The Original Use and Current Purpose Of Jelly Cabinets

One decidedly charming name for a piece of furniture is jelly cabinets. In this new millennium, a cabinet for jelly seems over the top. However, for previous generations they were a necessity. Families lived mainly on farms and grew much of their own food. Home canning of vegetables, and especially jams and -of course–jellies was a necessity to make full use of the garden produce. The annual ritual of boiling and storing jellies and other preserves in ball mason jars was a big event, ensuring plenty of sweet, nourishing food for months between harvests. But all this hard work needed to be stored safely, and out of the way of the everyday items taking up space, so many families built or bought cabinet furniture specially designed to hold lots of home preserves–the jelly cabinet.

Home canning is no longer a common family practice, but the practicality and attractive design of jelly cabinets has given them a permanent place in family homes. They supply attractive, decorative space for storing items when the family’s possessions have outgrown the regular storage space. A family that regularly buys at a large discount store that sells in volume, likes to take advantage of incredible discounts on items bought in bulk, and the jelly cabinet nicely handles the overflow. Typical jelly cabinets are tall pieces of furniture in a rectangular shape, most are narrow but some are double wide. Most stand on legs, dating from the age when furniture legs would discourage some pests from invading the cabinet. Most have doors that protect items inside from dust but also provide additional sources of decoration, as the doors can be carved or include decorative panels. Most have adjustable shelves so they can accommodate whatever items are most abundant. Some doors have clear or opaque glass. Occasionally shelves are non-wood material but wood is the most popular substance.

Because of their origins, many styles trend to the simple, such as Shaker, or early American, with lightly finished pine decorated with a few carvings in the panels. Because virtually every home needed a place to store their preserves there are many antiques available from the Victorian era that are beautifully made and have a lovely patina. Modern ones are more practical in their construction, sometimes being very utilitarian and just sturdy steel. Some can be quite exotic, with elaborately painted panels. Any home that wants to add a unique touch to the kitchen decor while providing badly needed storage space should consider one of these charming furniture pieces. They have so many potential uses, now that jellies are stored on supermarket shelves. There are plenty of different styles, finishes and materials used among the many samples, from simple Shaker or Amish to brightly red painted or double wide white ones–some simple, some ornate. Look at the home and kitchen’s current color scheme and decor and investigate the interesting variety of jelly cabinets that exist.

The best place to find a great variety and compare prices is the Internet. Just feed “jelly cabinets” into the search engine to find a large number of retailers who carry many cabinets in different styles and finishes, made of different materials. Many antique ones are available online, including at online auction sites. Online antique dealers can offer a greater selection online than in stores, where the space for displaying items is limited, and the perfect jelly cabinet may not be visible among a warehouse of other furniture. When comparing styles, and quality remember that prices shown may or may not include shipping. Shipping is an important part of the cost and what seems like a bargain may not be if it doesn’t include shipping. Ensure that the size and style will complement the room as returning an item could be difficult and costly. Local dealers who can ship easily may also be available online, or ones who are located in the same area of the country might be more likely to offer free shipping.

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    March 2011
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