September 10, 2010

Jam Jars

Some of you are going to think I'm a PRIME IDIENT, but I am not worried, because I am comforted by the belief that others of you will be in the SAME BOAT: I have only JUST REALIZED, in my mid-thirties, that when people give me homemade jam THEY WOULD LIKE THE EMPTY JAR BACK. It never occurred to me! Not once!

It's not that I'm inconsiderate, or a selfish jar-hoarder, or that I don't care about the other person's jar situation. No! Not at all! It's that when I buy jam at the store I recycle the jar, I don't bring it back to the store. The jar is TRASH to GET RID OF. It is a CONTAINER. This is the template for all jam situations.

Now that I have made jam myself, I see things anew. The jars! They need to go BACK to the person who made the jam! So that the person can put more jam in! Because the cost of the jars is one of the reasons jam-making barely makes sense, but the REUSABILITY of the jars is why in the long run it DOES make sense. BUT ONLY IF YOU HAVE THE JARS! The jar is part of the process! It must not be disposed of!

Fortunately my friends and family are not of the jam-making persuasion, so I don't have to look back wincingly over a long history of carelessly-tossed-out jars from homemade jam. But still! I quake! Because I WOULD HAVE carelessly tossed out the jar, if someone had given me jam! Not because I didn't care, but because a non-jam-maker wouldn't KNOW! How could they?

40 comments:

Becky said...

I recently realized the same thing, although I do not make jam or do any sort of canning. It was the cost of buying canning jars to make portable cheesecakes (mmm...cheesecake), and the way my friends that can longingly looked at the jars that were left that made the light bulb go on for me. I gave my friend the jars I had (about a dozen). I'm hoping that makes up for some of my past wrongdoing.

Bell said...

My mom does canning a lot, but I've never heard her complain about this...

And damn, now I want her homemade raspberry peach jam!

Bethsix said...

My reaction to your first paragraph was, "CRAP! How do you meet people who give you homemade jam?!" Because I would like to know these people. But then you clarified. Thanks. Now IF I ever meet someone who will give me homemade jam, I will return the jar! Post-haste!

It raises the question, though: What if they give you a jam you don't like (my boss gives me pepper jelly)...? If you return the jar, you surely have to say something about the jam, right? Like, "Ooh, yummm." ??? Up to now, I've avoided this by throwing the jam and jar away.

Laura Lou said...

My mom and I can a lot to give as gifts. I can confidently say that when you're giving a gift, the jar is part of that. It's cool to get it back, but we don't expect it at all. So no worries.

pseudostoops said...

I agree with Laura Lou- I consider the jar part of the gift, and while I would be delighted to take it back (recycling is good for everyone!) I certainly don't expect it.

Marie Green said...

We use jam jars to drink out of- some of the store-bought brands come in standard sized home-canning jar sizes, so we USE all of our jam jars. I'm not sure I've ever gotten around to giving jam jars back, but I've always intended to... I'm not given jam much, but I do buy it at the farmer's market and such.

Also! I find canning jars ALL THE TIME at garage sales for around 25 cents apiece. We use the bigger canning jars to drink out of too, so I buy them at garage sales as well.

Sam said...

My mom and grandmother make jam all the time (over 100 pints of pear honey this summer!) and I don't think they ever expect to get a jar back. Buying jars is just part of the process...and in their case, they simply don't want to waste the fruit. My grandparents live in fear of wasting food! It is unthinkable to them.

Alexa said...

No, no, no! We do not want the jars back! I have never heard of such a thing! I come from a family of canners (that makes me sound like a small mammal of some kind) and I consulted both of the other generations currently canning in our family (yes, there are 3) and none of us want the jars back.

In fact, for me, I think getting the jars back would be a nuisance. Not a BIG nuisance, but it's just another thing to find a place for, and anyway, the jars are part of the gift. The recipient can use them for juice glasses, as we do, or small vases, etc. Usually when I make jam I buy a case of jars, sterilize them, and fill them up, then throw the box away. It is just part of the process. Besides, the lids and lid rings always end up lost somehow.

Apart from my own personal feelings as a jam MAKER, I think it seems a bit...rude to give someone a jar of jam and ask for the jar back. Jam lasts a long time, and you shouldn't have to be reminded that "oh, I need to return this jar" whenever you use it, it my opinion. It makes it a stressful sort of gift.

I had no idea I had such strong opinions on this issue. You teach me about MYSELF, Swistle!

Dr. Maureen said...

I say the jar is part of the gift. Not to worry.

Dr. Maureen said...

I think the jars are part of the gift. Not to worry.

artemisia said...

Hmm, well, sh*t. I guess I will send back the cute little jar to my SIL.

Thanks for opening my eyes. I never would have thought about this. Ever.

bananafana said...

fellow canner chiming in to say that I too have always considered the jar part of the gift and I've never expected to get one back. However, I hope the jars aren't all getting trashed! They're usually cute and useful so i tend to repurpose them if i can

jen(melty) said...

but I want the jar *whine*

Melissa H said...

As a frequent jam gifter I appreciate your PSA. I try to gently ask upon giving the jam if I might get the jar returned. Those who return get more jam. Those who don't get one second chance and then are off the jam receipt list. I lost a super cool vintage mason jar to a neighbor who just didn't get it. Oh well.

Melissa H said...

Oh wait! Now I am reading the comments and realizing I sound jar selfish. Let me clarify. I am giving many, many jars away to people who live near me and don't do any canning. If they reuse the jar, fine, but I don't want to see them recycled with the peanut butter jar. If that's what's going to happen I do want them back. They can be a buck a piece so why rebuy if it can be avoided? My mom and MIL are jar returning queens and I keep them in jam year round.

Funny thing, my word verification is "ripen" as i really need to make the peaches that are ripening on my counter into jam.

Jen said...

I think it depends. My mom totally would hunt me down for not giving one of her jars back. But if she gave it to a friend, I think it would be nice to get it back but not a requirement.

I made a batch of jam for my brother yesterday and I will actually tell him to give me my damn jars back. But I am also going to give one to a new friend and although I would love to get it back, I won't expect it.

Swistle said...

Artemisia- I may be wrong! I'd say the comments are leaning toward you keeping the cute little jar!

Susan said...

I feel absolutely sure that when someone gives you a gift of homemade jam, the jar is part of the gift. If you are going to throw it away and think to offer it back, I think that's fine but beyond the call of duty. I'm sure I'm right about this!

Shannon said...

I personally don't expect the jar back, not that I give away a tonne of my jam, because I like to hoard it in the freezer for my own family! :) If the person I gave it to asked if I would like it back I would tell them that I would gladly have it back if they remembered, but that it's no big deal. I agree with whoever said it's kind of part of the gift. So not to worry Swistle! :)

statia said...

You know, I've fleetingly thought about situations like, this, but my mind, it frequently forgets things, the way a cell phone randomly drops calls. So I never gave it another thought until YOU made me all paranoid.

But seriously, I don't usually give the jars back, because we also make jam, and then give the jam to people, and so I consider it an even trade. We keep the jars they gave us, they keep the jars we gave them. Even trade.

Fran said...

Swistle I have to disagree with you on this one. When you give a gift of food, it includes the plate/jar/tray it comes with. I learned this the hard way one Christmas. I had received a nice cookie tray on a beautiful red plate from our neighbors. Our husbands were in the military and her husband outranked mine. I quickly put the cookies we didn't inhale on the spot into another container, washed and dried the plate and took it back to her the next day with thanks and compliments on the cookies. She STARED at me like I was an idiot and finally said, "You KEEP the plate, dear." I felt like a complete moron!
If you feel you must return the empty jar/tray etc.. return it filled with something you have made :)

Jenny said...

Please don't say this. I love getting jars, and sometimes love giving them. And even if I wanted to give them back, and intended to, they would probably still sit in my cupboard forever because I'm forgetful like that.

Oh! Also, when I give a gift like casseroles or lasagna or the like, I usually buy those disposable dish-thingys so as not to make someone else clean something and give it back. Yes?

Clarabella said...

I have to agree whole-heartedly with Alexa.
Homemade jam is a gift. I do NOT want the jar back. In fact, I would find it awkward.

GratefulTwinMom said...

I totally use the little jar from some jam I received years ago. I'd hate to have to give it back. Where would I put my salad dressing for lunch?

Maggie said...

ACK! This post reminds me that I have two jam jars to return to our (lovely and wonderful) neighbor! Thanks for the reminder!

Swistle said...

Crap! Apparently this is one of those issues where EITHER WAY I DO IT I'm likely to be doing it wrong!

Christina said...

I always keep the jars for myself. They're MINE MINE MINE! I like to put things in them like seashells.

Alice said...

my mom gives away LOADS of homemade orange marmelade every year at christmas, and i don't believe she's EVER received a jar back! i know she's certainly not *expecting* any jars back.

i wonder if this is a regional thing?? we're east coast non-rural suburban types; i wonder if it's a more rural/small town thing to return & reuse? it seems so much more.. i don't know, kind & community-focused. as opposed to us urban folks who just toss them in recycling or use them as juice glasses? :)

lisa said...

I'd love to make my own jam. Yum. And I agree with most of the others that I wouldn't give the jar back- I just figure its part of the gift.

Mama Bub said...

This is fascinating. I've never known someone who makes homemade jam, or at least not well enough to have been gifted the jam, but I would have been a recycler too. I wouldn't have even given it a second thought. That said, I can still remember the look of horror on my then future-MIL's face when I crumpled the tissue paper from a Christmas gift, rather than folding it neatly for reuse. Apparently I'm a neanderthal.

Hotch Potchery said...

I am going to be making pepper jelly for gifts this year and the jar thing never really occured to me...but now I feel bad that I recycled a friend's apple butter jar...I could have used it to give her pepper jelly.

I dreamed the other night that you asked me to babysit, and you were fixing your kids dinner while you were getting ready and you said that you ALWAYS left the boxes on the frozen vegetables when you boiled them in a pot. Just saying.

beyond said...

i think the big majority of people who give away gifts of homemade jams, jellies, relishes etc do not expect their jars back. (unless they somehow request it it may even be awkward.) if i am on the receiving end, i will keep the jar and use it to make my own, and some of the jars get back to their original owners that way...

Nicki Woo said...

uh. oh. i didn't know you were supposed to give the jar back.

rewind.

http://www.nickiwoo.com

Allison said...

In my world, giving the jar back is expected, if it's not really a gift, but is instead here-I-made-jam-and-want-to-share-my-bounty. If I don't get tha jar back, I likely wouldn't share again because Swistle is right- it's expensive.
Now, if it's a holiday gift, I don't really expect the jar back, but many people still do give it back. It's just how it is. Sometimes it's a different jar fills with whatever they have canned, and that's AWESOME.

denese said...

Wow, what an interesting conversation; I have never considered returning the jar! I come from a serious can-it-yourself family. Growing up, we NEVER bought jam, jelly, applesauce, pickles, pickled/dill green beans, whatever can be grown in grandma's garden and canned in her kitchen. My mom has six siblings too, so constantly there was (are) homemade substances being passed from household to household. We would reuse Grandma's pear jam jars for blackberry jam, Aunt Vickie would reuse my mom's applesauce jars for her blueberry jam...the jar is part of the gift. Asking for the jar back is weird, but most of the women in my family have cabinets FULL of empty jars waiting for something.

Caitlin said...

I make jam, and I give it away frequently. Sometimes people give the jars back and sometimes they don't. I will say that the first time someone gave a jar back to me, I was surprised, because *I* never thought of it *either* (and I grew up with a mom and aunts who canned and gave things away, and I don't ever recall them having a Policy on the Return of the Jars either). I do not have a preference either way and I certainly never EXPECT the jar back - I just view it as I am giving it, jam and jar and all.

I actually think it's really nice that you ever thought about it at all, to be honest.

Caitlin said...

I make jam, and I give it away frequently. Sometimes people give the jars back and sometimes they don't. I will say that the first time someone gave a jar back to me, I was surprised, because *I* never thought of it *either* (and I grew up with a mom and aunts who canned and gave things away, and I don't ever recall them having a Policy on the Return of the Jars either). I do not have a preference either way and I certainly never EXPECT the jar back - I just view it as I am giving it, jam and jar and all.

I actually think it's really nice that you ever thought about it at all, to be honest.

JCF said...

I definitely don't expect the jar back if I give jam or another substance in a Mason jar as a gift (I will frequently put homemade granola or cookies/candy in Mason jars, not because they need to be sealed, but because it looks pretty). If someone does give it back, I'll happily accept it and reuse it, and I'd certainly rather get the jar back than have it thrown away, but I will never ask for it (or for that matter, think about it again).

Lis said...

I think what we can agree on is this:

If you are going to USE the jar, then keep it. Especially if it is a canning jar, not just a leftover spaghetti sauce jar.

If you are throwing it out (even recycling), then give it back. Or if you are in doubt, then ask what they'd like you to do with it.

Sam said...

I think Lis summed up your comments nicley.