Thursday, May 09, 2013

How to Gift Home Canned Foods

Years ago when I first started canning, not very many people were doing it and it hadn’t received the “in thing to do” popularity that home canning has today. So, I have learned some things along the way about giving my precious home canned food as gifts to friends and family. The purpose of this post is to ensure that your canned goods are going to be well received and eaten, which makes everyone happy!

If you would like some tips on how to pack and ship home canned goods for the holidays, check out my other post here:

How to Pack Label and Pack Canned Food for Shipping

But if you're wondering WHO and WHAT you should give, here’s a few of my suggestions:

Are They Worthy?

When I first started out, I was SO proud to share what I had made with everyone I knew. I remember one year I gave every single person in my office a jar of homemade jam for Christmas. Later, I found out that most of what I gave away was tossed in the garbage because my jars didn’t have a familiar food label on them. When I would share a jar of jam, salsa, pickles, whatever, many people would look at me like I just picked a booger and offered it to them on the end of a stick.

Again, this was BEFORE the recent “Canvolution” took off and many people viewed home canning as something that hillbillies or hippies did. They had no idea that what I was offering was by far better quality, better tasting, and healthier than anything they could purchase in a store. So, much of what I had worked so hard on was tossed away and not appreciated.

Today, more people are receptive to receiving home canned goods, as the craft has received a lot of attention lately; however, I have learned to regularly give my precious and delicious canned goods to people who I think are worthy to receive them. You’ll know who these people are, as they will tell you how much they loved what you gave them last. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get the empty jar back too, which is canning lingo for “Thank you; please refill!” I still share canned goods with people I don’t know that well, usually as “thank you” gifts, but I have learned to be picky about whom I give my canned goods.

Please don’t interpret this as sharing with people who only give me positive feedback. I know the act of sharing is to give without any expectation, and I often do. It’s just that when you spend so much time, money and effort to pick, skin, pit, chop, cook, and can what your making, not to mention if you went further back and grew or raised that food, you learn to be more discriminating and choose to regularly give to people who appreciate what went into what your giving. Now that I live in Virginia, I have found more “jar worthy” people up here as home canning is pretty common, which is wonderful!

Selection and Size

Now, I know you feel that your home-fermented Wild Juniper Sauerkraut is the BEST thing since sliced bread, but your “jar worthy” friends might not feel the same. When giving home canned goods to people you don’t know that well, it’s best to stick to common foods that are less exotic. Usually, this is limited to jams, jellies, and pickles. Relishes are good too, but not too exotic. Once you learn what your friends and family like and they are more open to trying new things, feel free to share that quart of Wild Juniper Sauerkraut! Also, think about presentation. That jar of beef stew may be the bomb, but I bet it looks like a scary science project to someone who is not familiar with how food “really” looks outside of a tin can.

Which brings me to size…

Start with giving pints or half pints as gifts. A big quart of sauerkraut or pie filling can be intimidating to the uninitiated, which may lead to your food not being eaten. Start them slow and small.


Another thing I’ve learned about giving canned food as gifts is that people want to know what they’re eating. Not only does this help people identify ingredients they may not like or have allergies to, but in general, people will be more receptive to eating home canned food if they know what’s in it. When making canning labels, be sure to list the name of the item and the ingredients (if they will fit on the label). If an ingredient’s list won’t fit on the label, make a tag and tie it to the jar.

And speaking of labels, for the love of baby Jesus please don’t use the adhesive labels that are meant to be stuck to the sides of the jar! If you have any hope in getting your jars back or don’t want to spend hours scrubbing off adhesive glue, use round labels that are stuck to the lid (which are disposed after the jar is empty). I’ll even admit that I would rather throw an empty jar away (recycle) than spend the time it takes to soak and scrub the label and glue off.

Avery makes round labels that are easy to design and print. If you can swing it, use a laser printer to print your labels so the ink won’t run from condensation in the refrigerator. Labels made with ink jet printers will run.

Quantity and Variety

I’ve been guilty of giving people 7 types of jam all at one time. Unless they have a horrible sugar addiction, a very large family, or a bed and breakfast, most people will take a long time to finish a single jar of jam or jelly. Over the years, I’ve learned to give my regular “jar worthy” friends and family a variety of canned food and not bombard them with 6 quarts of pickles at one time. I’ve also learned to make in quantity of what people like. My salsa, apple butter, B&B pickles and pepper jellies will disappear before the jars are barely cool enough to handle; however, my pickled asparagus, fig preserves, and sauerkraut won’t get second requests (no matter how much I love them, so I make them for me!).

So, there you have it. These are some of my suggestions for successfully gifting home canned goods. With luck, your friends and family will rave and beg for more, but if not, that’s okay too.

Do you have any suggestions for gifting home canned foods?


Mary said...

I must speak up as the one person who is a HUGE fan of your pickled asparagus, fig preserves, and sauerkraut . Your fermented sauerkraut is worth walking over hot coals to get. Crawling even- it's THAT good!

Just the Right Size said...

Thank you sweetie! You know you are one of THE most jar-worthy friends I have. :-)

Tamara said...

I just learned how to can and really appreciate these tips from a seasoned pro. One practical question I have, do you give jars with or without screw bands? Also, once friends pop the lids to eat the homemade goodness, how should they keep the remaining preserves?

Just the Right Size said...


Thanks for stopping by! I only use the screw bands. I've tried those one piece lids in the past and they've been unreliable for sealing during processing. Plus they are pretty expensive! That's too bad because I do think they're neat.

Jellies, jams, and pickles/relishes can safely keep in the refrigerator for several weeks, even a couple of months after opening. But I've found out from my friends and family that they usually eat it all way before that! There really is a difference in quality from homemade and storebought.

Tamara said...

Many thanks for your fast response!

Noted: you give BOTH the lids and screw bands at the same time (since it's recommended to store the jars without screw bands). I asked because I had given my second jam set with lids only, no screw bands, so I imagine it was a bit tricky keeping them in the fridge without some plastic wrap or other easier cover.

Just the Right Size said...


Yes, I give both the band and the lid. This ensures the lid has reenforcement and won't come off, especially if I'm sending it through the mail to someone out of state. Some lids are easy to pry off (even though they are sealed and safe), so I don't want to take a chance. Plus it makes the jar look more "legitimate" in my opinion.

I keep two types of bands for canning: those that I use during processing and the shiny, new bands that I put on my jars for gifts. Appearance is everything!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this post. Canning of food has been used by many generations before us, and is still used today. Preserving the fresh produce is one of the major reasons why canning is still popular. We’re talking about preserving the nutritional value. See more


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