HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Homemade holiday gifts

  • d

What are people making for homemade holiday gifts this year? What recipes have been a success in the past? or is it too early for this topic? TIA!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It's not too early -- after all, things like fruitcakes and home made liqueurs take time to age! I've got some liqueurs aging as we speak, in fact. I also have some orange marmalade that I may give as gifts. And if I can get up the nerve to ask my neighbor if I can pick some more of the pomegrantes that she's not harvesting from her tree (I've already taken about 30), I will make some grenadine.

    This is a first for me -- I've knitted some of my gifts in previous years, but never given away food items.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jlafler

      man, that is pomengranate gold mine ($2 each -- on sale -- around here in nova).

      jalapeno jelly is a snap to make for gifts.

      1. re: alkapal

        They're not as big as the pomegranates you see in stores, but yeah, I feel very lucky to have such a great supply.

        Jalapeno jelly sounds good.

    2. Not too early. There was a thread on this a few weeks ago. I think this was it. Hope it helps.


      1. I have a huge amount of various jams and jellies ready to go. Also, I am making doggie biscuits for my friends that have dogs. Linen sprays and bath salts as well. I am also going to try caramels and various flavored barks. I made Glogg last year and also made baggies of a scone mix and gave them with a jam last year - that went over really well. I also made candies. It is fun and never too early to start!! Have fun!

        1. I've often been living abroad around this time of year and brought back gifts from my travels.. this year, rooted in the US, I want to make baskets of goodies. I would like to try making curd and marmalade this year. I'm definitely going to try infused oils (see link below, from last week). I might go for marinated goat cheese with herbs. I'd like to make some homemade crackers or bread sticks. I'll make something sweet if it's unusual -- I tried Nigella's chocolate loaf over the weekend that improves with age, like gingerbread -- definitely ideal for gifts. Maybe something like rhubarb compote would be good, along with the chocolate loaf for spreading on...

          It could be cute to put together little recipe books -- hand-lettered, even -- I might choose five recipes, adding my own notes/touches, that I think each friend/dear one would like. So each would receive a personalized set. Hand lettering these would make it much more personal than printing on the computer, and I could fasten with a pretty ribbon. Just thinking out loud here... :)

          Yay! I'm excited for the festive time ahead!

          1 Reply
          1. re: foxy fairy

            foxy fairy, i wish your ambition would rub off on me! that is a lot of work, and i wish you all luck and success! if you do a timeline, and work back, that might be a neat thread for a future post (to show all that you need to do for all your various projects!)

            ps, i like rum balls. easy to make and add to your goodie basket.

          2. One gift I am giving to co-workers who love red wine is a homemade trivet/hot pad made from wine corks...in the past, I've made a homemade version of Bailey's Irish Cream (which contains raw egg)...will post recipe if anyone thinks they might want it.

            1. I always make a variety of things every year like the other posters. Tons of cookies, for some, I make apple coffeecakes which I bake in the paper containers from King Arthur Catalog and give them on Xmas Eve, I make Toodie Jane's toffee crunch-recipe on this site...so good and I sometimes make the white/dark chocolate mint bark from Epicurious. A friend made homemade mango chutney one year and it was delicious.

              2 Replies
              1. re: 4chowpups

                We always make that mint bark and it is just fabulous, and easy. We make blueberry vanilla bean syrup, which is great for breakfast and icecream and even grilled salmon-I've made one batch so far, but have a bunch of upicked blueberries in the freezer and can figure this out at any time. We draw names in our family, and I have my cousin's name, who has requested "alcohol!'-so I think I'll put together a variety of things, including some wine we've bottled, hard cider my husband made, vodka I'm infusing, and some commercial products, too. I'd like to tackle making kahlua or irish cream.

                1. re: girlwonder88

                  play a joke, and wrap up a bottle of rubbing alcohol really nice (before giving the real foodie "alcohol" gifts!)

              2. Currenty making home made vanilla esscence, flavoured vodkas and home made perfume.

                3 Replies
                1. re: purple goddess

                  purple goddess-- are you using bourbon for your vanilla extract? Serendipitously, I just grabbed Ana Sortun's marvelous book Spice from the library today, and about ten minutes ago I read her instructions on homemade vanilla extract. She says put beans in bourbon for a month... Where did you buy the vanilla beans? How many did you use? Are they really expensive? Boston Vanilla Bean Co has 24 grams of extract beans for $12... just wondering if I could afford to make this one!


                  1. re: foxy fairy

                    I'm using vodka, as per The Traveller's Lunch Box dot com.

                    Pretty much anything with 40% alcohol will work.

                    The Traveller's site also has some good links to buy cheap beans on-line.

                    Here in OZ, I just buy them from my local grocer at about $2.00 each. I use the seeds for recipes and then just plonk the used bean in the vodka!

                    1. re: purple goddess

                      I use a barrel-aged rum for mine...it adds a little more complexity than vodka will, but without overpowering the vanilla, which I would fear bourbon might, although I've never tried it. In any case, the only real cost goes into starting it...once it's going, you can just keep dropping in used beans and it's self-sustaining. :) It's usable in two weeks...but of course just gets better the longer it sits.

                2. The biggest hit of last year's gifts from my kitchen were chocolate salted caramels -- definitely making those again, along with the usual insane variety of cookies (it's up to 15 now). Two years ago I gave everyone big jars of my "every day seasoning" mix. Also wildly popular.
                  The granddaughter and I made the cookie mix layered in a jar for a long time, but now she's graduated to making marshmallows (with a little supervision) and hot cocoa mix (she's on her own). It does me proud to see the tradition of hand made gifts of food continuing. Of course, her mother has never shown any interest...but I guess that's why grandchildren were invented.

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: Elizzie

                    Elizzie-could you post or point the way to the chocolate salted caramels recipe? I would like to add them to my 'insane' variety of cookies, candies-almonds buttercrunch, candied fruit rinds, white chocolate pistachio craisin bark as well as gallons of caramel corn. I also do some bar nuts. These are all in addition to a variety of canned goods that I let my family and close friends choose from.

                    1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                      Ooooh, I made these for my cookie and candy gift packages last year also and they were INCREDIBLE. The recipe is at http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                      This year, I am going to do fudge, and lots of it. I've already made some cranberry grapefruit marmalade and some pumpkin butter for gifts too.

                      1. re: erican

                        These sound incredible. Are they fairly easy to make?

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          Yes - the hardest part is cutting the chewy, sticky caramels into squares!

                          1. re: erican

                            Thanks so much. The recipe sounds like heaven. I'm going to give it a try in the next couple of weeks.

                            1. re: erican

                              I find a sharp, buttered knife works quite well. Otherwise I actually had a lot of success with waxed, unflavoured dental floss. Wrapped it around the caramel once, pull on strings in opposite directions - instant straight line cuts.

                              1. re: Gooseberry

                                i heard that for cheesecake, too -- waxed unflavored dental floss.
                                i bet it would work on many things that are sticky to cut.....
                                (maybe someone mentioned brownies, too)

                                1. re: Gooseberry

                                  Great idea! I will have to try that next time.

                            2. re: erican

                              Erican, if you make your fudge the old fashioned way, then can you recommend a good chocolate one? I have made the type off the back of the marshmellow cream jar for years and I have scoured several different recipes but can't decide which is best or works best. Thanks!

                            3. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                              chocolate pistachio craisin bark! yes, please share recipe!

                              1. re: alkapal

                                This is what I call a 'some' recipe-the amounts are not fixed.

                                White Chocolate Craisin Pistachio Bark

                                some good quality white chocolate, chopped
                                some craisins, (Ocean Spray if possible since I worked for a grower)
                                some shelled pistachios (if you can only get salted rinse the salt from them and dry in a 200 deg oven)
                                a parchment lined baking sheet

                                Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a hot water bath or slowly in a microwave. The idea is to just melt the chocolate.

                                Place pistachios on parchment lined baking pan and warm in 200 degree oven until slightly warm.
                                Add craisins to baking pan until the pan is just about covered by fruit and nuts.
                                Pour white chocolate over fruit and nuts and spread it so that there is one layer of craisins and pistachios covered by white chocolate.
                                Let cool completely. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

                                  1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                                    Hi AGM, thanks for sharing. One quick question - what is the ratio pistachios to craisins? 1:2, 1:1? Thanks!

                                    1. re: WildSwede

                                      I usually do 1:1 but if you prefer one over the other it is up to you. I try to make them look colorful-green & red.

                                      1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                                        Thank you! Am definitely going to try it! ;-)

                                    2. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                                      ooooh, thank you. I usually do a peppermint bark but I love this version better. Yum!!!!

                                      1. re: lexpatti

                                        Lexpatti-could you post the recipe for peppermint bark? Maybe we can switch!

                                        1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                                          let me find it, must be with my holiday stuff. easy too.

                                      2. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                                        Thanks for posting the recipe. I'm always looking for something new for the holiday gift giving.

                                  2. I typically do jams/jellies but haven't had time yet this year! With almost every fruit out of season, is there anything I can do now? I will probably do a pumpkin butter but am looking for a fruit or chutney as well - any ideas?

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: amycakes

                                      Wine jellies go over well and they're really easy to do. I also do a ginger jelly from Fancy Pantry. Citrus fruits are good -- I've made an assortment of marmalades. And, of course, there's always the cranberry -- lots of options there.

                                      Good-quality frozen fruits are useful too -- raspberries and blueberries seem to weather the freezer particularly well.

                                      1. re: mwright

                                        grapefruit marmalade? How about trying a curd? Lemon, lime, passionfruit, grapefruit? Nigella and Martha Stewart both have recipes -- I can post/paraphrase if you would like.

                                      2. re: amycakes

                                        Persimmons, maybe, if they grow where you live? You could probably make a good chutney or fruit butter. I've gotten various good ideas for what to do with them by searching chowhound. My next-door neighbors have a tree that's loaded with Hachiya persimmons, and I've been eyeing them covetously even though I don't like the Hachiya type much. I just hate to see perfectly good fruit go to waste!

                                      3. Spiced nuts. I use pecans but almost any nuts will do. And it's really easy to make big batches.
                                        I put them into a holiday-themed cellophane bag (available at Container Store) and tie with ribbon.

                                        Many recipes call for melted butter. I use beaten egg whites instead. Just beat until frothy, dump in the nuts, spread onto a sheet pan, sprinkle with the spice mixture of your choice and bake.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: rouxmaker

                                          costco usually has a nice big bag of pecan halves for a really good price!

                                        2. I like to give little jars of spice rubs as a stocking stuffer. This can also help you clean out your spice rack at the same time. I'm trying to find an old fave of mine, which was a coffee/ancho chili rub that was awesome as a rib-eye rub.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: egbluesuede

                                            What size jar do you use and where do you prefer to buy them? (order off internet?)

                                            1. re: foxy fairy

                                              those little plump ball jars are a good size. with too big a jar, spices will go stale and unused. plus, it is fun to have variety.

                                              site includes preserving tips. recipes.


                                          2. Almond Roca from my mother in laws recipe and small fruit breads - cranberry, orange, pumpkin et al.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: AlaskaChick

                                              alaskachick, please share the almond roca recipe, please!

                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                I apologize for taking so long - here it is. First, be sure you only make this during low humidity - it doesn't candy when its damp. Living in the worlds largest temperate rain forest makes it difficult for me - I buy all the stuff and wait for a day like today when its 15 degrees and clear. The recipe is in its original form - I usually buy really good chocolate for it and use slivered almonds

                                                Mom Tachick's Almond Roca

                                                1 lb butter
                                                2 c sugar
                                                1 c almonds, chopped
                                                1 giant Hershey bar, grated

                                                Melt butter, add suger and boil gentaly until 300degrees. Sprinkle one half the nuts and chocolate on a foil covered cookie sheet ( I use a biscuit/jelly roll pan with sides. . Pour butter/suger mix over. Sprinkle with remaining nuts and chocolate. Cool, peel off foil and break into pieces.

                                                The chocolate and nuts can be increased, decreased or modified to something different. You can add nuts to the mix at the end right before you pour it. Double the recipe - you'll need it.

                                                1. re: AlaskaChick

                                                  thank you (just got back to this thread in my favorites file), hope your holiday gifting was fun!

                                            2. Used to make fruit cakes with all natural ingredients with a list of ingredients(free range eggs, organic mango, raisins etc. Makers Mark Bourbon) - surprise! everyone loved the fruitcake. Now often make bottles of limoncello and for very special people- trays of baklava and galactoboureko.

                                              1. I've made Panforte di Sienna which people loved.

                                                1. I like to make homemade truffles. I usually get creative with the flavors: lavender, balsamic vinegar, mango curry, mexican hot chocolate, mojito, etc.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: AnjLM

                                                    I would like to try lavender truffles. I make a divine lavender shortbread. Do you have a general recipe you follow, and then just modify flavoring accordingly? I'm looking for a basic recipe. I know I made these years ago but I think the recipe had alcohol, and I no longer cook with alcohol.

                                                    1. re: foxy fairy

                                                      For the lavender truffles, I chop up some dried lavender (use your judgment on the amount of lavender to use...I'm sure you already know from making the shortbread that a little bit goes a long way) and then add it to the cream while scalding it. I then strain the cream and add it to the melted chocolate chocolate to make the ganache center (it's usually about an equal amount of cream to chocolate). This is then refrigerated for several hours. I then form round balls from the chocolate lavender ganache and refrigerate them again for about an hour. Then I coat them in a layer of melted chocolate. After this I like to roll it in purple sugar to give a hint of what's inside (and it hides any falls in the truffle). The basic recipe is from a Bon Appetit issue a year ago that had a story on making truffles. It's really easy to modify it by adding different flavors to the cream. I did try to make white chocolate truffles but couldn't get the ganache to firm to the right consistency so it's best to stick to bittersweet chocolate!

                                                    2. re: AnjLM

                                                      Try an olive truffle - bet it would be good... Also, chile would be good as well. We went to a French chocolatier and he had both flavors - they were phenomenal!

                                                      1. re: WildSwede

                                                        Interesting, sort of reminds me of the Vosges chocolate bars. For the olive truffle, was there an actual olive in it? or just flavoring? The Mexican hot chocolate truffle I make actually has some chile in it...adds a nice little kick along with the cinnamon.

                                                        1. re: AnjLM

                                                          There was VERY FINELY chopped olives in it - it was not just a clump of olives in the middle, it was spread throughout. It was amazing. Chile and chocolate go hand in hand in my book!! ;-)

                                                    3. For the last year or two, my boyfriend and I have made salsa and given that as Christmas gifts. For us, it was fun because it was really the first thing we made in the kitchen togethe, and also since many people receive a lot of sweets and baked goods, the salsa is a nice break from that, and lasts a while :)

                                                      1. You beat me to it. One year I did a basket of all homemade goodies, everyone's favorite was the jar of salsa. I made different batches (some with pinnapple, some hotter then others, some with peaches, etc.). Also in the basket was peppermint bark, rum balls, thimble cookies, something esle - found nice baskets. My sister does this fabulous cayenne cookie, she put all the dry ingrediants in a jar with the recipe on the outside. It's a great cookie, you wouldn't expect it with cayenne pepper. She also did candied ginger. Not food related - I always do a Lillian Venon photo Calendar for each of my sisters and parents with photos of their family members (since I take photos all throughout the year of everyone).

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: lexpatti

                                                          Along the same lines, my SOand I made our own hot sauce this year. It turned out great (we've been using it ourselves) and I'm hoping it will be a welcome addition to our entirely sweet good baskets. (Jellies & Jams/Truffles/Caramels + Now plus hot sauce!)

                                                          1. re: wawajb

                                                            Hot sauce sounds really interesting! I've never thought of that, but that's a really good idea! The whole basket sounds great! What types of jellies and jams do you make?

                                                            1. re: Erinmck

                                                              I'm still working on them, but so far I've made a spiced apple jelly, apple-plum jam and hot pepper jelly. Still on the list are spiced fig jam, lavender-peach jam, and orchard fruit chutney. All of the recipes came out of Small Batch Preserving (Ellie Topp & Margaret Howard). I've been pretty happy with the results so far.

                                                              One tip that I got from that book and love...I bought all the fruit when it was in season and just sliced it up, mixed with a portion of the sugar from the recipe and froze it in a ziplock (with a detailed label). I am always busier in the summer when the fruit is great, and much prefer to heat up the kitchen once it's turned cool.

                                                              1. re: wawajb

                                                                That is my favorite book. You will be very pleased with the Spiced Fig and the lavender peach is awesome. I really like the zucchini relish recipe, too! I, too, buy items when in season and freeze for when I have the time.

                                                                1. re: WildSwede

                                                                  Finally made the rest of my list of jellies and jams...and I totally agree WildSwede...the lavender peach and the spiced fig are amazing. Although I did find that every single recipe I made this weekend (and there were 6 in total) made a 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup more than it was supposed to. As a result my fridge now has a tower of small tupperware containers holding the 'extras'.

                                                                  I see some thumbprint cookies in my future....anybody have an absolute favorite recipe for a basic (no-nuts) thumbprint?

                                                          2. re: lexpatti

                                                            Cayenne cookies, now that sounds good!

                                                            I've always wanted to try making a peach salsa!

                                                          3. We brought two for Thanksgiving, and I think our hosts really liked both:

                                                            *garam masala that I toasted and ground and put in a cute little spice jar

                                                            *and the game of CLUE -- how is this chow/food related though???.... wait! it is! These friends have the fantastic tradition of bringing out a board game after dinner, which gives us all something to do while we work up an appetite again to really enjoy dessert. I think it's a great idea in terms of drawing out the meal, gives guests something to do and eases any awkwardness :) and allows us to celebrate the next course. Now, if only there were a chow related board game.... :)

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: foxy fairy

                                                              Ooooops thought I was posting in the "host gift" thread... I do realize that Clue doesn't count as a homemade gift. The garam masala was, though :) This makes me wonder though -- maybe one could create a cool culinary trivia game??? Wouldn't that be a fantastic game... That's what I was thinking when I kept striking out during the trivia game last night.... "why aren't there any food-related questions???"

                                                              1. re: foxy fairy

                                                                Debbie young lady I always make and give to my friends, neighbors, and relatives,
                                                                and espeically co-workers, Jams/jellies that make over the year. I don`t know a person that does`nt like to recieve a jar as a gift for any occasion. I have made
                                                                a hobbie of making different jams/jellies just for that reason. no matter the occasion
                                                                people love to get that. Trust Me. I am an old man that knows .

                                                              2. re: foxy fairy

                                                                Chow related games - try amazon for Foodie Fight, Eat It and Food Lovers Trivia. Haven't tried them yet but am thinking to order one.

                                                              3. I've been pickling and canning for the last couple months. I recently made pickled eggs. My husband says I can't give them out, but I so want to.

                                                                Can I give pickled eggs for Christmas presents?

                                                                6 Replies
                                                                1. re: churchka

                                                                  why not? I mean...assuming you know that the recipients are pickled egg lovers. It's kinda one of those love it or hate it foods.

                                                                  1. re: wawajb

                                                                    I just tasted pickled eggs for the first time in Big Bear this past weekend and they were great! I would definitely be glad to get some for Christmas!

                                                                  2. re: churchka

                                                                    at least it's unique, and a new expeirence is a nice gift. And for what it's worth, my new year's resolution for LIFE is to STOP listening to my husband. He's always telling me not to do things, and my life is none the better for it!

                                                                    1. re: alex8alot

                                                                      You Go Girl!!! Gifts should be somthing out of the ordinary.

                                                                    2. re: churchka

                                                                      No joke, I have the best picture of my nephew of with this unbelievable look on his face and hugging his favorite birthday gift - pickled eggs!!!! It depends on the receiver - it can be an awesome Christmas present!!! :-)

                                                                      1. re: churchka

                                                                        I agree that if you know someone likes them, you should do it. You may want to wrap a jar for your husband and watch him open it. Could be amusing.

                                                                      2. I thought this was an excellent idea in the Christmas issue of BH&G. They made three different spice mixes that all the recipient has to do is mix in sour cream. I'm sure the options are endless, but these are the ones that they had:

                                                                        1 T. dried oregano, crushed
                                                                        1/2 t. ground cumin
                                                                        1/4 t. dried lemon peel
                                                                        1/4 t. sea salt

                                                                        1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
                                                                        1 T. dried basil
                                                                        1/2 t. garlic powder
                                                                        1/4 t. sea salt

                                                                        Bloody Mary
                                                                        2/3 cup chopped dried tomatoes
                                                                        2 t. dried celery flakes
                                                                        1 t. lemon pepper seasoning
                                                                        1/4 t. salt

                                                                        Then, you write on a gift tag instructions to mix with 1 cup of sour cream and let stand 5 minutes to serve with crackers, etc. They packaged them in a tin container tower. Really cute idea! I'm sure some of us could come up with even more interesting options.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Katie Nell

                                                                          Great idea, KN. I think I'll try a few sample batches with a bunch of spices I bought this week at the Turkish/Lebanese market, tipped off by Ana Sortun's suggestions in SPICE. How about including unusual (or less-widely-used) chiles or spices in these mixes - Aleppo chile, which I just tried last night, is gorgeous in color. Smoky paprika. Toasted citrus. These would be cute in little glass jars too.

                                                                          (paraphrased/adapted) Ideas from her book that could work:

                                                                          1/8 cup Sumac (lovely deep color), 1 1/2 orange or 3 limes --toasted zest, 1/8 cup ground fennel seeds (grind yourself), 1/2 tsp Aleppo chiles. Keeps up to four months. She uses it as a spice for fish, but I think it would be great with sour cream or even sour cream/Greek yogurt combo as a dip, garnished with orange zest.

                                                                          **Toast the citrus zest on a baking sheet overnight with just the pilot light burning, keeping the oven ajar about an inch with a spoon (for air flow). Or, dry the zest for two days and then toast for 200 degree oven for a minute, then grind into a powder in a blender.

                                                                          Or, how about triple-smoky whipped feta (also adapted from her book) -- 1/2 tsp Urfa chilies, 1/4 tsp smoked Spanish paprika, 1 tsp Aleppo chiles. her recipe calls for a roasted red pepper, too, which I skip b/c I think the flavor is overwhelming. Anyway, the triple-chilies could go in a jar, along with a card giving instructions to whip in blender/food processor with 1/2 tsp lemon juice, 1/8 cup olive oil, 1/2 lb French feta.

                                                                          1. re: foxy fairy

                                                                            Oh good, I was wondering about the dried lemon zest. My grandma had bought dehydrated lemon peel from McCormick's last year because she didn't know what lemon zest was (cute, huh! :-) and it was not good at all- very bitter! Thanks for the instructions on toasting/ drying it. Let us know if you come up with some combinations that you love!