Food preservation can be a holiday gift

Just because the gardens have quit producing doesn’t mean you have to quit canning. Canning is a fun and easy way to make holiday gifts for friends and family.

The holidays are around the corner and before you put that canner away for the winter months, consider making a few holiday gifts. Easy to create ideas include jams, jellies, fruit butters, syrups or chutney. Michigan State University Extension suggests using The National Center for Home Food Preservation as a reference for a variety of unique and safe research based recipes that can be created in your kitchen by yourself or with a few friends. The key is sticking to tested recipes and following the directions for safe, perfect results.

By exploring different options prior to diving into the project, you can set up an efficient activity for an afternoon of productivity. Begin by checking out The National Center for Home Food Preservation’s website and look for one or two recipes that will fit into what is available in the grocery store or farmers’ markets inventory and what you are comfortable making. Be sure you have plenty of the appropriate sized jars on hand; some stores are clearing out shelves now and marking them down or putting them away since the season is over. Remember, some ingredients are not interchangeable, like powder pectin for liquid pectin, so make sure you have a recipe that will work with the ingredients you have on hand. You can use frozen fruit in place of fresh fruit – make sure you check the label for sugar content; you don’t want to be adding more sugar to what the manufacturer has already put in. Finally, if you choose to use the small four ounce jars in order to make more gifts, remember they will need to be processed for the length of time a half-pint jar.

Whether you are working alone or as a team, you will want to clear the counters and make space for an assembly line style work area. Read through your recipe a couple of times to make sure you are clear on the directions. Measuring, proper cooking (if directed) and a clean work area are important to creating safe gifts friends and family will enjoy. Do not double recipes, especially with jam, jelly and fruit butters, as the products will not set properly resulting in much work and poor end results.

A special gift is one that comes from the heart. Something you create from the heart of your kitchen will be enjoyed by the recipient more than one time. It is something they can enjoy for several snacks, breakfasts or on a special occasion. Consider creating something special this holiday season for yourself or for those who are special to you.

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