Joy in a jar
Nov./Dec. 2014 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Gwen Schoen
Photos by Sarah Lee
'Tis the season for gifts from the kitchen
Gwen Schoen has been writing about food in California for more than 30 years, including four years writing "The Farmer and the Foodie" column for California Bountiful. She's known as a powerhouse in the kitchen who enjoys sharing her creations with family and friends.
A friend loves it when I make chai tea for her visits. To be honest, I'm not sure if it's the tea she enjoys or the hours spent catching up while we sip our steaming mugs.
One day, when I was mixing up a big batch of chai tea mix, I made an extra jar to send home with her. She was so happy with the gift that I started wondering what else I could use to fill up those old Mason jars stashed in the garage since I gave up home canning.
Before long, I was into mass production. Pea soup mix, granola, pancake mix—there was no stopping as long as I had jars to fill. If the jars were to be gifts, they needed some dressing up. At the fabric store, I discovered you can buy small pieces of quilting fabric called fat quarters. Each piece was large enough to make padded tops for about 10 jars. A little ribbon and raffia for trim, and I was set.
As my husband surveyed the overflowing shelf in the laundry room, he asked a question I should have anticipated: "How will people know what to do with this stuff?"
Gift cards! I booted up the computer, launched my favorite clip-art program and loaded the printer with card stock. The cards I produced with recipe instructions were helpful, but plain, so I made another trip to the craft store to purchase decorative craft scissors and paper punches.
The next time my friend stopped by, she saw what I had been working on. "Wow," she said. "You are really into this gifts-in-a-jar thing."
Maybe so, but I'll tell you one thing: I am ready for any gift-giving occasion that comes up.
Decorating jar lids the easy way
Start with clean, dry jars fitted with lids and rings. In this case, lids do not have to be new—just clean and dry. I like padded lids, but that's up to you. If you prefer flat lids, simply omit padding references in the following instructions:
Tips for making gifts in a jar
Ah, the Mason jar. So many possibilities: storing nails and screws; saving rubber bands; stashing embroidery thread; a shaker jar for glitter crafts; candleholders; beverage containers; and, of course, canning fruits and vegetables! Here's another suggestion: Make snack or ingredient mixes and turn jars into decorated containers for gifts from the kitchen. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Use only ingredients that are shelf-stable so that they are easy to store.
- Attach a card or sticker that includes instructions on how to use the mix.
- Include a "use-by" date if it makes a difference.
- It's a good idea to list ingredients on the card just in case the recipient has any food allergies.
- Fat quarters—small pieces of fabric used by quilters—make pretty, decorative toppers for jars. One quarter is large enough to decorate eight to 10 jars. You will find a variety of them at many fabric stores for about $2 each.
- If you are going to make a lot of gift jars, it is worthwhile to buy a roll of quilt batting for padded tops. Cotton balls work, too, if you are just making a few gifts.
- When cutting the fabric for jar tops, place the ring down on the fabric and cut the fabric in a circle or square about 2 inches larger than the ring to allow for the padded top and some frill around the edge.
- Decorate jars with stickers, ribbons and strands of raffia or ribbon.
Print-ready gift cards
Download ready-to-print color gift cards—complete with instructions and space for a personal message—and recipe cards.