Gift in a Jar: Handmade Spice Blends

December 17, 2009(updated on August 30, 2021)

mixed pickling blend

Back in the summer, I went through a period during which I made approximately seven pints of dill pickles a night for at least a week (I now have a lot of pickles in my coat closet). While I worked my way through at least a bushel of pickling cukes, instead of opening up each individual container of spice for every batch, I’d mix up a spice blend and add a couple of teaspoons of the mix to each jar prior to packing the cucumbers in.

pickling blend in layers

During that pickling frenzy, I toyed with the idea of mixing up a extra-large batch of this spice blend and selling it in a little Etsy shop. While I never followed through with that thought, homemade spice blends do make excellent gifts for the right person. The following measurements fill a half-pint jar: 4 tablespoons dill seed, 2 tablespoons black peppercorns, 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes and 1 tablespoon mustard seeds. Two teaspoons of this blend can be substituted for the spices in this recipe (everything else stays the same).

bbq rub

If you’re not making gifts for canners (I realize that not everyone is as crazy for home preserving as I am), but you like the idea of a handmade spice blend, how about a barbecue rub? I mixed this one up for a 4th of July cookout last summer and used it on a nice, big brisket (that was a good food day!).

This rub comes from Elizabeth Karmel’s terrific book, Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned: A Complete Guide to Flavoring Food for the Grill. It’s called the Barbecue Circuit Rub and the recipe is after the jump. However, if that one doesn’t look good to you, definitely check out her book, there are more than 20 rub recipes in there, so you’re sure to find the right one for your bbq lover.

Ty's spice blends

These spice blends were a most thoughtful wedding gift from Ty (my friend Shay’s mom). She makes all manner of these blends from the herbs she grows in her backyard (Ty was also the source of that 2-gallon bag of basil I got last summer). For those of you who like to think ahead, consider planting an expanded herb garden next summer and harvest the herbs for holiday giving.

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Barbecue Circuit Rub


  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hot smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fine-ground white pepper I skipped this ingredient, as I didn’t have any on hand
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt Karmel prefers Morton’s
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  • Put all the ingredients into a wide mouth pint jar. Shake to combine (get a whisk in there to really mix it up). And that’s it.
  • It will keep for six months, as long as the jar is tightly sealed.


Barbecue Circuit Rub from "Soaked, Slathered and Seasoned" by Elizabeth Karmel

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14 thoughts on "Gift in a Jar: Handmade Spice Blends"

  • Great idea! I was considering making mulling spices as gifts. Spice mixes are so wonderful to give, especially to those that don’t normally keep such a large array of spices in the kitchen.

  • how fun! I’ve been searching so long to find good paprika peppers to plant in my garden, hopefully I’ll find some soon so I can try the rub one day 🙂

  • I was inspired to expand my herb garden after a trip to France in 2008. I dried the herbs and made Herbes de Provence. I love the pickling spices idea.

  • I did this once for my dad. I did several, but the one I remember most was my taco seasoning mix. He loves my tacos, and it was nice to be able to “give” some to him since I live too far away to make them for him very often.

  • I just wanted to tell you that I love your blog. I am a crazy canning freak too and I am forever trying to convince everyone I know that they too can become a crazy canning freak as well. I completely appreciate what you are doing.

  • i really like this idea. i actually ended up doing something rather similar this year. instead of spices, though, i came up with a recipe for a spicy hot chocolate (with cayenne and cinnamon) and a pumpkin spice hot chocolate and gave single serving containers of each to my parents and my sisters. the great thing about both hot chocolate spices and spice mixes is they can last for a long time since they’re not as perishable as traditional baked good presents.