Want to give some of those jars of jam, jellies and preserves as gifts this holiday season? Lanette from Homesteading on the Homefront has some great ideas to make those gifts really special with these ideas to make your gift baskets and bags really pop this season.
I have been asked more than once what I do with all of the jams that I can during the year. Here in coastal VA, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, figs, and pears are all very easy to source locally and I enjoy putting them up. It would be an understatement to say that my larder is well stocked. I have cases of canned goods in many rooms of the house!
So naturally, when the holidays are upon us and our thoughts turn to gift-giving, it’s an obvious choice for me. Who doesn’t love a jar of homemade jam? But presentation is key, as let’s face it — most non-homesteaders don’t appreciate the beauty of a canning jar like we do! The time to start preparing for next year is Dec. 26th when stores have all their Christmas items on clearance. All year long, while shopping at thrift stores and yard sales, I am on the look-out for items to use for gift-giving: Ribbon, baskets, “grass” and shreds to put in the baskets, gift bags, mercerized cotton for dishcloths, etc.
What follows is a sampling of ideas to get you inspired in your own gift-giving. (I’ve even included some non-Christmas ideas, as homemade preserves make great gifts year-round!)
First and foremost, I cannot stress the importance of labels. Not only do they provide important information, they also help tremendously with presentation. The best tutorial I found came from Erica over at Northwest Edible Life, and you can read the post HERE. Now, sometimes you don’t want a whole sheet of the same labels, so in addition to using the Avery Template, I took the time to develop my own in Word so that I can print a variety of labels on one page. I print these on the full-sheet labels so that I can fit 12 on each page. It’s easy to cut them out with a punch, a circle cutter, or just plain scissors.
Once you’ve mastered the art of labels, it’s time to start thinking about packaging jars for gift-giving.
The easiest way, of course, is to use gift bags.
I like to buy plain bags when I can get them really cheap, and use old cards to decorate them. This works for Christmas, but also for birthdays!
Wine bags are great, too, because you can perfectly fit 3 jelly jars, one on top of the other. The recipient is certainly not expecting jam, so they are in for a sweet surprise.
Personally, I don’t like to hide my jars when gifting them, so although it’s not as easy, I tend to use baskets to package them up.
I found this tiny basket (already decorated with the trim) at the thrift store for 45 cents. I knew it would be perfect for the small 4oz jars of apple butter I made. I added a handmade ornament (easy to make by painting an old canning jar lid), and it’s all ready to be delivered.
Another way to package your jars is using dishtowels.
I found these pear towels on sale at William Sonoma. Inside is a jar of pear preserves and a jar of pear-fig jam. I’ve also seen some fruit/veggie related towels on clearance at Crate&Barrel. Combined with free shipping offers, you’d be surprised at how inexpensive they are.
If you are wanting to do more than just jars, theme baskets are the way to go. You are only limited by your imagination! This first gift basket is a “PB&J Theme”:
In it, we have a loaf of homemade bread, a jar of jelly, and a jar of homemade peanut butter (which needs to be refrigerated), along with a homemade dishcloth and scrubbie to help with clean up. As you can see, I’ve decorated the basket with a snowman ornament which hints at the contents but doesn’t give anything away!
Next, there’s a hot cocoa theme…
In it, I’ve included a bag of homemade cocoa mix with marshmallows, a jar of chocolate-mint syrup, and an empty jar with a lid and straw from EcoJarz. I also crocheted a cozy to fit around the jar. To decorate the chocolate-mint syrup, I used an old Christmas card from last year.
This year, I’ve had a lot of friends express an interest in learning how to can. If anyone on your gift list has done the same, it would be very easy to put together a jar of jam, your favorite canning book, some pectin, and a certificate for a ‘free canning class’ taught by you! You could go all out and include a funnel, a lid wand, a case of jars, etc. I very firmly believe that we have a duty to pass on our food preserving knowledge to those who would like to learn. Once upon a time, people could learn from their grandmas. Unfortunately, that is no longer true, and I believe we, as modern homesteaders, need to be the ones to pass on the torch.
As I said earlier, Christmas is not the only time to give our homemade and heartfelt gifts. Here are some more ideas that are easily adapted to any occasion.
This basket contains a jar of Peach Anise Hyssop Jam. The small box contains Anise Hyssop seeds that I collected from my garden. Adding a couple of peach-colored dishcloths continues the theme. Lemon Balm and Lemon Verbena are also great to use in Jams. Instead of seeds, you could include a small plant.
If you are a paper-crafter, the possibilities are endless! I have amassed a nice collection of canning and fruit-veggie themed stamps. This enables me to coordinate cards with gifts.
Here, I decorated a jar of peach butter with the same paper I used on the card. Adding a matching ribbon classes it up. When I need a more substantial gift, I simply make a set of notecards to go along with the jar.
I am always looking for fabric with fruit motifs. I sew 4” strips on to coordinating towels, add a matching dishcloth, and a jar to match. In this case, a quart of cherry pie filling. I am NOT really comfortable with a sewing machine, so trust me when I tell you the towels are easy. If you’d like to make your own, this is the tutorial I used. I found most of the towels at Marshalls and TJ Maxx.
When you need a really impressive gift, I suggest going with a “Jam of the Month” basket. This one is clearly decorated for fall, but a simple change of ribbon and accessories makes it appropriate for any occasion.
Next year I think I may change things up a bit and explore Meal-in-a-Basket ideas. I’m thinking a jar of homemade pasta sauce, homemade bread, and some homemade pasta or a jar of home-canned chicken with some dehydrated jalapenos from the garden, canned beans, and a recipe for White Chicken Chili… or quarts of canned soup with a loaf of bread. For dessert, I may try layering the ingredients for my favorite Oatmeal Bars into a quart jar and including a jar of jam, along with the recipe. A breakfast basket could include homemade scones, hot cocoa mix, jam, and some fresh fruit. The possibilities are endless.
I hope you’re inspired to share your homemade and heartfelt gifts with others. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from our homestead to yours.
Lanette Lepper is a chicken keeper, beekeeper, gardener, food-preserver, and crafter. She is an administrator for the Virginia Urban Homesteaders League, an active member of the Beekeepers Guild of Southeast Virginia, a Certified Backyard Chicken Keeper, and a blogger for Mother Earth News. Originally from south-central Massachusetts, she currently lives in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia with her Navy-engineer husband and two children. You can follow her homesteading adventures here.