I use Mason (or Ball, or Kerr) jars in my kitchen
all the time, not only for preserving (or canning, or 'putting-up')
foods that are abundant in the summer, but for general storage. For
me, they are much better to use than plastic for several reasons:
1. They don't keep the smell of whatever food you put in them, and they don't stain
2. You can use them for dry storage in your cupboard, cold storage in the fridge or use them to freeze food as well
3. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but only use 2 different sizes of lids - wide mouth and regular, with two ring sizes. No more searching through the plastics bin for the lid that almost fits. Replacement lids are easy to find (most hardware stores, even here in Brooklyn carry them).
(Photo 1: from left to rigtht - pesto frozen in 4oz jar; tomato chutney in 1/2 pint jar; peach jam in 1/2 pint jar; empty quart jar; frozen chicken stock in a 2 quart jar. Photo 2: the two sizes (only!) of lids and rings.)
4. They look nicer - I'm happy to display a pint sized Mason jar of dried beans on an open shelf in my kitchen. I would never do that with something plastic.
5. You can also argue that they are multi-purpose as well because they can be used for serving food and drinks. I actually don't like drinking from them, but apparently it's a trend.
Obviously, one drawback vs. plastic is that they break much more easily. Don't drop them!
I do think that anyone who likes cooking and doing things in the kitchen should learn basic canning techniques. Acidic vegetables (tomatoes) and pickles and chutneys are very safe to can at home with simple hot water bath canning techniques. Fruit jams and jellies are easy as well. My grandma Dot used to spend days in the hottest part of a Georgia summer, canning everything that came from their garden: tomatoes, corn, green beans and pickles, so I learned a lot from her. But one of my favorite resources on home canning is a little book called "The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food." Organized by food type, it gives multiple ways (drying, canning or freezing) to preserve all sorts of food, gives recipes, and highlights the best method for each type of food.
And really, it's one of the best things, sometime in the middle of February, to go to your cupboard and to pull out and open a jar of home canned tomatoes. It smells just like summer.