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Gifts in a Jar: Part One ‚ Inedible Items

The recycling house-person can finally put all those extra glass jars to use during the gift-giving season. They make a great medium for housing special and unique tokens, designed with friends and family in mind. Gifts in a Jar are an all-in-one presentation. The idea is assembling all the parts of a project‚ for the recipient along with instructions, then layer each of those components in a clever and visually appealing way inside the jar.

The diversity of options for clever crafters is nearly unending. For example, say you have a friend that does a lot of journaling to sort out their thoughts. Well, their Gift in a Jar might be a collection of quotes, interesting words, or ideas written in calligraphy on slips of pre-decorated paper, then folded. Put the slips in the jar, attach the jar’s top complete with a ribbon and a bundle of pens, and the gift is ready to go! This example shows how personalized your Jar gifts can be (and I‚ve found that people really appreciate the thoughtfulness). By the way, a child’s version of this might be a jar filled with wishes complete with instructions on making a wish, and what to do with the paper afterward (like casting it into running water, or having an adult burn it to release the wish and help it manifest).

The reason I separated edible and inedible jar gifts was purely pragmatic. While you want to use clean jars for both types of gifts, the one being used for food must be sanitized properly. So, the inedible Gifts in a Jar actually have one less step, which saves you some time.

Another good example of inedible jar gifts is that of making bath salts. A bath salt’s foundation begins in well.. salt! I use sea salt or kosher salt usually blended with Epsom salts for a relaxing quality. The fun of salt is that it’s easy to color using food coloring, and likewise easy to scent using essential oils (try using about 4 drops of essential oil to one pound of salt, added one drop at a time).

So now you have the option of making several, complimentary aromas and layering them in the jar for a much prettier finished product. To the outside of this jar I might attach a small natural sponge in the bow, or some other small bath implement for a nice finishing touch. Another alternative is attaching a small floating candle (or putting it on the inside of the jar at the very top) so the recipient can surround themselves in luxury.

Gifts in a Jar 2 ‚ Edible Items

During the holiday season it’s nearly impossible to go into any department store and not see some type of Gift in a Jar. From gourmet vinegars that house beautifully placed herbs to candles and bath salts, this approach to gift giving has become very popular. It’s also a great way to recycle left over food jars of various sizes.

Step one for making your gift is also the most important. Soak off the old label from the jar and then boil both the jar and lid in water. Note that the water should completely cover the jar. Let this boil for about 10 minutes then remove to dry completely. This not only sterilizes the jar, but also removes any residual aromas from the previous food. If you‚re uncomfortable with this idea, just buy a batch of canning jars instead and use those. They still require washing, however.

So what type of edibles can you devise to make something fun and functional? By far my favorite item is what I call Rainbow Bean Soup. Dry beans come in so many wonderful colors that they‚re perfect for layering, and even better they‚re not overly expensive. If you use about 8 variety of beans and buy 2 cup canning jars (1 dozen), you still won”t spend more than two dollars per gift!

Exactly how you choose to layer the soup is wholly up to your eye, but leave room at the top of your chosen jar so you can add a packet of spices. What spices? Well, the easiest is getting a container of dry bullion (chicken, beef, or vegetable) and measure out the suggested amount on the product’s label for six cups of water. I put that measured amount in small locking storage bags that I purchase on Ebay and at online spice shops. They‚re cheap and keep the flavoring dry and fresh. In this form the beans will be fine for nearly an unlimited amount of time. However, it’s suggested that the mix get used in 4-6 months maximum for the best spice flavor.

bean soup mix (gifts in a jar) Savory Italian herbs spark this hearty, easy bean soup. Paired with Texas Cornbread Mix, this duo is just the thing for cold winter weekends!

Better, it’s a good keeper, so make this gift-in-a-jar ahead for holiday giving. Unlike cookie jar gifts, Confetti Bean Soup won’t go stale in storage.

Makes 12 gift jars at a cost approximately $2 per jar.

Confetti Bean Soup

Materials and Supplies:

12 wide-mouth pint (2-cup) canning jars with lid and rings

14 pounds assorted dried peas, beans and lentils(at least 8 different varieties):

pink beans
black beans
baby lima beans
lentils
red lentils
black-eyed peas
red kidney beans
pinto beans
split peas
great northern beans
small red beans
white beans

12 Italian-flavor bouillon cubes
(note: substitute beef-flavor if you cannot find Italian-flavor cubes!)

12 bay leaves

1/2 yard print cotton fabric

1 round (6 yards) craft ribbon

3 pieces cardstock (for free printable gift tags)

Instructions:

make confetti bean soup (gifts in a jar)Wash, rinse and dry canning jars.

Layer beans in jars. Add 1/4-cup of each type of bean to the jars, layering the beans. Choose the most colorful bean for the bottom layers of the jar. Add eight 1/4-cup layers to each jar.

Place 1 bay leaf and one bouillon cube on top of the beans in each jar.

Seal each jar using lids and rings.

[Hint for FoodSaver brand vacuum sealer owners: use the jar sealing attachment to seal bean soup jars for longer storage.]

Cut twelve 7-inch circles from cotton fabric. Top each jar with fabric circle, and tie with ribbon.

The second type of layered jar I like to create is one for coffee lovers, and its basically a variety of home made creamers. You begin with dry milk and dry creamer (plain, in a one to one ration) to which you add cooking extracts (like vanilla or vanilla powder, orange extract, and almond extract). You can also add powdered juices or cocoa for a greater variety of flavors. The basic proportion for the creamer is one cup of the dry milk/creamer to one tsp of each extract desired, a half teaspoon of dried herbs, and/or sugar (to taste).

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