Gifts: New Baby

I give a lot of gifts. It’s hard to say that without sounding “Yay, me!” but, honestly, I enjoy it; I’m one of those people who never shows up at your house without something in hand, who (usually) remembers birthdays & anniversarys, and who lives for Christmas. Before my canning days (when I also had a steady income) my gifts were more traditional: wine, truffles or dessert as a hostess gift; adorable baby clothes for a new baby or a shower; books, CDs, or movies for random celebratory moments. Now that I have a garage full of canned goods (and not very much money), I give away a lot of preserves. Sometimes this is as simple as handing over a jar of jam; at other times, I like to dress it up a bit. Especially as the holidays approach, I decided to chronicle some of my gift ideas here, so I could share ideas, design tips, good sites for supplies & accessories, and hopefully pick up some great ideas from you, the community of awesome readers.

I should note that homemade gifts are not for everyone: prevailing wisdom states that homemade gifts are always more special, and “who doesn’t love a jar of homemade jam?” While I do believe that this is true, for the most part, there is always the exception that proves the rule. I’ve handed over quite a few jars over the past few years, and have seen that blank look, with the resulting “Um, jam. Wow. Thanks.”  (It reminds me of a great scene between Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in the old classic Holiday Inn. Bing comes back to visit the old show-biz gang after quitting to ‘relax’ on a farm in the Connecticut countryside. He brings his homemade peach put-ups as a gift. Fred Astaire says “Wow. Peaches. I love these with…uh…er… well, most anything!”  The jars then promptly explode, spraying peaches everywhere. Classic.) Not everyone gets how much time, effort and love went into that little jar in your hands. For those people who do get it, however, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better gift.

The gift pictured above was in celebration of the newest member of the Molitoris clan: Tai’s boss at Alpine Endeavors and his wife just had their second child, a boy they named Miles. While I love adorable onesies as much as the next girl, I sometimes feel for the parents: sleep-deprived, physically & emotionally exhausted, they are buried in an avalanche of onesies & stuffed animals, when what they could kill for is 10 minutes of free time to take a shower and a really good cup of coffee. So, I’ve offered up the next best thing (I hope): delicious (if I do say so myself) homemade food that is quick and easy to eat, yet satisfying and nutritious. Packed into a handwoven grass tray (which can later hold a plethora of adorable onesies!) are:

Each of these is shelf-stable for several days, with the exception of the soup, which I froze (and included instructions to freeze or refrigerate upon receipt). I played upon the autumn theme with the colors of the jar labels and tags, packed the granola into a clear cellophane favor bag, wrapped the bread in a strip of beautiful handmade lotka paper and liberally festooned everything with raffia. Although there are nuts in the granola, I swapped walnuts in the zucchini bread for dried apples and chocolate, as many pregnant or breast-feeding moms will avoid nuts, in an attempt to avoid a nut allergy in the child later on.  It’s also a good idea to make the soup with vegetable stock in case anyone in the family is a vegetarian. I always include a full list of the ingredients as people do have allergies and food rules that they live by (and, as we all know: I’m all about the data.).

So what about you? Do you give food gifts? Enjoy receiving them (or not so much)? For those of you who have gotten not-so-exciting food gifts in the past, any suggestions for those of us who do like to give gifts of food?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

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22 comments

  1. I have just started canning this year and have planned on giving away a few jars here and there for holiday gifts…I am going to work on labels soon to sort of ‘brand’ my items a bit.

    I watched someone on the cooking channel make some granola the other night and I thought of the bags, but also of putting them in some Chinese take out containers.

    You’re right, that deer in the headlights look is unmistakable when it comes to those who have no idea what to do with a jar of jam…so, I thought I’d take a page out of FoodInJars book and tell people what they can do with the food once they open the jar using a little tag tied onto the jar. Sometimes people just need some ideas.

  2. That is a brilliant, beautiful gift! What a great idea. I wish more people would give the gift of food for poor, tired new parents! It’s so incredibly appreciated!

  3. Monica

    That is a beautiful basket! And so inspiring. I’ve already been planning to give jars of homemade granola and baked goods for christmas this year as I am now a poor grad student (plus I LOVE cooking!) I didn’t do enough preserves this year (my first year canning) to give any away, nor am I entirely confident in what I made, but I wanted to use pretty wrapping paper and ribbons on my jars of granola. I read an article online somewhere about cutting circles of pretty wrapping paper or fabric and how to smoosh them down over the top for a neat little cover, but that would also cover your pretty labels. Love your gift tags also!

    Sorry I don’t have any new techniques or advice for you! Just drawing inspiration for my own gift giving 🙂

  4. Bonnie

    I love giving my homemade things and like you said, not everyone appreciates them. My DIL, after I worked so hard on my gift, said “Not another d*mn basket.’ I was broken hearted. I had never thought to give the canned and baked goods as a baby gift. Usually the gift is something for the baby. I love this idea…Thanks.

  5. OMG @ Bonnie…I hope you took the basket back! How ungrateful and unappreciative. A person without manners or doesn’t know any better…how sad.

  6. Hi Roze,

    That is a good idea, and one I’ve done quite a bit, to hang a little tag on jar with suggestions for use. Even for more basic items, like, I’ll hang my pumpkin bread recipe on a jar of applesauce, or a recipe for thumbprint PB&J cookies on a jar of jam.

  7. True story: Many years ago (when I was still attempting to have some kind of relationship with my sister), my Mom suggested that I make a basket of cookies as a Christmas gift, since my sister was throwing a big party on Christmas Eve. Well, as these things go, what started out as “I’ll just bake a couple of batches of chocolate chip” turned into a week-long project as a half-dozen of 8 different varieties of very fancy & party-worthy cookies were tucked like new babes into a huge basket decorated with holly, candy canes, pine boughs, you name it. I was in my early 20’s at the time, and making almost no money, so the spiraling project had really strapped me, but I was so proud of it, and really thought that this, finally, was a gift she would appreciate. My sister’s response? “So, you were too cheap to spring for a coupla CDs, huh?” (You can see why we’re not close.)

    The fact is, to some people, there is NO discernible difference between you slaving for days to make the most delectable and beautiful cookies on the planet, and you picking up a box of Entenmann’s at Wal-Mart. (Of course, not all of them manage to be as rude as my sister and Bonnie’s daughter-in-law!). Most are truly gracious, and thank you politely, but that bewildered look is pretty unmistakable. Nothing to do but make a note of it and choose a different gift for them in the future.

  8. Trish

    I’m afraid of getting that bewildered look so I was really grateful when my sister-in-law flat out said: “You know we would be really thrilled to get jars of your jam for the holidays this year.” I’d been thinking they would probably be appreciative, but now I know for certain!

  9. It *is* great when people help you out that way! I will sometimes ‘test the waters’ with a small gift of 1 or 2 jars when I visit a friend’s house. If I don’t get any comments back as to whether they enjoyed it, or used it in a recipe, etc., then I usually assume that they are just not food-gift people.

    Another thing I will do is, when I host a party, I usually put out a tray of a variety of small jars, and invite people to take home a ‘party favor.’ Then I try to take note of who gets all excited and squealy and who is more “Thanks but no thanks.” After all, as much as I want to share the preservy-love, it’s a fine line between Generous Hostess and Jam Pusher. 😉

  10. great post! and that gift basket looks gorgeous and delicious!

    i give so many of my jams & pickles away that sometimes M gets mad ’cause when he goes into the larder to look for a new one, he’s like, “where’s all of the (fill in blank)?” 🙂

    most of my family, in-laws, and friends make no qualms about asking me for this or that preserve for the holiday or birthday, or if i’m coming over for dinner, and they practically messenger the empty jars – and even lids – back to me. i have found it helpful to keep track of who is a ‘sweet’ and who is a ‘savory’.

    but your post made me think that i should do even more food-giving outreach. there’s gotta be others!

    i love the little jars set out at the party – awesome idea!

    i always just put my tigress label on them, but now i’m thinking about adding additional info – like what to best enjoy it with.

    thanks!

  11. Tai will literally hide jars in one of the kitchen cabinets from me so I won’t give them all away. Also I do let people “shop in the country kitchen” (ie pick a jar or two from the pantry shelves in the garage) when they come visit, so I don’t always control what leaves the house. This year I’m trying a new tactic: for every batch, I try to can at least 1 or 2 jars in a Weck or antique Ball jar (that I know I won’t want to give away) so it’s automatically designated as “ours.” If there are no regular Ball jars left, well the giftees are outta luck!

    And that header photo? Fishkill Farms, taken when we were apple picking the other day. It was truly a gorgeous day!

  12. Dominique

    This is such a fantastic idea. I would have been thrilled if someone had given me a thoughtful gift like this when my son was born. In my experience almost everyone enjoys homemade food gifts. The reaction I get from people leads me to believe that a lot of people don’t cook much anymore!

  13. Joan

    I would love to be one of the people to get one of your gifts! But like you I have had people look at me with that “What the Hell” look when I have given homemade things to them. My son would come visit and beg for jars of things. I gave them to him. The DIL though no matter what I ever gave her was never good enough. Made or store bought. So I gave up. She got nothing. I grow my own plants and plant my own garden then pick clean and can all the things I grow. Most people I know understand the time and effort I put into it. A few don’t.
    I wouldn’t change a thing about the baskets you give. They are beautiful and anyone would be tickled pink to get one. I would,,,hint, hint. (wink)

  14. I too, give out jars every year to my co-workers and family members. I’d say 90% of them oohh and ahhh over them. But the few that I never hear back from, will be cut from the list this year.
    I surely appreciate getting the jars back, as they are not cheap!
    I also LOVE your idea about the mini-jars! Gonna try that!
    Your basket looks lovely,btwand I too want to try and make my own labels, to make them look more homey.
    If you just put a cute ribbon around the neck or some colored jute, it brightens them up too.
    Only a canner and sewer can appreciate all the hard work that goes into home-made items!
    Keep on canning and sewing ladies! We’re a rare breed!

  15. Ball jars are made of pretty sturdy stuff; although I don’t freeze in them often, I have not have a problem when I do. I do take the precaution of leaving about 1 inch of headspace, and not screwing the ring band down so that air can easily escapes if it needs to as the contents expand upon freezing. I think it’s also a good idea not to stick steaming hot soup directly into the freezer; I usually let it cool to room temperature first, then transfer to a jar and freeze.

  16. I’ve noticed that some Ball jars actually have on their boxes – when you purchase them new – Freezer Ready or something to indicate that they are ok to use in the freezer. Some of the older jars don’t freeze and I’ve in fact had several break on me in the freezer. I also take them out and thaw in the fridge not on the counter. Those that have broken have been the ones I’ve rescued from the thrift stores or yard sales and are older.

    Really enjoying this blog!

  17. Brooke - in Oregon

    Lovely post and I really enjoyed reading all the comments. I have learned so much this year from reading your blog and a few of your friends 🙂

    What a wonderful gift but I do understand that blank look!

    I have made the pie in jars where you take them from the freezer and stick them into a preheated oven. First time it freaked me out but now I don’t even flinch! lol

    Thanks again for all your wonderful posts and I too love the photo in the header

  18. Mae

    At work we used to have a gift exchange at Christmas and it’s the type where you open/steal any gift available so things are changing hands all the time. I would rather make than buy, so my gifts consisted of homemade concord grape & pomegranate jam/jelly, crackers and sometimes other homemade goodies. I did it for a couple of years and there was always someone anxious to end up with the basket.

    I’ve also had the other extreme at a family Christmas get together (my kids extended family on their dad’s side) where there’s usually piles of gifts passed around. I could never compete with the money spent so I would make goodies and try to have something for each family group. One year, after receiving the jellies, one uncle picked up the jar and crackers and made what I understood to be a joking remark (he was speaking in Spanish) and the others laughed. It wasn’t well received. Same as the year I made/gave crocheted ornaments. I guess I’m misreading my target group!

  19. Your gift basket is beautiful! Love it, and I’ll bet the recipients will, too. I especially admire your presentation; I’m more of the here’s-a-jar-of-jam, hope-you-like-it kind of gift giver. I would LOVE to receive a basket like this :).

  20. Jen

    What a gorgeous gift basket! Those labels really make it look like it came from Dean & Deluca or some other gourmet food store. My best friend just had a baby and I offered to bring over cooked food. I just might have to copy some of your beautiful fall basket ideas…

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