homemade food gift ideas
- chilibug Oct 25, 2005 03:23 PM
Anyone had any particular successes or have fun ideas? I've done raspberry vodka and vanilla extract already. I'm thinking tea blends and flavored oils this year. Thoughts?
I made chocolate truffles for a birthday present and they went over quite well (even better as gifts to women). For extra visual appeal I had plan cocoa truffles and ones covered in coconut sugar.
I usually do toffee and/or cookies. Also, I've done different food baskets. I usually pick a theme and put different complimentry items together. One year, I found this cute colander so I used it as a basket and filled it with pasta, sauces and olive oil. I sometimes do a mix of homemade items and store bought ones.
I've had good luck giving people croutons. They're pretty easy to make in the oven - I use day old bagels but you can use any type of cheap bread really. The great thing about them is they last forever....
The holiday issue of Fine Cooking has a bunch of great ideas for holiday food gifts, including homemade granola, which I think I'm going to do (but using my own recipe rather than theirs).
I've done the usual cookies and pound cake and jams. Last year I made baskets of pink, red and white foods - powdered-sugar-covered Russian tea-cakes, sugar cookies with pink frosting, candied cranberries, pink peppermint marshmallows, little bottles of homemade grenadine for the drinkers, and clove-flavored pink lollipops. The lollipops were definitely the winners, which struck me as odd, but hey, if you can't regress at Christmas, when can you? I'm thinking this year I might make lollipop bouquets. Or maybe I'll go in the other direction and make pickled onions and homemade mustard.
Actually, it's more like this one below. I know the fruit and sugar should be blended and sit for a few days. Not sure exactly what this does, but a number of old-fashioned fruit syrup recipes use this approach and claim it brings out the flavor better than a simple blend and cook method.
The syrup should be refrigerated for long-term storage.
It's good stuff, with a round, soft fruitiness that is much more subtle than the no-flavor-but-sugar store-bought version. It's required for my favorite version of a pink lady, which is:
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz gin
1 oz calvados
1/2 oz homemade grenadine
This is so refreshing before dinner, after dinner, over ice on a hot summer day. I also add a few tablespoons of limoncello when I make strawberry or tangerine sorbet. Keep it in the freezer.
8 or 9 organic lemons (I use Meyer lemons when I have them)
4 cups 80 proof vodka (something good, that you would drink)
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Remove zest from lemons with a vegetable peeler (no white pith) and put it in a half-gallon jar with the vodka. Let it stand 10 to 15 days until the vodka is good and yellow. Strain out the peels and discard (or eat!) them. Heat the water and sugar, disolving the sugar. Let it cool and then add it to the vodka. Mix well and bottle. This is best when it "rests" for at least a month.
Regarding the alcohol: I think it is traditional to use stronger stuff than 80 proof vodka, and then add more water. I made some with Everclear once, but I prefer vodka. I think the vodka makes the final product smoother, less harsh.
I get bottles from a local kitchen supply store and simply cap them with the corks I buy there too. The corks have a little plastic black top. I'm sure you can order nicer bottles online. I've never waxed my bottles - one year a winemaker friend gave us a curvy bottle of his amazing homemade vinegar with a thick, elegant wax cover (over the cork, of course) and it was so hard to get off that I vowed never to do it.
Apple butter. We used the recipe from Joy of Cooking and adjusted the sugar as necessary. Round these parts (suburban So. Cal) folks don't make home preserves as commonly as in other parts of the country. Gurlfren made this and gave them out to her clients, who still ask her if we have any left over.
It's easy, made in large batches so your effort will go a long way if you jar them in small gift sized jars.
The home canning process was new to us, but it wasn't that hard. I think jars and a canning funnel were the only new equipment we bought. You don't necessarily need to buy the canning kit (kettle, tongs, etc) if you have a well equipped kitchen already.
All my gifts are edible.
I do a lot of canning most of which go to my parents and sibling. I make some basic stuff as well as 6 kinds of tomato/pasta sauces, Chinese duck sauce, chili sauce (think Heinz) and Cranberry chili chutney. These things I work on over the summer and fall.
For co workers and friends I make cookie and candy boxes. The standards for those are candied grapefruit, lemon and orange rinds, almond buttercrunch, white chocolate,craisin and pistachio bark, lemon stars, apricot foldovers and champagnebrod (a Danish butter cookie). Also I make huge quantities of caramel corn for my husband's co workers- he is a teacher.
I am always looking for new ideas.
Sorry about the delay. Since I make it for so many people, I usually make 8 times the recipe using those big aluminum roasting pans. Make sure the bottoms are flat! Lately I have been getting the aluminum inserts for the casserole set up with the sterno from BJs. Also I use an the airpopper from Black & Decker.
CARAMEL CORN WITH PEANUTS
Good crunchy peanuts and corn, a crisp molasses-flavored glaze, and you have a version of one of America's favorite nibbles. Homemade, it's never stale, and has as many peanuts as your heart desires.
Makes about 6 to 7 cups
2 quarts (8 cups) freshly popped corn
1/2 cup raw, shelled, and skinless peanuts, preferably the small Spanish ones
1/4 cup (firmly packed) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup light molasses
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
2. Spread the popcorn in a large, well-buttered roasting pan. Sprinkle the peanuts on top and set the pan aside.
3. In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses, and salt. Stir over moderate heat until the mixture boils. Continue boiling gently, without stirring, until a candy-jelly thermometer in the syrup reads 250 degrees. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda.
4. Pour the syrup over the popcorn and peanuts and rapidly mix with a spatula to coat the pieces evenly.
5. Bake the caramel corn in the preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, and then cool the candy in the pan.
6. Slip the cooled candy out of the pan with a spatula and break into fairly large chunks. Store in an airtight container for up to about a week.
I've made a lot of different things over the years (I like changing it up): homey cookies, elegant cookies, biscotti, granola, chutneys, apricot liqueur, vin d'orange (a fortified red wine flavored with roasted orange peels - delicious!), spiced nuts, caramels, panforte, fruitcake.
My favorite is cashew honey butter -- super easy and delicious. Just toast some raw cashews for about 10 min. in the oven. When they're cool, dump them in the food processor or blender along with a little unflavored oil (such as canola or grapeseed) and a few tablespoonsful of honey, and process until they reach a spreadable consistency. You can add a little salt at the end if you want.
Your post brought to mind my mother, who made homemade gifts for the lucky people on her list for over 30 years! I remember our huge dining room table covered with homemade candy, cookies, quick breads and yeast breads ready to be hand packed for her friends.
Here is a list of some of the items she made:
Homemade fudge (several kinds)
peanut, cashew clusters covered in chocolate
chocolate covered cherries
brown bread with raisins ( steamed in coffee cans )
Yeast bread with dried fruit and nuts, with lemon glaze
If I think of anything else, I'll post again!
Usually, I give homemade beer bread mixes -- a pretty standard mix of flour, salt, baking soda, and seasonings. Just add a beer and bake, a big hit with my guy friends. Very inexpensive and easy, it just takes time to assemble and package into something pretty.
This year, my basil went berserk, so I actually planned ahead (gasp), and have made and frozen about 2 gallons of pesto base. I'll defrost in December, add in the nuts/cheese/garlic to the mixture, jar it, and give it out. Would be fun to get a hold of a friend's pasta machine to make some homemade pasta to accompany it.
I'll probably do a mix of all three this year.
Mixed spiced nuts
various cookies for baskets
tea breads and cakes
candies-killer white and dark chocolate peppermint bark, guiandua cups (like peanut butter ones with hazelnuts butter)
homemade spaghetti sauce-made up baskets with sauce(sausage and meatballs included), pasta, hand decorated wooden spoons, and homemade biscotti
.a few years ago my Sri Lankan friend made this delicious mango chutney...
Hot pepper jelly!
This year I made it with homegrown chiles excluding red bell peppers (too bland). Chiles used were ripe Red Savinas (the hotter cousin of the orange Habanero), Kung Pao hybrids, and ripe Serranos. Original recipe is from one of Jane Butel's books, which calls for bell peppers as well as Jalapenos.
Hot pepper jelly is great with peanut butter on rye bread.
This is late...just got power back on Thursday but cable was out til yesterday afternoon...I live in Naples, FL...anyway, here's a recipe for homemade Bailey's Irish Cream if anyone is interested...it's delicious but with a caution for raw egg included.
A small bottle of Bailey's costs around $16.00 down here.
1 1/2 cups whiskey
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 Tablespoons chocolate syrup (good quality if you can find it)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Tablespoons water
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend til smooth. Pour into bell jars or any bottle you like. Keep refrigerated and shake before serving.
I buy a dozen quart wide-mouth canning jars and make *Friendship Brownies in a Jar*. My co-workers expect a jar every year......tee hee.......and all they have to do is add eggs and oil to the dry mix. There are many mix recipes on the net but I prefer to make the one with nine ingredients, including chocolate and vanilla chips. I just line the jars up, add one ingredient to each of the jars, then layer on the next ingredient, etc., until all the jars are filled. The recipe calls for sugar to be added last but I like to add it after the flour. The jars look much nicer with the nuts and chips on top with nothing over them. I then use pinking sheers to cut out a round of holiday fabric and place it under the lid when I cap each jar. I then hot glue ribbon or colored raffia around the rim of the jars, attaching a card with baking instructions. If I give these on a Friday, by Monday I have several empty jars on my desk! I've never asked for the jars back, it's just that we recycle around here!!