If you’ve been reading this website for any length of time, you’ve picked up on the fact that I have an unhealthy interest in canning jars. It started in college, when I picked up wide mouth quart jar with the intention of using it to hold pens and pencils. Soon enough, I was picking up a jar or two nearly every time I dropped into a thrift store.
It took me years to actually use my stash of jars for its intended purpose. When I finally did start making jams and fruit butters, my very first inclination was to share my homemade treasure with friends. Except that to do so meant giving my beloved jars away. I was torn.
Since then, I’ve developed a set of guidelines so that I feel good about sharing my canned goodies. A two-pronged canning jar etiquette, if you will.
Never give away a jar if you can’t bear the idea of never seeing it again. I keep a stash of anonymous, newly bought jars and process about half of whatever I make in those jars. That way I always have some that I don’t mind passing along. This also ensures that I keep some of what I make for myself (before I learned this trick, I’d find myself giving away everything I made, defeating the essential purpose of preserving).
There is also nothing wrong with placing a tag on your jar with a request that it be returned. Most people just aren’t aware that you might like the jar back when it’s empty and so there’s no harm in making them aware of this fact.
The most important thing to do when someone gives you a jar of homemade jam, jelly, pickles or chutney is to enjoy it. Don’t tuck it a cabinet and save it for good. Help that product achieve its destiny and eat it all up.
Once the jar is empty, you have a couple of choices. If you have plans to put the jar to good use, feel free to do so. Make your own batch of jam, use it for desktop storage or transform it into a drinking glass. However, if you plan to toss it into the recycling bin when it’s done, stop right there. Do not set canning jars out with your other bottles and jugs. You see, mason jars are made out of extra sturdy stuff so that they’ll stand up to rigors of multiple rounds of canning. Recycling it is a waste of a jar.
Instead, wash out that jar and take it back to the cook who originally gave it to you filled (with the ring attached, if you still know where it is). This act shows your friend that you enjoyed their hard work, that you respect their resources and that you are a worthy recipient for future batches.
If someone from far away mails or hand carries you a jar of deliciousness, you are under no obligation to return the jar to them (jars are heavy and the shipping costs add up fast).
How do the rest of you handle the back and forth of canning jars?