After the canning is done, your jars need to be washed, then labelled with name and date before they can be put away.
This can be the fun climax for the person who does one or two batches of jam a year, giving them a frisson of joy as they carefully write out 12 labels in their best ever handwriting with little hearts for nice display on their prize creations.
For other people who can a lot more than that each season, the final step of labelling can be an exhausting chore.
Some people use a magic marker to write on their metal canning lids. This works, unless you are using re-usable lids such as Tattlers, or, have a lazy family and need a label right on the side of the jar, staring at them from the shelf.
Others use a label which is affixed to the jar, or to the lid.
Either way, there may be no better way yet, sadly, than to do your labelling by hand, even though no one wants to write out “green beans” 72 times. Writing out labels, and cheques, for some people may be the only real times anymore that they do any handwriting. Just how out of practice you are may show in all the complaints you get from friends and family as they try to decipher your writing on the labels!
What about getting the computer to print your canning jar labels out?
The issue is (besides the cost of computer labels) that computer labels can just stick to jars so much that whatever repetitive work you save “going in”, the work to clean them off the jars later is just not worth it. Cleaning the label gunk off the jars can take far longer than the time you saved in not writing them out, and require special chemicals such as “Goo be gone” to dissolve the label residue off. Some people suggest, again, affixing the label to your one-time-use dispoable metal lids, then you don’t need to care about getting the label off.
Another factor to consider is the cost of purchased, decorative labels. They can easily be 10 cents or higher per label, depending on where you got them and if there were on sale or not, etc. Sometimes, particularly if you are canning summer produce that you grew or was given to you, that combined with the cost of the metal lid can be higher than the cost of your ingredients inside the jar.
Ball and Bernardin sell labels by the roll, which work out to be less expensive. Though these aren’t coloured as the decorative labels are, they have the advantage of dissolving off the jar easily when water hits them. Some people have noted though that this is also a disadvantage, because the labels will also dissolve when you take a cold jar of pickles out of the fridge on a hot day and condensation forms on the jar.
There are also templates on the Internet that you can download and printout, but that raises the question of how you stick them onto the jars.
Some people swear by using coloured painter’s masking tape.
It sticks well, while being designed specially to come off easily and not leave any residue behind. The colour adds a bit of jauntiness to the jars on the shelves. You can swap colour from year to year if you wish, so that last year’s items stand out more easily as a priority for using up. And the cost per jar labelled works out really low. There is only one downside — that labels must be written by hand, still.
Even so, when giving a jar of something as a gift, it is nice to use a fancy, purchased decorative label on the jar.
Whatever you use as the label, and however you do it — by hand or printer — just remember to always, always do it: product name and date. (Month and year are usually sufficient).
(Some keeners suggest you should also record batch numbers, and ingredients, but we’re sure that the home canning pros would just be happy to get all of us doing product name and date, to start.)