Home Canning for the Holidays
The first time I gave home-canned food as a gift, it was a sheer act of convenience. It was a Yankee Swap (or White Elephant exchange, depending on where you’re from), in which a present is selected at random by a guest and opened. Subsequent guests may select a new gift or “steal” a gift that has already been opened. My contribution was a small basket bearing four jars of homemade jam I had pulled from the pantry and a fresh loaf of bread. It was opened early, drew a fairly impressive chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” and was promptly “stolen." And stolen again. It passed hands three or four times that evening and the final recipient took that basket home like she had won the Stanley Cup. I learned an important lesson that night: Everybody appreciates a homemade gift and you’ll never go wrong with food.
I do a lot more canning these days and more than a few jars will find their way into Christmas stockings or be shipped to friends near and far. There is something personal about sharing the harvest, even if some of the harvest came from the farmer’s market last summer. Not to cheapen that magical sentiment, but giving the gift of home-canned goods is not only economical, it will be appreciated by just about anyone, be it your closest friends or that guy in the office who did that nice thing for you that time.
If you are new to canning or an old pro, here are a few tips for sharing the bounty in a way that will place you squarely on the “nice” list this holiday season.
What to Give
Jams and jellies are always a hit, but throw the pantry wide open. Pickles of all sorts, sauces, salsas and other garden favorites are always welcome under the tree. Depending on the recipient, consider including “exotic” fare like chow chow or rose petal jelly alongside the familiar classics like bread and butter pickles or strawberry jam.
Unusual jars or decorative covers add a distinctive flair. Pack jars into attractive baskets, boxes or jar caddies. If presenting as a host gift, skip the wrapping paper and let the vibrant colors of your canned goods serve as their own flourish.
As with all canning projects, a label should be attached that includes the contents and canning date. Handmade labels and descriptive names add to the charm of the homemade gift. Consider including details about the source of the produce or the recipe used to further personalize your handiwork.
Your home canning projects are gifts that will be appreciated, but it’s easy to up the ante by accessorizing. Include a crusty loaf of bread or fancy crackers with jams or jellies, tortilla chips with your spicy homemade salsa or dried pasta to go with that spaghetti sauce.
Sharing home-canned garden produce is a gift that will be remembered long after the jars are empty. If you’re sly about working it into conversation, you may even get the jars back when they’re done.