Jam Gifts: Do You Return the Jars When You’re Done?

published Jul 19, 2012
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(Image credit: Dana Velden)

There’s an etiquette question in DIY circles that not everyone is familiar with: when gifted with a jar of homemade jam, pickles or other preserves, should you return the jar when you are done? Read on for my take on this gifting dilemma.

A few years ago, I received some beautiful apricot jam in a fancy European canning jar from a friend. Later I found out she was miffed that I hadn’t returned the jar when I was done. So now, when receiving a jar of homemade preserves, after I thank the giver I always ask “Do you want the jar back?” They almost always say no, but it’s a simple question that covers all the bases, just in case.

Part of the reason people may want the jars back is that some canning jars are expensive. There’s a big difference in prices of preserving jars. You can get them almost free at yard sales and thrift stores, buy them in bulk at the feed store, or pay quite a bit for fancy imported varieties. I would be surprised if people wanted that 1/2 pint Ball jar back, but one of those expensive Weck or


Personally, when giving jams and preserves as a gift, I always consider the jar a part of a gift. I usually use the inexpensive Ball jars but when I splurge and pick up something fancier, I factor in that I won’t get the jar back. So for that reason, I often save the fancy jars for a special preserve, enjoying the fact that the gift will continue to be a part of someone’s life after the food is gone. I also consider who I am giving the preserves to. If I know it’s someone who isn’t that into canning and would likely toss the jar, then I stick with the cheaper, less fancy model.

When I’m on the receiving end, my favorite way to work with this situation is to return the jar to the original giver full of my own preserves. Etiquette dilemma solved!

(Image: Dana Velden)