Gift Jars–Who says they need to be given as gifts?

Every year, some people sit down with a bunch of ingredients and Mason jars, and they go to work. Their aim is to make several gift jars, filled with partial ingredients for lots of goodies, to give as gifts for their loved ones during the holidays. I say, why do you need to give them as gifts? Why not make the jars, label them, and then put them in your pantry? Then you can get them out to make whatever is in them on a moment’s notice. Have a cookie craving? There’s a peanut butter cookie recipe right there, waiting to be mixed and baked up. Need a warm, cozy soup for a cold winter’s night? Right there, ready to be simmered and served. You can go online and look for jar-specific recipes, or you can convert your own recipes into jar recipes. With a minimum of on-hand ingredients, and a variety of sizes of Mason jars, you can do several jars in an afternoon. Here are some tips to remember when putting together jars:

Decide what kind of jar recipe you’re going to assemble, and how many of them you want. Do you want cookies, brownies, soup, or pasta? Any one of those kinds of recipes can be turned into a jar recipe. All you have to do is leave out the wet ingredients–eggs, milk or water, butter or oil–you get the picture. The dry ingredients will be left, and those will be the ones you layer into your jars.

Decide how you’re going to layer the ingredients. Make it as decorative as possible, but don’t put similar-colored ingredients such as sugar and flour right on top of each other; separate these with something of a different color and/or texture, such as brown sugar, nuts, chocolate chips, etc. To fill narrow-mouth jars with things like flour or sugar without the ingredients spilling out as you try to spoon them in, use a canning funnel.

Some ingredients need to be separated from the rest. Things such as seasonings may need to be placed into a small resealable bag and then laid on top of everything else after you’ve layered everything in the jar. It might be helpful to pre-measure these ingredients and put them into the bags, then set one bag next to each jar you intend to fill.

Make sure you measure your ingredients properly. Incorrectly measured ingredients will make your jars all wrong, and the ingredients may not fit into the jar size indicated. This is especially true for baking. To properly measure flour, spoon it into the measuring cup to overflowing, resisting the urge to shake or tap it. Take a utensil with a straight edge, such as the top edge of a knife, and scrape across the rim of the measuring cup to remove the excess. If you need to measure more than one cup of the flour, take the excess flour from measuring the previous cup, and use it to partially fill the next cup.

Plan ahead during the holidays. Have enough to make some for your family, and some for everyone else on your gift list. For the ones you’ll be gifting, you can label them with cooking directions using a small card that you print out on your computer. For your family, take the time to have such cards laminated for reuse.

The idea is very simple. Buy packs of pre-perforated business card sheets for either inkjet or laser printers. Design some labels using a business card template which can be found either in Word® or online. To find the templates in Word®, go to labels. There’s a drop-down menu that you can look through to find the brand and item number of the cards you’ve bought. Click it and then design your cards. Feed the sheets into your printer, and print them out. Tear along the perforations, and you have the cards with instructions for the jars. Take the ones that you’ll be using for your family to a local copy shop to have them laminated. For both the laminated and plain ones, punch a small hole in the corner to thread string or ribbon through to tie to the neck of the jar. The lamination will protect the cards, allowing them to be wiped clean and reused as needed.

So what are you waiting for? Go out and buy some ingredients and jars, and get to making those jar recipes! Do you have any ideas for what can be put into jars? Feel free to comment below.

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