8 Uses for Almost-Empty Bottles and Jars

8 Uses for Almost-Empty Bottles and Jars
Illustration: Benjamin Currie

Any collector of condiments, spreads, jams, and jellies is familiar with the tauntingly “almost empty” jar. There’s always too little of whatever’s in there to make anything substantial, but just enough so that throwing it away feels wasteful. Rather than tediously scraping minuscule amounts of of sticky, saucy stuff out of its container, I like to use various edible solvents to dissolve the remnants and create a tasty treat. Here are some of my favourite methods.

Use a jam jar to infuse some booze

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

I love Bonne Maman strawberry jam and to hoard the jars it comes in, and this is my absolute favourite way to get at the last bits the sweet and sticky stuff that coats those glass walls. Just add a healthy shot of alcohol to the jar, close it, shake and strain, then use the jewel-toned booze in cocktails — or chill it and sip it on its own.

If you don’t drink alcohol, you can do what one very clever Twitter user did and rinse it with unsweetened black tea, or lemonade, or any other non-alcoholic beverage you think would benefit from a bit of fruity sweetness.

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Make an easy peanut sauce

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Adding a little neutral oil, a big squeeze of lime, soy sauce, and some sort of chilli-flavored condiment can turn the dregs of your JIF jar into a sweet and savoury peanut sauce perfect for spring rolls, cold noodles, or a crunchy slaw or salad. I’ve never tried it with natural peanut butter, but I think it would work just fine — just make sure to add a little sugar.

Eat ice cream out of a Nutella or peanut butter jar

Photo: Nina Firsova, Shutterstock Photo: Nina Firsova, Shutterstock

If you’d rather take your empty peanut butter jar in a sweet direction — or if you’re working with an almost-empty jar of Nutella or similar — you can use the not-quite-clean vessel as a serving bowl for ice cream. Just add a couple of scoops to the jar, then eat the ice cream, scraping and swirling as you go to create a new flavour experience.

Make a creamy salad dressing

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

If, like me, you are a collector of many fine mayonnaises, it probably pains you to toss a Kewpie bottle or jar of Duke’s that doesn’t contain quite enough mayo for a sandwich but still seems like it has something to give. Well, don’t do it — because that something is salad dressing. Building a vinaigrette in a mostly-spent mayo jar gives it a nice, creamy body and a hint of tangy flavour. Add a little vinegar, a little Dijon, something sweet, and whatever seasonings you desire. Shake well, then pour on a pile of greens.

Shake up a sweet vinaigrette

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Empty honey bears can also be used to flavour dressings and sauces, and they have the added benefit of looking super adorable on a table. Every single vinaigrette you ever make should have a hint of sweetness, so just use whatever vinaigrette recipe you usually would, only build it in a bear, shake it in a bear, and pour it from that bear.

DIY a yogurt cup

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

This is the more health-conscious version of eating ice cream out of an almost-empty Nutella jar, but it is still deeply delicious, especially if you are a lover of really good fruit preserves. Adding a thick, full-fat yogurt to a near-consumed jam jar turns it into a DIY fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt cup — you can even close the jar and take it to-go (if you have anywhere to go, that is).

Add a little nuance to your cocktails

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Much like bitters, you can use vanilla to bring a little nuance, a little depth, a little extra something to your cocktails. A few drops will do ya, but I’ve found an “empty” bottle of extract usually have the exact amount needed to impart that bit of oomph to an old fashioned, a rum-based beverage, or a simple glass of shaken Campari.

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Vanilla is an important ingredient, a complex ingredient, an expensive ingredient. Even if you’re not a big baker, the vanilla bean and its extract can be used to bring nuance, depth, and the implication of — but not the taste of — sweetness to any food or beverage. In addition...

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