Gifts: Soup in a Jar

A few years ago, I made everyone in my family a gift basket for Christmas. This was the first time I'd ever given my own gifts to extended family, instead of letting my mom put my name on a tag of something she had bought for them. It felt very adult.

I'd originally intended to make my own hot cocoa mix, give it in jars or bags, but I ran out of time to do that myself and bought packets of mix instead. In a basket with paper stuffing (in case of small children or pets), I included baggies of marshmallows, some cookies, and a mug for each person in the house. For the couple people who don't drink cocoa, I gave them tea. I made gifts for 27 people by spending $73, and was very proud of myself.

This year, I wanted to do a reprisal of the hot cocoa baskets, though I was going to skip the mugs this time. I was going to make my own cocoa and perhaps help with the baking of the trays my dad and brother make for everyone in lieu of material gifts. However, looking at all the indulgence of the season, especially the sweets, I wanted to do something a little better for people. But I still liked the idea of a consumable food product that wasn't just going to result in more clutter around the house. It has the benefit of being handmade with love, as well.

That's how, a week before I left on vacation, I found myself looking up recipes for Soup In A Jar. I didn't have time to be testing recipes, so I needed one that seemed like it would work and had been tested and approved by others. Of course, I still ended up tweaking it further.

Soup In A Jar--Pint size or Quart size canning jar
Gather the following in addition to the ingredients listed below:

  • Pint/Quart jars for however many gifts you want to make. Keep in mind that a quart jar will make about a gallon of soup. 
  • EXTRA-large cupcake liners (especially if you're using wide-mouth jars, but even the regular-mouth jars could use larger liners than the standard size--they make lid skirts, you can skip these if you don't want to decorate them)
  • Ribbon
  • Printed cards with the user-directions, listed after the jar assembly directions.

In a Pint Jar, layer the following ingredients in order (for a quart size, double the amounts in each layer):

  • 1 tbls vegetable bouillon powder
  • 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1 tbls minced dried onion
  • 1 tbls herbs (parsley, italian mix, savory, whatever sounds good)
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1/4 cup red lentils
  • 1/4 cup split peas
  • 1/4 cup pearled barley
  • 3/4 cup (ish) pasta--smaller size for a pint jar, larger size for a quart jar

Tap the measuring spoon/cup around the outer edges to pour in each layer. Use a funnel if necessary. Tap the jar on the outside with your fingers to even it out, and even gently a few times onto the table to pack each layer in well before you add the next one.

Once the jar is packed full, put the lid on without the ring. Flatten out a decorated cupcake liner, and cover the lid with it. Tie the card onto the ring with ribbon (the contents of the card are below). Secure the lid & cupcake liner with the ring.

User Directions Card:

  1. Soup in a Jar! The contents of this jar are vegetarian.
  2. Add contents of jar to 3 quarts of water (don’t substitute broth!). 
  3. Add vegetables and meat if desired (onion, celery, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, or anything that sounds good).
  4. Simmer until everything is cooked (original recipe says 1 hour, I’m afraid it will be mush by then, so check the pieces closer to 30 minutes and cook to taste from there).
  5. Add seasonings to taste!
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I made gifts for 36 people, made 6 quart jars and 12 pints, and spent just under $50! It also took about 3 hours of shopping and assembling. That comes out to:
  • $1.39 and 5 minutes per person
  • $2.08 and 7.5 minutes per pint jar
  • $4.16 and 15 minutes per quart jar
That's a pretty good average! Everyone seemed to be pretty excited about getting them. Though admittedly not as excited as they were about receiving my brother's coffee cake. But I don't take that personally. Sour cream coffee cake versus soup? I'd be all over that coffee cake too. 

If you're less concerned about the presentation, you could spend less time on them and have them for yourself for preparedness storage. My parents are probably going to make their jar for dinner one of these nights before I leave, so I can taste-test the recipe before I go home and make some for our own food stores. And I'm hoping to test some recipes before next year, so I can do the same thing but with a different flavor of soup. This seems like a nice tradition I could start. 
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Do you have any gift-giving traditions in your family? Any baked-good trays you look forward to? Do you prefer more individualized gifts? 

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