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Is your homemade food gift safe to eat?

Creating and giving away popular homemade food gifts may set off some food safety alarms. Choose only safe, tested recipes from research-based resources when creating homemade gifts. Keep food safety in mind when preparing your food gift.

Homemade jellies and jams using artificial sweeteners

Jellies and jams with artificial sweeteners can be safe if you follow special recipes and techniques on the package of regular pectin. For best results, use specially formulated gelling agents (pectin) like Slim Set™ for jellies and jams made with artificial or no sweeteners. Process and store these products as directed on the package instructions because they do not use sugar as the preservative. Note that some will require longer processing time while some may require refrigeration storage.

Homemade fruit spreads with gelatin

Jams or sweet spreads created with gelatin or Jello™ cannot be stored at room temperature because they do not have a sugar content high enough to slow down mold growth. These products must be stored either in the refrigerator or freezer.

Label the gift with date made, ingredients, storage instructions, and ideas for use.

Canning bread and cakes

Quick breads and cakes that are baked in canning jars and then covered with lids are unsafe. Many of the "canned" bread or cake recipes are low-acid and have the potential and can support the growth of the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. It is much safer to package up the dry ingredients with mixing and baking instructions or bake the bread in a traditional pan and wrap it attractively as a gift.

Mincemeat stored in crocks

Mincemeat for pies is a potentially dangerous food if it's stored in a crock at room temperature. Safe storage of homemade mincemeat include:

  • Refrigerate and use within 1-2 days.
  • Put in freezer containers and freeze for up to 1 month.
  • Home can mincemeat pie filling using recommended instructions from National Center for Food Preservation

Homemade chocolate sauces

Chocolate sauces are low acid and contain dairy products. As a result, using a boiling water bath processing method will make these sauces unsafe and at-risk to develop botulism. At this time, there are no tested or approved methods to preserve chocolate sauces with pressure canners. The best option for long-term storage for chocolate sauce is freezing. It will remain soft enough to spoon out portions while frozen.

Suggestions for labeling gifts

When wrapping homemade food gifts, be sure the label includes:

  • Date you made the products.
  • List of ingredients (useful for people who have food allergies or dietary restrictions).
  • Storage and handling instructions.
  • Ideas on using the food gifts.

Carol Ann Burtness, former Extension educator and Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2021

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