Layered Mix Success: Tips for Making Gifts in a Jar
Interested in making layered baking mixes in a jar?
While pretty, these gift mix recipes can leave people asking lots of questions.
How do you get all the ingredients into the jar? How do you make sure the finished product tastes as good as it looks? How far ahead can you make these gifts?
You've got questions? We've got answers! Try these tips for successful Mason jar gifts.
Assembly and Layering Tips
- Choose the right container. Wide-mouth canning jars are easier to fill than standard jars, and canning jar lids seal tightly to keep flavors in and moisture out. Recycled glass jars can be used for gifts in a jar, but be sure that repurposed jars are clean, seal tightly, and that there are no residual odors clinging to the lid.
- Use a canning funnel. Layers will settle more neatly, and jars will be easier to fill.
- Follow recipes exactly. Don't skip steps--many recipes call for flour to be sifted before it is measured. Sifted flour will pack down more tightly in the jar than flour dipped straight from the bin.
- Layer recipes ingredients "small to large" according to texture. Place powdery ingredients like flour mix at the bottom of the jar, add larger ingredients like oatmeal next, and layer the largest ingredients--nuts or chocolate chips--at the top of the jar.
- Tamp each layer tightly. The flat top of a meat tenderizer mallet makes a great tool to tamp down each layer of ingredients!
- For pretty layered effects, divide brown sugar into two portions. When layers reach the middle of the jar, pack half the brown sugar into a thin layer and tamp down. Add pretty ingredients like cocoa or chocolate-covered candies, then add the second half of the brown sugar to seal off the section from more powdery ingredients.
- Wrap soft materials (like marshmallows) or strongly-flavored ones (like herb mixes) in plastic food wrap before adding them to the top of your Mason jar gift. This extra step will help keep ingredients fresh and flavorful.
- For longer storage, use a vacuum sealing system, like Foodsaver brand vacuum sealer, to remove air from finished Mason jar gifts.
Baking Gifts in a Jar
- Preview jar gift recipes. To make sure your gift will be welcome, bake up a batch yourself. Depending on location, elevation and humidity, a recipe that's a knockout in the arid West can fall flat--literally--in a humid climate. Note any needed recipe tweaks before you craft your gifts.
- Mix ingredients very thoroughly. Because most jar gift mixes require all dry ingredients to be added at once, the recipe won't have the usual "creaming" step to mix fats and sugars before baking.
- Use the correct-sized pan. Mason jar recipes make smaller quantities than standard recipes; smaller pans will keep the product from spreading out or cooking too fast.
Frequently Asked Questions
How far ahead can I make these recipes for holiday giving?
Storage times for gifts-in-a-jar will vary according to the ingredients used.
As a rule of thumb, any mix containing soft ingredients such brown sugar or marshmallows will begin to harden within two or three weeks, so is not suitable for long-term storage.
Similarly, chocolate chips may "bloom", or change color with lengthy storage. Although they're still safe to eat, jar gifts containing chocolate won't look as appetizing if stored.
Once hard to find, renewed interest in food preserving means canning jars are more readily available than in the past.
Check the baking aisle at the supermarket, or visit hardware and home goods stores, like Ace Hardware, to find canning jars, or click the image at right to order online.
Some of these recipes call for more than 4 cups of ingredients, but a quart jar only holds 4 cups. What gives?
Two factors allow these larger mixes to fit: using sifted flour and regulation canning jars.
Sifted flour will compact into a smaller space inside the jar, while canning jars are designed with about 1/3 cup of "head space" that can handle these larger mixes.