Here’s a few of my suggestions:
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?