Sunday, October 21, 2012

frugal gifts for the hoarders in your life

Yesterday's freezer review got me thinking about holiday gifts. The last thing I want to give my family is more stuff. Food that they will actually eat and experiences are really the best gifts for the hoarders in my life, I've found. They're not bad for other people too. Most adults I've met are getting sick of stuff at the holidays. Remember these from yesterday?
five quarts of local peaches....
Lots of frozen peaches + a need for holiday presents = jam making time! Jam making is an easy hobby that makes something tasty for you and something frugal but luxurious to give away. You can get precise instructions at the USDA's home canning website. Best to follow their instructions, mind you, not mine. Much as I love a good science experiment, I don't want anyone accidentally getting botulism. Or suing me. But in case you're curious, here's how I made peach jam.

I took the peaches, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 9 cups of sugar, and 14 tablespoons of pectin. I don't show the pectin here but you can get it at most any grocer.

I then took inspiration from one of Brian's comments on my blog about the immersion blender being his favorite kitchen implement. I got out mine and beat the peach/lemon/sugar/pectin mixture into submission. Mwahahaha! Then I brought it up to a rolling boil. It has to be hot enough that you can still see the big bubbles on the surface even when you stir it. See them? That helps it become thick enough to actually be jam. I've forgotten this step and ended up with peach sauce in the past. Tasty, but not quite what most people want for the holidays.

Next I filled the jars by ladling the peach-flavored culinary napalm into them. A funnel is important because you really, really don't want to get this hot stuff on your fingers. Put the lids on the jars and put them into a pot filled with hot water and your canner basket. You can also use the jar grabber contraption in the picture to help you arrange your jars. You'll need one or the other to get your jars in and out of the hot water without hurting yourself. Cover the jars with water, cover the pot, and bring it up to a rolling boil. Start a timer for 10 minutes.
Then go say hi to the gerbils

After the ten minutes are up, take the jars out and let them rest for 24 hours on cooling racks. Afterwards you'll need to tap the lids to make sure that they don't "pop" up and down. If they do, they're not safe to store at room temperature. You can keep them in the fridge for a couple weeks though.

These ended up being a pretty frugal gift. Tie a pretty ribbon around it, make a loaf of bread, and voila! Instant holiday gift.

Expenses for 12 eight-ounce jars came out to $2.25 per jar:
$15 for the jars
$10 for the peaches
$2 for the sugar (I think?)
Help from the husband: priceless
Thank heavens! The peaches are out of the freezer *and* I have some gifts ready to go. 
And I didn't have to spend any extra money!

Have you tried canning?


  1. Love it! I have yet to try canning since it seems a lot of steps are involved. I generally prefer to bake as I'm a carboholic haha! Do you need special jars or can you reuse ones?

    1. it's quite a bit of work but so worth it in the end. funny part is that I don't eat much jam. But Josh does.

      You can reuse the jars and the rings. The flat part of the lid pops out and you can't use it again for canning. I keep the old lids and mark them as used, and then use the empty jars, lids, and rings as tupperware. It probably looks pretty redneck when I sit at work and eat lunch out of a mason jar, but it's one less piece of tupperware to own.

  2. This looks lovely - and every time I see a post about making jam I think how delightful it would be to try my hand at it. Then I remember... I don't eat jam! I have nothing against jam, it's jut not something that's ever been a part of my eating plan - I think my yeast allergy and subsequent inability to eat bread probably have something to do with it. But even as a kid, one time I talked my mother into making crabapple jelly - which was great fun - but then it just sat there in the pantry for about 10 years because nobody in my family eats jelly! Oh well.

    But... more to the point - the only thing I remember from that jelly making experience was that you had to melt wax and pour it on top of the jelly to make an air tight seal. Are modern jars somehow better? Just wondering how come that step is no longer required.

    1. I've seen lids where you can still make your own seal, but Ball now makes ones with the seal built in. The lid itself has to be discarded after one use but the ring you can save. Here's a picture of the new Ball lids, on the left in the picture:

  3. I think the center of the lid goes back in when you fill it with hot jam to the brim, put the lid on, and the jam cools and creates a vacuum -a space with no air in it- sucking the lid back down?

    I make jam, it's so much better than store bought jam, because you can use less sugar and more fruit and berries!

    I have found that some people don't do so well with gourmet food gifts (or other consumables like bubble bath or whatever). They think it's too nice to eat or use. It sits around a few years causing clutter and collecting dust. And then it goes bad and at some point (hopefully)is thrown away.

    Basic home made jams for people who eat jam, should be fine though ;) And chocolates usually don't stay around to go bad, for some reason ;)

    1. right -- I guess I didn't describe the lid thing too well. it goes down when it cools but stays down, so you shouldn't be able to "pop" it with your finger if you press down.

      And chocolates avoid all of that work and are much tastier in my mind! I forgot about those!

  4. Loved this post. I want to learn how to can. Pretty sure it would open up a whole new world for me. :)


Please be kind :o)

If you try to advertise your online business by writing a comment on this blog, please don't bother because I will delete it.