Dear Sun Spots: Thanks for all the help you give people. I hope you can help me with a question that I have about canning. For years I have recycled mayonnaise jars as they fit the standard canning lids. They used to be glass, but now they are plastic. Do you know if you can use these safely for home canning? Maybe some of your readers have used them. I do not do the hot boil method as I am canning pickles and relish. Thanks. – Fran, No Town.

Answer: In addition to responses from readers, a consumer affairs representative at Jarden Home Brands, the owner of the Ball brand of canning jars explained that it is now recommended that all pickle products be processed for a short period of time in a boiling-water canner. This will assure a crisp, good quality product, prevent further loss of flavor, color and texture, destroy organisms that cause spoilage and form a good vacuum seal. They do not recommend using the “Open Kettle” method of ladling food into a jar (glass or plastic) with no heat processing.

They suggest that the only jars suitable for home canning are glass home canning jars, sometimes called Mason jars. Commercial jars, such as glass mayonnaise jars, are designed for a single commercial application; therefore, they are not recommended for home canning. As noted above, pickled products should be heat processed in a boiling water canner. Commercial jars may not withstand the temperatures required for home canning. In addition, commercial jars vary in size which may prevent the lid from sealing and possibly leave the food under processed.

Dear Sun Spots: I am looking for a cross-stitch pattern of the Portland Headlight. My neighbor has one of these hangings that was done by a close friend of hers some years ago. However, this friend moved out of state and gave all of her patterns to a church group at Minot Corner. If anyone from this group knows of this pattern, I sure would appreciate being able to get a copy of it. I can be reached at 346-302l, ask for Barbara. -Barbara, Minot.

Dear Sun Spots: I was told you could put regular rice in bags to heat for sore spots. Can you do this? Also, two years ago I made neck coolers for the men and women overseas and used a product from Schultz – moisture plus – watering crystals. They no longer make this. Is there anything else that can be used? Thank you. – No Name, No Town.

Answer: Any type of rice should be fine to use in rice bags as long as it’s not instant or minute rice. Some people prefer to use plain uncooked long grain white rice and others prefer basmati rice for its “nuttier” fragrance. We also found crafters who make them with flax seed, deer corn or bird seed.

After researching neck coolers, Sun Spots found many references to Watersorb polymer granules that are available at You can also sometimes find them at gardening centers as these are the type of crystals you add to planters to help them retain moisture. Watersorb recommend using only 1-3 teaspoons of the granules for each neck cooler. If too many granules are used, they will ooze through the fabric tube when the cooler is soaked in water. After usage, hang it to dry. It can be used over and over again.

Dear Sun Spots: The simple yet powerful act of changing the batteries in smoke alarms when you change the clock back on November 2 can double a family’s chances of getting out of a home fire alive. As a 33-year fire service veteran, I have witnessed firsthand the tragedy and devastation of home fires. It’s even more heartbreaking when a young life is cut short. On average, nearly two children die each day in home fires. Overall, roughly 80 percent of home fire deaths in this country occur in homes without working smoke alarms.

Considering that residential fires peak in winter months, it makes sense to change your smoke alarm batteries each and every fall. This reminder to “change your clock, change your battery” comes from Energizer batteries, Mexico Fire Department and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. – Richard Jones, Deputy Chief, Mexico Fire Department.

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