Once a common activity in many households, canning and preserving fell out of favor for several decades. But now it's very popular again, with manufacturers of canning jars and equipment reporting record sales. There's a lot available about the mechanics of canning but some people aren't aware of a few unwritten rules for making and exchanging the fruits of our labors. Read on for a few basic etiquette tips and helpful hints for navigating your preserving life.
The act of giving and receiving your home canned goods has a few rules of etiquette that may have been lost in your neck of the woods.
1. Returning jars. Some people expect to have their jars returned when you are done; some don't. If you are giving a jar, be clear that you'd like it back. If you are receiving a jar, ask if the giver would like it returned. More here.
2. Be cautious when offloading. So there you are, staring at your 37 beautiful pint sized jars of delicious apricot jam and it suddenly occurs to you: there's no way I'm going to eat all of this. And before you know it, you're that person, the one that always arrives to the party with a jar of jam. It's true that many people will welcome your gift but be sensitive about offloading your overly enthusiastic hobby onto your friends and family. Ask if they would like it first and be aware of food restrictions and special diets. If you have too much, consider organizing a swap (see below.)
3. Remember to label and specifically to date. Never hand someone a jar of your preserves without a label. I know not everyone is up to creating a fancy label but at the very least you should have a piece of masking tape with the name of the contents and the date. A list of ingredients is helpful, too. Doesn't have to be pretty, although pretty is nice!
A few hints about the actual canning process:
4. Share the labor. The expression 'many hands make light work' was probably coined during a preserving marathon way back when. Canning is a lot of work and doing it with a friend or two will really make a difference. You can do more and also share the bounty amongst each other.
5. Share equipment. Canning supplies can be bulky, so consider sharing with your friends. In my neighborhood, some people have large pots, another friend has a steam canner, and others have the funnels and lifters or room to store a lot of jars. Since most of us have small apartments, it's nice to spread the storage around. Sometimes we gather together to can (see above) and other time we borrow from each other.
6. Check for old jars. These days, we all have a few empty canning jars rattling around our kitchens. So before you go out and purchases seven cases of new jars, be sure to check your basement and other storage areas. You may be surprised what you will find. They will need new lids but the jars and rings are reusable.
7. Spread it out. If you have fruit that's ready for jam but you don't have time to go throughout the whole process of canning, spread it out over a few days. Cut the fruit, layer it with some sugar, cover and refrigerate for a day (maybe even two.) Cook it down on day two or three and if you still don't have time to can it, refrigerate it again. The method and recipe are explained here.
8. Have an exchange. In my neighborhood, there are several enthusiastic home canners and food producers. Once a month or so, someone hosts a food swap in which everyone brings the excess from their projects and we trade it amongst ourselves. Check out Emily's helpful post for specifics.