TIP: The recipe mixes presented in this book can be packed in a variety of jars, but the wide mouth of a Mason-type jar makes it easy to create neat, attractive layers of ingredients.
For each mix you make, you will need a clean, dry, Mason jar--in either a quart or pint size, depending on the recipe. While other screw-top containers may also be suitable, the large opening of a Mason jar will give you the room you need to pour in the ingredients, tamp them down into even layers, and periodically wipe the inside of the jar with a dry paper towel during filling so that the final gift has a neat, clean appearance.
THE FABRIC AND TIE
TIP: When looking for fabrics to trim the top of your Mason jar mix, be sure to check the remnants pile at your local fabric or crafts store. Often, you'll be able to decorate a number of gifts for just a few dollars.
When you finish filling your Mason jar with dry ingredients that are either premixed or placed in attractive layers, the container will be instantly transformed into an attractive gift. Many people, in fact, use the unadorned jars to decorate their kitchens and pantries! But you can further enhance the charm of the mix by tying a square of decorative fabric to the top.
For each quart-sized jar, you will need a seven-by-seven-inch piece of fabric, cut with either regular fabric scissors or pinking shears. Pintsized jars require a six-by-six-inch square. When choosing your fabric, be creative. A square of denim, burlap, or calico would create a delightful country look, for instance, while a red-and-green fabric would be the perfect finishing touch for a Christmas gift. Often, fabric stores offer inexpensive remnants, each of which could adorn several jars.
Be sure to select a tie that complements your fabric. A length of sisal twine or yarn would make an appropriate tie for your calico square, for example, while a slender gold or silver ribbon would beautifully complete your holiday gift. Just make sure the tie is long enough. A forty-eight-inch length will allow you to securely attach the fabric, as well as your tag, to the jar.
TIP: The tag for your gift jar can be as simple or as creative as you like. For a fuss-free tag, print the recipe card gift tag linked in the recipe. Other options include writing the directions out in calligraphy and generating tags or labels on your home computer. Just make sure that your gift tag includes the name of the recipe, the yield of the recipe, the list of ingredients that must be added to the mix, and the preparation instructions.
Your tag will provide the all-important information that the recipient of the jar will need to turn the jar mix into a delicious homemade treat. Each tag should supply the name of the recipe, the yield of the recipe, the list of ingredients that must be added to the mix (eggs and butter, for instance), and the preparation instructions themselves.
Feel free to make a no-fuss tag or to craft one that showcases your creativity and flair. Each recipe links to a gift tag of the information that belongs on its tag. If you like, you can simply print the gift tag: using the paper of your choice cut the tag out with plain scissors or pinking shears, or print the gift tag on your favorite recipe card and attach the printed tag to your jar with the selected tie. Or you may choose to cut out a piece of sturdy paper--a three-by-four-inch size is usually adequate--and write out the instructions in your own clear handwriting or in calligraphy. If you have a computer, of course, your options are even greater. Consider typing in the instructions and printing them out in a beautiful (but readable) font. Add a decorative border, if you wish. You can even print the instructions directly onto stickers and affix a sticker to each jar in place of a tag. The possibilities are endless.
ADDING THE INGREDIENTS
TIP: Although layering instructions are provided for the each of the jar mixes, feel free to arrange the layers however you'd like. Just remember to avoid placing powdery or granular ingredients, such as flour or sugar, above a product like nuts or chocolate chips. The powdery ingredient will sift into the layer beneath it, resulting in a messy-looking jar.
TIP: After adding each ingredient to your Mason jar, press the addition into a firm, level layer with a flat-bottomed object, such as a tart tamper or the bottom of a long, narrow drinking glass. After tamping down powdery ingredients, like flour or cocoa, use a paper towel to wipe the inside of the jar--removing any powder that may be clinging to the glass--before pouring in the next ingredient.
With the exception of the beverage recipes and the recipes for waffles, pancakes, and oatmeal--which require the dry ingredients to be premixed--all of the recipes in this book include ingredients that can be attractively layered in the Mason jars. Believe it or not, the order in which the ingredients are packed in these jars can make a big difference. Imagine, for instance, pouring the granulated sugar over a layer of chocolate chips. Gradually, the sugar will sift between the chips, mixing the layers and creating a messy appearance. That's why the white sugar is so often placed over a layer of brown sugar or oatmeal.
By following the order prescribed in the "Creating the Jar" section of each recipe, you will be sure to put together an attractive jar. Be aware, though, that in most cases, this is not the only way in which the ingredients can be successfully layered. I have usually chosen to provide you with the simplest method of packing the jar. If you prefer to arrange the layers differently, go for it! After you make a few gift jars, you'll get a feel for the process. To keep your layers as neat as possible, just remember to avoid placing powdery or granular ingredients--flour and sugar, for instance--above a product such as chocolate chips, nuts, or raisins. Because chips and the like have space between the individual pieces, they will allow the powdery substance to sift in. Instead, try to pack an ingredient such as brown sugar above these goodies, as the moist sugar will form a "seal," preventing the layers from blending together.
Some of the soup and stew recipes contain jar ingredients, such as pasta or egg noodles, that are to be added to the pot after the other ingredients have been cooking for a while. (Imagine how pasta would become if it were allowed to cook in a soup for more than thirty minutes? Does the image of "mush" come to mind?) For recipes in which this occurs, you will be instructed to place the pasta or other "to-be-added-later" ingredient in a resealable sandwich bag before placing it in the jar. This will keep it separate from the other items.
When placing ingredients into the Mason jar, especially flour, cocoa, and other powdery ingredients, you might find a wide-mouth canning funnel to be a helpful tool. Placed over the top of the jar, this functional piece of equipment helps guide the ingredients into the jar easily and neatly. Made of plastic or stainless steel, canning funnels are found at most stores that sell kitchen tools and gadgets. You can also purchase funnels online at sites such as www.cooking.com and www.DoItBest.com. It is also easy to make your own canning funnel. Just follow these simple steps.
Making a Wide-Mouth Funnel
1. Cut a 9-inch semi-circle out of oak tag or other stiff paper.
2. Cut a 4-inch semi-circle from the center of the paper.
3. Bring the two sides together and attach with tape.
As you create your Mason jar mixes, be sure to pack the ingredients firmly. After pouring in each ingredient, use a long-handled tart tamper the squeezable bulb section of a turkey baster or the bottom of a long, slim drinking glass to press the addition into an even layer. Then, before adding the next ingredient, wipe the inside of the jar with a dry paper towel to achieve a clean, professional appearance.
After all the layers of the jar mix have been added, simply screw on the top of the jar, tightening it as much as possible to keep the mixture fresh. Now you're ready to complete the gift.
DECORATING THE JAR
To add the finishing touches to your jarred mix, simply center the chosen fabric square on the lid of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. Then wrap your chosen tie around the rubber band twice, covering the band, and knot the tie to hold it in place.
Using a hole punch, make a hole in the tag and slide the tie through the hole, threading it through once or twice and tying it off with a bow. If you've chosen to print the recipe tag provided on paper, you may want to fold the left side of the tag over the right before punching a hole in the top left-hand corner. This will allow you to thread the tie through two layers of paper, attaching your tag securely to the jar.
Finally, to make your Mason gift jar even more special, you may want to use the same ribbon or twine to attach an item that can be used when preparing the particular recipe. Wooden spoons, wire whisks, and cookie cutters are possible choices. Your beautiful Mason jar mix is now done, ready for its lucky recipient!
From "The Mason Jar Soup to Nuts Cookbook." Copyright 2004 by Lonnette Parks. Used with permission of the publisher, Square One Publishers. All Rights Reserved.
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