Homemade food as gifts

Safe processing of gifts from the kitchen.

The ideas are endless for homemade birthday and holiday gift-giving: salsa with a bag of tortilla chips, homemade ice-cream topping with an ice-cream scoop, homemade specialty syrups with a skillet and spray vegetable oil – the list of appreciated items goes on. In order to keep these gifts safe, the giver must be very careful to process the foods correctly. If you have not processed foods at home before, make sure to use a research-based process. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a proven source for research-based information and recipes. You can also call your local Michigan State University Extension office for help.

Bacteria can grow quickly in foods when proper processing methods are not used. Processes are different for acidic foods (fruits and pickles) than they are for non-acidic foods (vegetables and meats). Some foods can be processed safely using a boiling water bath, and others cannot; while some can be frozen; others can be dried. Before your start take the time to research which process is right for the food item you wish to preserve. The Ball Blue Book recommends reading information about canning before beginning any project. Become familiar with the steps you have to complete in order to keep your project safe.

It is best to process foods when the ingredients are at their freshest – I wouldn’t can salsa in February when the tomatoes are not in season, but could can enough during the summer while the ingredients are at their freshest. The ingredients in specialty syrups and toppings really don’t have a “season” and would be suitable for processing any time of year.

After you pick your research-based recipe, process for preservation and have selected the freshest ingredients you can, assemble your canner, jars, lids and rings to begin. The person receiving will appreciate your creative gift from the kitchen.

Here is an apple cinnamon syrup recipe you can make and give any time of the year:


6 cups apple juice                         

4 cups water

3 sticks cinnamon, broken         

3 cups corn syrup

5 cups sugar                                   

1/4 cup lemon juice


Combine apple juice and cinnamon in medium saucepan. Simmer five minutes and set aside. Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and boil to 230 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the apple juice, cinnamon and corn syrup. Boil five minutes and remove cinnamon sticks. Stir in the lemon juice, then ladle in to hot jars, with one-quarter inch of headspace. Adjust the lids and process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

MSU Extension offers in-person and online home food preservation courses that teach how to process foods safely. Even if you have been processing your own foods for years – from water bath jams and jellies to dehydrating meats – these classes can help you stay up-to-date on current methods. To find a program near you visit msue.anr.msu.edu/program/events/foodpreservation.

MSU Extension recommends making healthy choices for your health and safety. If you would like more information about food safety, contact your local MSU Extension office or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3463).

Did you find this article useful?