01/25/2012 05:42 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

The Unsung Hero Of Kitchen Tools: The Jam Jar

When you've reached the bottom of your jam jar, do you throw it away? Don't! Save that jam jar -- it's actually very functional for more than just keeping the jam you bought at the supermarket. Since you've already paid for the jam, you get to keep the jar -- so why not put it to use? Throwing it away is just like throwing away your hard-earned money. All you need to do is wash it before you put it to use. It's the cheapest tool you'll ever have in the kitchen.

Jam jars have many great uses, starting with storage. Things like spices, spice rubs, house seasoning, homemade condiments, homemade jams/jellies, homemade pesto, homemade simple syrup and many other things can be stored in a jam jar.

But my absolute favorite use for a jam jar is using it to make salad dressings and vinaigrettes. This way you don't need to dirty a second bowl to whisk up your dressing. What you do is as follows:

  • Add your oil and vinegar to the jar, plus some salt and pepper, and any other spices and flavorings you prefer -- for example, mustard, honey and chopped rosemary.
  • Tighten on the lid.
  • Shake the jar like a cocktail shaker, for at least 30 seconds.

This is the easiest way to make dressings and vinaigrettes. All the ingredients emulsify perfectly and all you have to do is pour the dressing over your salad. You can also make marinades this way. And if you have any leftover dressing, you can store the jar in the fridge for next time.

Jam jars aren't the only jars that are useful. If you've got a jar of mustard that's almost empty, use it to make a mustard vinaigrette -- just add oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Watch the video below to see how it's done.

What is your favorite kitchen tool? Leave a comment below.