A bottle of jam is a universally welcome holiday gift; a break from the many sweets that are pouring in, yet still certainly a treat. If you want to go above and beyond, you can include a loaf of bread, but the jam can stand alone. (Well, maybe not literally.) Adding a little tag with information or a recipe helps people think beyond their toast for uses. It is also a good idea to add any necessary information. You don’t have to can or process your jam, but if don’t, you need to clearly state that refrigeration is needed on your tag.
- Jalapeno jelly is great on sandwiches, as a glaze for meat or an appetizer served over cream cheese.
- Apricot (while our favorite for toast) is also a key ingredient in Russian Apricot Chicken
- Strawberry jam is used in a ton of delicious desserts. I love jam-filled cookies.
- Apple butter can be cooked with very little work in your slow cooker and is delicious over pancakes.
- Marmalade is great on duck or pork and delicious over mild cheese, like brie.
Once you’ve figured out what kind of jam you want to use, pack it into half-pint mason jars. Seal and process if you are going to do so. Then let your little ones go to work decorating the jars. You can find ceramic paints or paint pens at your local craft store. If you want the design to be dishwasher safe, you usually have to cure the paint in the oven. (You will want to paint the jars then wash them before filling.) If you are processing the jam, it is better to just paint after the jam is “packed”–15-25 minutes of boiling would test any paint!
A few tips to keep in mind while painting with kids:
- If your child is under 8, plan on more abstract designs. Paint is a lot harder to control; so try not to stress out if they aren’t making what you had envisioned. Remember that friends and family will enjoy having a piece of usable art from your child–whether their snowflakes are pink and purple blobs or white 6 pointed designs.
- You can keep the mess (and often stress) down by only offering only a few colors. This is less overwhelming for a child and will also make it easier to get a product that is closer to what you want as well. (For example, when my 4 year old asked for pink while working on our jars, I just explained “Today we are making these as Christmas presents; so I chose a few Christmas-y colors. Next time we’ll use pink.”)
- Give a clear (and reasonable) objective. Don’t expect your child to slave-away like an elf, painting an army of jars. Set 10 or fewer bottles on the table and ask “I want to give all of these bottles to our friends as a present. Can you help me by painting Christmas trees on them? We have a lot to do, so it’s okay to just paint a little on each bottle.”
- Sit down and paint too. There is certainly a lot of value in giving your child a project that they can be busy with while you make dinner or clean up; but the magical memories you want to make will only happen when you give up multi-tasking and sit down to work alongside your child. It sounds simplistic-and it is; but it can also be hard to do. If you can just get out of “productive mommy mode” you will see what I am talking about!
Finally, once your paint has dried; you can tie your tag on with a bow and deliver with your holiday wishes.