Suggestions for labelling your jars to be given as gifts
When wrapping homemade food gifts, here are some things you’ll want to inform the recipient.
- Month and year the product was made;
- Name of the product.
The first two items above are basic.
The following additional points help the gift to be more useful to the person, if you can somehow supply:
- Any common food allergens in the food product, such as nuts or shrimp;
- Storage, handling, and use-by instructions;
- Ideas on how to use it (“this honey onion glaze is great with pork”);
- The reputable source that you got the recipe from.
That being said, it’s nice from the canner’s point of view also to sneak in a hint about returning the jar, if not needed afterward by the recipient! Too many people today think they’ve done a good deed if they toss an empty Mason jar in the recycling bin.
The most practical and useful thing might be to put the first two vital basic points on the jar label. Then, have a word processing file with the other info that you just quickly modify as necessary, hit the print button on it, fold the print-out up and tuck it in the gift bag with the jar.
Note: Some USDA Extension Agents say to include a complete list of ingredients on your label1. They must have awfully big labels at their universities, and an awful lot of time to hand-write that on each jar. That suggestion really only works if you are able to print out the whole recipe for people from a website, and hand them the print-out separately.
Use tested recipes for food gifts
Give something made from a reputable source. And let the recipient know that it’s from a reputable source. That should give cautious people the confidence to enjoy your gift with great relish.
If you are using a tested recipe from a reputable source, you will be able to gift with confidence and no worries. An Internet user commented in a canning thread about being afraid to give her home canned food to people: “I have been canning for about four years and at first it was daunting, everything I made stayed in the house until I was sure I had the methods down properly….” 2
Gifts are not the time to use recipes from trendy new canning books
Don’t take chances when giving gifts on a funky new recipe from a funky new author. Remember the hip recipe for Watermelon Jelly that ended up making jars of spreadable botulism for lucky recipients in Vancouver a few years back?
Watch out for recipe authors reviving “retro” methods such as open kettle canning, microwave canning, oven canning, or inversion canning, that were proven unsafe decades ago. If the food product isn’t processed in a sealed jar by either water-bath canning (or steam canning), or pressure canning, as appropriate, then it’s not safe to give.
There are so many lab-tested recipes from safe sources such as Ball, Bernardin, Canadian Living that your friends and family will find sensational, and creative enough. Linda Ziedrich’s two books — Pickles and Jellies — are safe and fabulous. There are actually even some recipes that people go crazy for in the USDA Complete Guide (such as the marinated mushrooms or pickled Brussels sprouts), as stodgy as the guide may seem otherwise.
An Internet user has commented about not taking a chance on what you make to give:
I simply won’t take the chance with myself, my loved ones or friends I gift my home canned foods to, by giving them home products canned with questionable outdated methods. I can’t imagine how anyone might feel that gifted that one jar that carried botulism spores not destroyed during processing. It’s just not worth it.” 3
Many people are afraid of homemade canned food gifts
Some people do some pretty hinky home canning, so it’s no small wonder that homemade food gifts can have a very mixed reputation. Many people thank you for your present, and then throw it out because of this.
Here’s a quote from a Chow Hound forum thread:
I have some friends who think they know how to do canning, but I really don’t trust their preservation methods so end up ditching whatever they give me.” 4
Here’s an excerpt from an article, “Homemade holiday food baskets may give gift of botulism”:
Four years ago, my neighbor came to my door with a jar of mustard she made,’ says Laura Shumaker, a 55-year-old advocate for families with autistic children from Lafayette, Calif. ‘Then she tells me, ‘Oh my God, we’ve been so sick at our house. We’ve all had the stomach flu.’
Worried about flu germs — or worse — Shumaker didn’t even open the jar.
‘It went right into the trash — clunk!’ she says. ‘And then I had to go wash my hands. I’m just not a big lover of homemade goods unless I really know and trust the person.’ 5
You can counter this by using a tested recipe from a reputable, “canning-as-a-science” based source — and let your recipients know that you have! Make sure your home canned gifts don’t end up in the trash bin, unopened!
Andress, Elizabeth. Be Safe Eating Your Homemade Gifts. National Center for Home Food Preservation. December 2010.
Burtness, Carol Ann. Is Your Homemade Food Gift Safe to Eat? University of Minnesota Extension. 2011.
National Center for Home Food Preservation blog. Tips for Gifting your Home-Canned Goodies. 10 December 2015.
User Rosey. Comment posted on 11 October 2013. Accessed March 2015 at http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/oven-canning-method.htm/comment-page-4#comment-45764 ↩
User comment 4 January 2011. Accessed March 2015 at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/757462?commentId=6186436#6186436 ↩
Mapes, Diane. Homemade holiday food baskets may give gift of botulism. NBC News. 13 December 2010. Accessed March 2015 . ↩