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.

Labeling

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?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Talk Dirty To Me

Oh Ryan Gosling, you sure do know how to get a girl all worked up!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Strawberry Jam Oatmeal Bars

So, about this time of year, I'm busy clearing out the deep freezer and canning larder to make room for the onslaught of produce that's just around the corner. I always have a few extra jars of jam tucked away, or I'm making jam with the frozen fruit from last year to make room in the freezer. Either way, I'm never without jam.

This recipe is a WONDERFUL way to use up any stray jars of jam you may have, not to mention it is super easy and scrumptious. It's a Pioneer Woman recipe and was on my wish list of canning and cooking recipes to try this year.

And feel free to use any flavor jam you want. I made these with some fig preserves a while ago and the bars came out like nubby, yummy fig newtons!


Strawberry Jam Oatmeal Bars

1 & 3/4 sticks Cold Butter, Cut Into Pieces
1 1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
1 &1/2 cups Oats (quick or regular)
1 cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 jar (10 To 12 Ounce) Strawberry Preserves (or any flavor you wish)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 or 8 x 10 baking dish.

Mix together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse crumbs (I just use my fingers). Sprinkle half the mixture into the pan and pat lightly to pack it a little tight.

If your preserves or jam have an especially firm set, take the band and lid off your jam jar and heat your jam in the jar in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds, or until the jam can be stirred easily with a spoon. Spoon strawberry preserves evenly over the surface, then use a dinner knife to carefully spread it around. Sprinkle the other half of the oat mixture over the top and pat lightly again.

Bake until light golden brown on top, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in pan. When cool, cut into squares and serve. Yum!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Don't Make Fun of My Rice Cooker

I have this commercial sized rice cooket that I use for parties and social events. It can make like 60 cups of rice....hey when you need it, you need it! When I bring this into work for pot lucks, I always get teased.

Hmmphf!

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