Thursday, December 3, 2009

Banana Bread (and other treats) In Jars

With Christmas rapidly approaching, it's time to start baking some of our gifts. We long ago abandoned the big Christmas shopping ordeal, in favor of handmade, useable or consumable gifts. One of our favorite gifts is a "goodie basket". This is usually a very pretty basket (picked up sometime over the past year at Goodwill or somewhere similar) filled with goodies like banana or cranberry nut bread, maybe some homemade jams or jellies, apple butter, handmade soap or salves. It is always handmade and usually comes from the farm.

The first item for the basket this year is Banana Bread. It's a pretty popular quick bread, and there just happened to be a sale at Kroger - bananas were 29¢ a lb. Lord only knows how many pounds I bought, since we love bananas. We ate some and the rest we used for Banana Bread. We made some of the usual small traditional loves (pictured above) and the rest we baked in canning jars, put the lids on as soon as they come out of the over and you have Banana Bread in Jars that lasts about forever (as long as the seal is good). These are great as gifts for people who may want something sweet long after the holidays.

Here is a picture of a few of the Banana Bread(s) in a Jar, right after they came out of the oven. After they have cooled and the jars have sealed, I put them back into the original case and cover them with a sheet of newspaper, plastic or whatever is handy so they don't get dusty in the pantry. Then I label and date the cover so I don't have to remember what they are in a year or so! When I need one to give away as a gift, I print a nice little label for the jar, tie a ribbon or several strands of natural twine around the top for a decoration.

Besides being great little gifts for a food basket, house-warming or thank you gift, they are right handy to hanve in the pantry for our own use. And it doesn't have to be just Banana Bread. Any favorite quick bread recipe will work for an instant quick treat with out the chemicals and preservatives of store-bought food.

If you are having a rushed day, how about taking a jar of homemade canned chili off the shelf with some Cornbread in a Jar? Once you know the technique, the possibilities are endless for healthy, satisfying and fast desserts, snacks or side dishes. Here's the basic formula -

You'll need:

4 wide mouth pint jars with lids and rings
A quick bread recipe that makes 2 loaves - banana, banana nut, cranberry nut, pumpkin,
                          zucchini, applesauce cake - you get the idea

Preheat the over to 350 ยบ F (or whatever your recipe calls for)

Grease the insides of the jars. Mix up your quick bread recipe as usual. Fill each jar about ½ full. Place the jars evenly spaced on a cookie sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes, according to your recipe. Test with a toothpick for doneness. When they are done, remove the cookie sheet with the jars and place on the counter on a towel to prevent burning the counter. Place a lid on each jar and screw down, but don't crank it down tight. Set the jar on a towel on the counter andrepeat with each jar. Within a few minutes, you'll hear the jar lids start their delightful "pinging", signifying that the lids have sealed.

When the jars have cooled, place them in the jar box for storage or store in a cool, dry, dark place. The cakes will last indefinately as long as the jars stay sealed. If you are canning these for your own use, you can remove the lids before storing. I usually leave the lids in place for things like this, since we normally use them as gifts, and you'll want rings on them in that case.

To remove the cakes from the jars, place them in the microwave (without the lids) for 30 sec or so or set in a pot of hot water for a minute. They will slide right out and you can slice them into pretty little rounds.

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