How to Label Your Home Canned Creations

Don’t forget to label your homemade jams, jellies and other treats for safe gift-giving.

gift tag label

A few years ago my mother-in-law bought us a jar of homemade onion relish at the local harvest fair. The relish certainly looked festive, but we didn’t dare eat it.  Why? Because we knew nothing about it except that it was homemade and in a mason jar.

The label said, “onion relish.” Nothing else. What was it made from? Had it been processed? How old was it? Who made it? It included no information. It may have been perfectly safe. It may have been the best onion relish on the planet. Sadly, we will never know because it went in the trash, unopened.

Don’t let the same thing happen to your home canned gifts. Your homemade gifts come from the heart, and we both know they are better any commercially made item. So once you gather the harvest, find the perfect recipe, make your special raspberry jam or green tomato salsa, process the jars and lovingly decorate them, don’t forget to add a label.

What Should the Label Include?
  • Product Name: You recognize your savory Asian Apricot Sauce by sight, but Grandpa Joe might not. If he thinks it is jam and spreads it on his morning English muffin, you may lose a fan!
  • Date: Home canned goods are best used within a year. Add the date to show it is freshly made.
  • Recipe Source: Remember, a safe recipe is a tested recipe! Some treats are family recipes, like my family’s Russian Bear Pickles recipe. But even long-time family favorites need to be based on safe, tested recipes. Identifying your recipe source shows that the gift is a safe food product.
  • Ingredients: People are allergic to all kinds of things. Avoid making your gift recipients ill – list the ingredients!
  • Processing Method and Time: Water bathed? Pressure canned? Include the method used on your label, and the processing time. Was your jam water bathed for 15 minutes? Include it.
  • Name: Don’t forget to add your name!
Do I Always Have to Label My Canned Goods?

No. If you are using the items yourself, in your own home, and have kept track of the above information in your trusty Canning Journal (you are keeping a journal, right?!), you do not have to add a label.

But…. If you give items as gifts, a label is necessary.

I Can’t Fit All That Information On a Tiny Label!

Me either. That’s why I usually write the item name on the top of the jar, and include all the information on a separate tag. There are lots of creative ways to do this:

  • Type the information, print it out on card stock, punch a hole in one end and tie it to the jar.
  • Type the information, print it out on an adhesive mailing label, and attach it to a purchased gift tag.
  • Practice your beautiful handwriting on specialty paper and glue it down the length of the jar.
  • Include a nice card listing the labeling information with the canned goods in a basket.

Home canned goods are wonderful gifts. Label yours to ensure that they are enjoyed as they should be!

by Renee Pottle

Renee Pottle, a freelance writer and Home Economist, is fanatic about all things food. She blogs about canning and food preservation at Find her professional food writing info at

October 5, 2016

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