This Christmas will be leaner for our family, as it will be for most. This makes me think more about useful, practical, and home made gifts. One way I plan to give this year is by offering gifts in a jar - home canned foods or recipe ingredients packed attractively in a canning jar.
I've found most people are really appreciative of home canned foods, whether I'm giving away apple butter or chicken soup. Canned goods are often attractive on their own, but I've been researching ways to dress them up a bit.
Labels are vital, so recipients know what they are receiving - and, in some cases, how to prepare it. Google "canning jar labels" and you'll get 704,000 hits. Or, just take a peek at some of my favorites. Print them on sticker paper, available at office supply stores:
* A Sonoma Garden offers some simple country designs.
* HP has both lid labels and labels to place on the sides of jars.
* Martha Stewart's jam labels are quite lovely.
* For modern simplicity, try Merriment Design's canning labels.
* Sweet Preservation has several styles of labels with simple flair.
* For something with a Victorian feel, visit iDIY.
* You can also purchase stamp sets for creating canning labels. My Time has some lovely products for this purpose. The image above was created with their products.
I don't recommend using tie-on tags to identify the contents of jars; they fall off and get lost too easily. If you don't want to put stickers on the jars, consider this solution:
Print lid labels on card stock, then lay a jar ring on top of each label and closely trace around the outside with a pencil. Cut out each label, cutting along the inside of the penciled circle. Then place the labels on the inside of the jar rings and screw the rings onto the jars. I've seen examples of this where canners print both sides of the label and the inside reads "please return jars, if you can't use them." You could also print an ingredient list on the back side.
Aside from labels, the traditional jar dress up is to cut a circle from fabric, place it under the jar ring, and either screw it in place, or use a ribbon, piece of raffia, or a rubber band to hold it in place. You can pretty this up considerably by using pinking shears for cutting, or by taking the time to cut a scalloped edge. Well Preserved is also running ideas on "pimping up" canning jars, but honestly, I think most of the time, canning jars look prettiest as is.
If you need to ship home canned foods, I recommend the following:
1. Find a sturdy box, two times larger than you'd use if the jars weren't breakable.
2. Line the bottom of the box with about an inch of bubble wrap. Or, if you have some laying around, use a layer of shipping foam.
3. Line the sides of the box with about an inch of bubble wrap or foam.
4. Wrap each jar individually in bubble wrap, taping the wrap closed along the bottom, top, and sides, so the jar can't slide out.
5. Place the bubble wrapped jars in the box, filling in any extra space with crumbled newspaper, wrapping paper, or bubble wrap.
6. Lay about an inch of bubble wrap over the entire contents of the box.
7. Seal the box securely with packing tape, on both the top and bottom openings.
UPDATE 12/2011: For more gifts in a jar ideas, see my 2011 update, here.