a little to the grocer, who also suggested putting it in writing (and to send it to someone who gave a damn ;-)
I’ve gradually gotten used to it (mostly by buying less ice cream… don’t really need it.)
But I Draw The Line At Pesto
Classico has shrunk their 10 ounce Pesto sauce jar to 8 ounces. A nice 1/5 boost in profit to them (the price has not changed, as near as I can remember it.) So as taxes and costs rise, they can ‘pass it on’ as a shrunken size and not hit a price point issue.
Ok, I can make my own Pesto pretty darned easy (and I’ve been meaning to get around to it). I made some from purple Basil one year just to see how purple pesto looked. And promptly discovered that the purple was all on the surface of the leaves, the interior being still green, so it ended up an odd sort of ‘grey pesto’. Tasty, but not what I was looking to do. I’ve also wanted to make a cashew pesto (instead of the pine nuts) as I’ve heard it’s pretty darned good.
It’s as easy as putting the nuts in a jar on the blender, give it a whirl, add leaves and olive oil with cheese and spin again. I’ve already done it with purple, so planting some green basil is an easy thing to do. However, I had coveted the ‘free’ jars, so bought the canned pesto. That, and it’s easier to be lazy…
But wait, there’s more…
One of the reasons I bought Classico brand was their jars. The sauce was pretty good, but the jars pushed me over the edge to ‘buy’. The jars
are were real Atlas-Mason canning jars. A canning jar can run 75 cents to a buck each, depending on sizes and where you buy them. These were a nice sturdy size (roughly a 12 ounce jar size, that you could pack 10 ounces into) and worked very well. The square shape let you pack a fair number on a shelf, too.
They could have gone to a standard 8 ounce canning jar, and I would likely have gritted my teeth and continued to buy, since I’d have mentally subtracted the (jam sized) jar price from the shelf price and ‘gone for it’. But they didn’t.
They’ve gone to a cheaper single use jar. The industrial odd ‘one piece lid’ size with the thin disposable lids and different threads that are not suited to home canning. (I have used them as a test case, and you can do it, but it’s tricky to get the lid tension right and eventually the lids do wear out, then it’s all a ‘tosser’. Really only useful as an emergency coping behaviour.) They did neatly leave the “Atlas-Mason” embossing on the jar so it sort of looks like it wanted to be a real canning jar, just it isn’t. One-and-done to the trash heap for these new jars.
So I’ve bought my last jar of Classico Pesto.
On The Bright Side
The good news is that over the years I’ve built up a nice supply of the 10 ounce jars. They are among my favorites for some usages, and I’ll regret it as they slowly dwindle through the years, but for now I have what I need.
One odd use, is they make a nice “drinking jar”. I grew up in the country, and it was common to use a pint jar for a water glass (or beer glass ;-) The tales of moonshine from a Mason Jar are quite true, buy also true is that the quart size it came in was often decanted into 8 ounce jars for drinking. (With a couple of ice cubes and some mixer, it’s a nice size). But I liked the little square jars just a bit better. They hold a bit more (and for things like fruit juice, that matters) without being the size of a full pint. Further, they have a wide flat bottom, so stand better than the taller and skinnier 8 ounce jam jars. But the fact is I have ‘enough’ to keep me in jars for a while.
The other good news is that now I can also start trying all those OTHER jars of pesto that I’d passed by in favor of the one with the ‘free’ canning jar. I’m now at liberty to ruthlessly shop price and quality with no guilt about buying a disposable jar to hit the landfill.
What? I can hear someone thinking…. You don’t RECYCLE them?
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. The local ‘rules’ are that we are supposed to remove the labels and wash the jars and cans before putting them into the recycle. Now thinks about this for a minute. In a natural desert, with frequent droughts, and one of the highest labor rates in the world, we are supposed to HAND WASH our TRASH. (Labels don’t do good things to dishwashers…) And the rules specifically state that containers with food residue are not to go into the recycle… so go into the trash. Makes it easy on me. Wash and recycle or just trash it and still be following the “rules”… hmm… decisions decisions….
Wine on the patio (in a drinking jar) or washing trash? I think I’ll take “Wine, for 20”!
For what it’s worth, last time I looked Whole Foods house brand jams and jelly had some of them in Atlas-Mason real canning jars. It’s slower to consume enough jam to get a jar, but it’s an alternative source for the same size (if a bit taller and skinnier shape) jar.
Also, the Classico red sauces are still in canning jars (for now?) though of the 24 ounce size. I just follow the quart size directions and times when canning, and things do fine. There are also quart sized Classico sauces at Costco (sometimes?). We’ll see how long those stay in the lineup.
If they do ever leave, well, the ‘minor’ sauce makers often use real canning jars, especially when they are just starting out doing small batches and can’t afford the large specialized machinery for the funny jars. I’ve tried several over the years (Safeway house brand, for example, but the labels are a bear to remove) and they work well. But the Classico was a nice sauce and the jar was emblazoned with the Atlas-Mason stamp and had the older square shape. So I generally stayed with them.
But on the chance that they are starting a trend here, I’ll be revisiting the ‘alternatives’ on the shelf as I once again make a list of what sauces still come in ‘real jars’ and which are in ‘mayo-class jars’… As a hint, if the glass is embossed with a design, it’s often a thick standard canning jar. And if you put it ‘lid to lid’ with a known brand that is a canning jar, you can check the lid size to assure it matches.
No, I don’t think it’s a silly thing to do. It’s part of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra AND it is good frugal use of resources. If I’m in the garden and drop a shovel on a wine glass, I’m wasting resources. If I do it on a ‘drinking jar’, well, who cares. Into the recycle with it. (Hey, the label is off and the food residue is gone ;-) When I’m canning, if I use that jar 10 times before giving it to someone with jam in it, then I’ve saved a lot of other jars from the landfill and reduced the energy used to make new jars. And through it all, I’ve kept a few more bucks in the beer fund.
So given a choice that benefits me, vs one that adds to the landfill, I think it is prudent to go for the benefit.
Now I just need to find a new source of pesto…
As a sage said: “Something is brewing…..”
Or, as the great George Carlin said: “…get your sh*s folks, we are leaving!”
So given a choice that benefits me, vs one that adds to the landfill, I think it is prudent to go for the benefit.
Are you kidding?
The more you recycle the more jobs you lose and the poorer you are!
It’s the elementary rule of the market!
@Adolfo: I think you mean “the more I reuse, the poorer THEY are…” ;-)
Yes, I generally think it’s kind of silly to do the whole peal and wash thing for a chunk of glass that is just sand reborn. Easier to just grind it up in a giant machine. But for me, tossing in one bin or the other is not a big deal.
As for jobs, I think it’s about the same to grind / melt glass or wash and grade sand.
What bothers me more is the simple deception of reducing the size of the product.
But for me, tossing in one bin or the other is not a big deal.
Sure, it is not. You see it in California state economics.
You made me remember an ACTUAL SHRINKAGE I provoked accidentally, and btw discovering a physical principle:
“Honey…I shrank the children!!!!
Put in blender:
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 teaspoon full of salt
1 spoon of grounded garlic
Add a bundle of basil, previously just dipped in boiling water.
1/2 pound of sliced fresh cheese.
1 spoon of parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of milk
Pour the amount you like on hot pasta.
To lighten you up after that second glass of wine for an additional 20 points, you might go look up Steven J Gould’s essay on how the size and price of Hersey’s bars have changed thru the years.
With respect and appreciation for what you do, good sir.
Pesto takes little time to prepare and if you use fresh basil the result is far better than anything you can buy in a store.
Be careful with the cashew idea – the purpose of the pignoles is to prevent the crushed basil from oxidizing, so it keeps that bright green color.
….just looking for a chocolate recipe.
@Duncan: It was from “Good Eats” that I got the cashew idea as Alton Brown uses them in a pesto. Most nuts (all?) will be high in anti-oxidants so ought to work well in that role.
@Tom Bakewell: Link? And thanks for the endorsement.
I’ve generally liked having a jar of the pre-made pesto on the shelf for those days when I’m hungry and out of ideas. No need to run to the store, just noodles and dump…
I can grow Basil about 9 months out of the year here, so I can easily just set aside a big pot for it (as I did for the purple) and make ‘fresh pesto’ when out of ideas. (I already always stock olive oil and Parmesan cheese and garlic and..) but it’s not as lazy as ‘grab the jar’ after a late arrival home. Oh well, I can use Alfredo for that ;-)
@Duncan the purpose of the pignoles is to prevent the crushed basil from oxidizing
Good tip. I use, instead, common walnuts.
My reason for finding this article is that I am trying to track down canning lids for the new, smaller pesto jars. It appears that I am out of luck. It is also a selling point for me to choose Classico. Thank you for the article. This will be my last jar of Classico pesto. Bummer…
You won’t find lids for the smaller jars. They are a commercial only lid, one piece, and machine installed. I’ve ‘reused’ one piece lids in some experimental canning just to see if I could. It takes a calibrated touch to get the tightness right (you can do it, but it needs a light touch) and it’s intended to be installed by machine to a particular tightness. So you could get them, for a lot size of a few thousand ;-) but then would have to deal with a one piece lid… (It’s not horrid, just don’t over tighten. Just to ‘snug’ and not all that snug… FWIW I’ve had ZERO jar breakage even with ‘thin’ mayo jars once I learned to back off the tightness to ‘just barely held down’ on the two piece lids.)
E.M. Smith says use a light touch for canning lids. Thanks for the tip. I’m kind of a gorilla, finger tight to me requires a pipewrench to loosen. Light touch PG, light touch. snug not tight. :-) OK