Last week, one of my best friends wrote me an e-mail that she was planning to give presents gifts in a jar this holiday season. We live nearly 6,400 km (4,000 miles) apart but, strangely enough, I intended to do the exact same thing this year. Great minds think alike. Then she said, “why don’t you write a post about it?” And I answered, “why don’t you write a post about it?” And she did!
So here it is, my first guest post, written by Heidi Lobecker, a working mom who lives with her husband and to two adorable boys in New Jersey. I hope you enjoy it!
This year for Christmas, I wanted to give thoughtful, pretty homemade gifts that my children could help me make. I have seen various “in a jar” recipes for sale at craft fairs. They look so nice, I decided that would be perfect for many people on our list this year. There are lots and lots of Mason jars and Bell jars in our basement—I used them over the summer with LED tea lights in them to light up an outdoor party. In the spirit of upcycling, they have now become a gift and a package combo.
Stuff you will need (not ingredients)
A wide-mouthed funnel. This cuts down considerably on spillage, and the lentils fall into the jars in a uniform manner.
Measuring cup. It was helpful to pour the lentils from the bags they come in into a large measuring cup. The lentils can easily spill out of their bags onto the floor and not into jars.
Card stock or thick paper for recipe cards
Pretty curling ribbon
3/4-liter (ca. 3/4-quart) glass jars. My jars were 32 oz.—much bigger than the Â¾ liter size the mix needs. So, I used folded-up parchment paper to make up the difference so the layers would stay layered. This also added a new color and allowed the spice box to sit nicely on the top. Make sure to thoroughly wash the jars before you start. I washed the jars by hand and put them in an extra hot dishwasher cycle. Sterilize the tops and lids by boiling in a large pot for ten minutes (optional). Dry thoroughly.
Food-grade plastic containers or sachets for the spices
I’ve made most of the mistakes so you don’t have to …
I didn’t count my jars. I asked my kids to help, but I did not watch how many jars we were using. I had intended to make only three jars, but my youngest happily filled up six jars with lentils. It wasn’t until there were no red lentils left for the last row that I noticed what was going on. So, if you scale your recipe, calculate the number of jars carefully. In our house, we have an abundance of jars and thus lost count. So it was another trip to the grocery store for me.
I didn’t count the tomatoes. Make note of how the dried tomatoes are packaged. The bag I used was “Sundried Tomato Halves.” The recipes calls for five tomatoes, so I ended up reopening the jars to add five additional halves to ensure there were enough tomatoes in the mix.
I didn’t choose food-grade containers for the spices. Make sure the containers you choose for the spices are a food-grade product. I did not, and when I went to wash and sterilize them, they … ah … melted.
I ended up using plastic containers instead and taped them shut so they would not spill.
How to assemble your jars
In your sterilized containers, layer the lentils, Â½ cup at a time, until you have 2 cups. We used up some leftover petite green lentils as well as yellow and red ones, so our layers are colorful and have a nice contrast.
Layer the tomatoes, bay leaves, and chili peppers next. Place all the spices in a small container, sachet or plastic bag. If you are like me, you’ll need some parchment paper to make up the room in the jar. Or you could just use a 3/4-liter (3/4-quart) jar and a small baggie for the spices.
Place the spices on top, cover with the lips and tops, decorate with ribbon and a soup recipe card. You can download mine below.