Demons Will Gnaw Your Entrails if You Don’t Do This…

Sharon July 10th, 2008

Ok, maybe a little bit of an exaggeration.  But there is a price.  Trust me.  The price for violating the one essential rule of food storage and food preservation is very, very high.  And that rule is…


So you’ve dried the tarragon.  You cut it, hung it, watched it, rubbed it off the stem, and it smells amazing.  Take 2 seconds and write the word “tarragon” on a piece of tape or a label or something.  Please, for the love of Hestia, Goddess of Food Storage, put the label on!

Why should you do something so banal, you ask me (or rather, my evil inner demon asks me)?  Of course you can tell the smell of tarragon from rosemary.  Who needs labels? Plus I can’t find the tape.

Trust me, you need a label.  I need a label.  Because someday you will be cooking and the kitchen will be redolent of many spices, your nose will be saturated and you will be sitting their sniffing… it savory or tarragon?

Or you will be sitting there trying to guess which of the unlabelled jars of red stuff is the horseradish-red currant jam and which one is the strawberry.  Guess whose children will be unhappy if you make a mistake on their peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches?

Or you will be prying up the lids of uncounted 5 gallon buckets, looking for the adzuki beans.  Or trying to figure out if the yellowish powdery stuff if bullion or masa.  Seriously, you have better things to do with your time.  I have better things to do with my time.  Label it now.

 Now, if only I could take my own advice in a kitchen full of unlabelled jars ;-).


23 Responses to “Demons Will Gnaw Your Entrails if You Don’t Do This…”

  1. Kation 10 Jul 2023 at 2:02 pm

    *snicker* I actually remembered to do this when I dried lambsquarters a couple of weeks back. They went into a nice big (leftover spaghetti-sauce) jar and I slapped a mailing-tag lable on it with the correct info (not only the contents, but when I harvested them).

    Thankfully rosehips and chamomile are easy to tell apart! *wink*

  2. Adrienneon 10 Jul 2023 at 2:11 pm

    LOL… i just recently bought a roll of masking tape for this purpose, it’s getting to the point where I have enough stuff stored that I won’t remember it all.

  3. sueinithacaon 10 Jul 2023 at 2:17 pm

    I should forward this to my husband. He’s always putting away canning without labeling it. Some things are ok - the pickled eggplant looks like pickled eggplant (ah, but from which YEAR?) but we have far too many jars of unlabeled red stuff. Fortunately, most of them have turned out to be red currant or strawberry. Only one tomato marmalade in the bunch (turns out we don’t like tomato marmalade so much - it looked pretty in the recipe book!)

  4. koryon 10 Jul 2023 at 2:59 pm

    If I could add a tip, put your label on the lid portion that doesn’t get reused next year, it will save the trouble of trying to scrub an old piece of tape and its gluey effluent off the side of the jar when its time to re-sterilize.

  5. Weeping Soreon 10 Jul 2023 at 3:09 pm

    Next you’ll be telling me to label the seed packets of collected seed. What’s next - labeling plants when planting seed? While I appreciate the advice, what’s labeled often doesn’t grow and what does grow has no label. ;)

  6. Greenpaon 10 Jul 2023 at 3:15 pm

    Sueinithaca- indeed. I was going to add here - In my greenhouse business, I tell people that I, personally, will gnaw their entrails if I ever find a label without a DATE.

    Not that anyone listens, but yeah, it’s that important. Full date; day, month, year. Or you will be very very sorry. :-)

  7. Greenpaon 10 Jul 2023 at 3:24 pm

    And I might add- we use a tungsten carbide pen to label mason jar lids. It’s just sharp; but it easily scratches through the varnished surface of the lid and makes a very legible label; which will not accidentally wipe off, as too many “permanent” markers can, after 5 months in a cellar. The scratch will start to rust a little; no worries there, unless you keep the jar for 3 years; then the rust can spread to the point where you can’t read it.

  8. MEAon 10 Jul 2023 at 3:27 pm

    The only thing we don’t label is strawberry jam on the theory that if it doesn’t have a label, it’s strawberry jam. No idea how that tradition started.

  9. sealanderon 10 Jul 2023 at 4:29 pm

    My New Year’s resolution is to label all the vegetable plants where I am trialling different varieties so I can work out what that tomato was that grew so well last summer :)
    I am getting better at labelling the food stores, but the problem is remembering where you put that specific item…..I’m beginning to think I need a map of the kitchen.

  10. richardon 10 Jul 2023 at 5:41 pm


    If I would give you a million dollars, would you still keep this ‘run for the hills/little house on the prairy’ stuff up?

    Ten million?

    Don’t get me wrong: I admire you for what you are doing, and I have been reading your stuff for a long time. But maybe you should keep things a bit in perspective.

  11. jameyon 10 Jul 2023 at 7:44 pm

    LOL - what a surreal comment - thanks for the laugh. You couldn’t pick a more down-to-earth post to bring up a more OT philosophical question!

    Q: How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    A: a bathtub full of (labeled) mason jar lids!

  12. Kateon 10 Jul 2023 at 9:33 pm

    The key to labeling in our house is to leave a roll of masking tape and a pencil wherever we need to label. I’m MUCH more likely to label if the stuff is handy.

    Also, Greenpa, I’m confused about why you need the day on the label. One of my hangups was that I often didn’t know exactly what day it was. Finally I quit trying to work it out in my head and just do month/year. I’ve never needed the day, especially on long-term storage stuff.

  13. MEAon 11 Jul 2023 at 7:46 am

    Richard — why aren’t you running for the hills?

  14. Lisa Zon 11 Jul 2023 at 8:09 am

    Richard, I think a lot of people come here to read Sharon’s stuff because we like the old-fashioned knowledge. I do agree that we have to keep it in perspective, that it may or may not be life or death to know this stuff, but for the most part if you’re not interested in learning some of the “old ways” and would rather technology or something else “save” us then you might want to find a different blog or two to read! There is plenty of that out there, too.

    Lisa in MN

  15. scifichickon 11 Jul 2023 at 8:29 am

    I am usually pretty bad with labeling, but when I got my new big storage buckets, I labeled all of them thanks to you! Now I just need to look at a huge label on a side of a backet to know what it is and when I bought it. Everytime I have to get something, I say, “Thanks, Sharon!” I also labeled my little baggies with herbs I dried because I definitely can’t smell what’s what. Thanks for the great advice.

  16. Sharonon 11 Jul 2023 at 9:01 am

    Richard - I’m afraid I would keep it up. But on the other hand, I won’t complain if you want to give me a million dollars - my little house would be a whole lot prettier - think about all the board fencing, the pretty greenhouse, designer chickens ;-).

    On the other hand, even for board fencing ;-) I can’t say I really need it, so if you are looking to unload 10 million or even 1, there are a lot more deserving people than me - including some who need it bad. I’ve got a load of suggestions if you have the money to donate.

    BTW, I do object to the “run for the hills’ characterization - call it little house on the prairie if you want, but it isn’t run for the hills. In fact, I think most of us are going to make do in the future where we are now - wherever that is ;-).


  17. Greenpaon 11 Jul 2023 at 10:08 am

    Kate- you want the day too because it’s easier to be consistent; and SOMETIMES actually useful. Like when you’re canning tomatoes in August- on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 10th, 14th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 29th, 30th….

    Then it’s actually useful to know which ones to use first. It takes almost no time, really.

    It’s also useful if one batch turns out bad. Somebody put an unwashed batch of tomatoes in on the 18th? Great- you can just throw those out; not the entire month.

    Sharon- I could use a mil or two if you have spare donors! :-) And yeah, it’s not “run for the hills”; more “dig in, and fight for the hills.” Sort of.

  18. Carlaon 11 Jul 2023 at 11:28 am

    I’ve started using a Sharpie & writing on the bottom of my dried herb storage jars: thyme, 2008; parsley, flat-leaf, 2008, etc. But I don’t use canning jars for this - just ’saved’ jars. It ussally washes off for the next use, with a bit of scrubbing (w/a homemade dishcloth!)

  19. Kateon 11 Jul 2023 at 11:39 am

    Greenpa-good point about the bad batch identifying. Tho I would probably not worry about FIFO with a variation of only 30 days. :)

    I’ll probably still never do days since I’m so inaccurate that it would be next to worthless. I’m lucky to know which day of the week it is…

  20. richardon 12 Jul 2023 at 1:58 pm


    I wasn’t trying to be negative or anything, sorry about that.

  21. Chileon 12 Jul 2023 at 8:33 pm

    I put month and year on my labels. No need for day in my tiny operation.

    I learned the value of labels while working for a non-profit charity organization that shipped donated and recycled goods to poverty-stricken countries and disaster zones. Many foreign customs ports would kick out the entire shipment (TONS) if a single box was not properly labeled. All boxes had to be labeled on top and two adjacent sides so that it could be packed easily to allow the label to be seen. I now do that with my boxes of stored stuff and have taken to putting labels on the top as well as the side on the 5 gallon buckets.

    However, I did just vacuum packed dehydrated potatoes in jars this week and blew off doing labels. Dammit. Now I’ve got to dig those jars back out and label ‘em. Why do you always make more work for us, Sharon, why? ;-)

  22. MEAon 14 Jul 2023 at 9:54 am

    I am reminded of Black Adder “If you see the hills coming, run away, run away.”

  23. feonixrifton 15 Jul 2023 at 12:32 am

    With many too many fond recollections of masking tape dust getting in my baking flour as a kid, I label on scotch tape. But yes, it’s labeled. I’d note: if you buy specific brands, put the brand name! Else you might find yourself buying something peculiar the next time.

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