Home cooked, or assembled food/foodie gifts for Christmas, new ideas?
Sure, I know its just September. But some things gift-wise have to be started early. It's going to be a fairly lean year here on the farm due to some new business ventures, so gifts are going to be kept on a budget and home-made when possible.
I'm going to be starting some hard cheeses this weekend. I'm still at a bit of a hit and a miss on my cheese making skills, so I try to start early and often.
I was thinking maybe some jellies or canned relishes or pickles. Maybe flavored vinegars or something. But I'm looking for something new and exciting. Anyone want to share their ideas?
Not terribly new or exciting, but if you have a favorite cookie recipe, put the dry ingredients in a glass jar, then attach a recipe card so your giftee can add the rest and bake their own.
We put together homemade stuff last year and everyone was very happy. Like you, we're starting early this year.
We're doing chow chow ketchup, green ketchup, and salsa with late season, cheap tomatoes.
Last year, we also canned (well, jarred) various beans in layers, the wife tied a decorative cloth overtop and I made a seasoning packet - a homemade version of 7 bean soup mix.
We also do dried sausage which is a big hit, and we have about 15 gallons of 2 year old wine which will be bottled in a few weeks.
We just bought Bernardin's Guide to Home Preserving. Lotsa ideas.
I'm now looking at various jellies, like habanero gold, red pepper and garlic, and red onion jelly - looks good and seems pretty simple.
What do you think of the Bernardin's book? I've heard it mentioned before but haven't run across it yet to look at. I have "the Big Book of Preserving the harvest" by Costenblader. It has some interesting recipes.... like horseradish jelly and summer squash conserve that I may try this year.
The wife picked up the Ball Blue Book at a garage sale awhile back for $1. No date on it, but it looks like its from 1962. Still very informative with lots of old-school recipes.
Recently (last week) picked up Bernardin. Obviously more modern, slick handbook (more like a hefty magazine) for like $7.
I like it, as it carries loads of info on mainstream subjects like tomatoes and pickles. It also covers other stuff like salsas, "international pickles", and "asian condiments".
There's also a "gifts in a jar" section which shows layered items, nuts, soup, and crafts like snow-globes, candles, and kids stuff.
It looks like this
I also stumbled across a different, perhaps more comprehensive Bernardin:
In addition to these great ideas, I bake small loaves of different kinds of breads and/or scones and put in little pots of different kinds of homemade cheese spreads (like smokey cheddar bacon with toasted walnuts) and compound butters (like snail butter, chive butter, honey cinnamon butter). To help things stay cool until people get home with their baskets I put little frozen gel packs from the dollar store in plastic bags and bury them underneath the butters and spreads. Not always necessary depending on the weather at that time of year, but definitely helpful with the baskets that go with my husband to his office.
Sure! Smokey Cheddar Bacon is a mostly "to-taste" recipe. I've never really measured it out, I just taste as I go.
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
1 lb sharpest cheddar you can find, shredded, room temp
1/2 lb nice smokey bacon, fried to a crisp, drained well and finely crumbled, OR, you can use a package of real bacon bits (like Hormel)
pinch or two of garlic OR onion powder
1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts (I use a double handful, but I've got small hands so I'm guesstimating 1 cup)
a few drops of liquid smoke to taste
fresh coarsely ground black pepper to taste
Pulse the cream cheese and cheddar cheese together in a food processor. The cream cheese acts mostly as a binder so you can use more or less as your taste dictates. Start out with half the amount of both cheeses and add more of whichever until you get the cheddar cheese taste that you like. Then whirl until fairly smooth and combined.
Add a pinch of garlic or onion powder and taste. Add a little more if you think it needs to be more pronounced or if you like it garlicky/oniony.
Pulse in bacon crumbles. I like lots!
Pulse in chopped walnuts.
Taste for smoke flavor. Sometimes the bacon provides enough but if you need more, add liquid smoke mixing in a drop at a time and tasting after each addition. Be careful here, a little goes a long way.
I don't add salt. Usually it's got enough from the cheese, bacon, and liquid smoke. But I do add a little coarsely ground or cracked black pepper at the end, again to taste.
Pot up in small containers. I use 4 oz snack size plastic ones. Refrigerate. Flavors are well blended the day after making it, but it can be used immediately too. It can be frozen until needed which makes it handy to make ahead and store until you're ready to do your Xmas baskets.
A variation of this is to make a "pine cone" for an appetizer for a Xmas party or buffet. You could even make small ones for gift baskets. Swap out the walnuts for pecans. Reserve a pile of whole toasted pecans. Make the recipe and chill well. When chilled, form the spread into an egg shape (either one large or several small). Starting at the narrow end, push the smaller ends of a couple of pecans into the "egg". Add the next row of pecans overlapping the bottom row and continue "shingling" all the way to the top. Garnish with a little spray of pine.
I make home-cured corned beef for family and friends. I usually end up making about five briskets or so every winter, in addition to special order from friends that want to give them as gifts themselves. Fully cooked, they last a long time if wrapped properly and refrigerated. It is actually quite easy, only requires about five minutes to trim the meat, 10 minutes to assemble the cure and rub it on, and two weeks in the fridge with a "food grade" brick on top. After that you are pretty much in business. I basically use Joan Nathan's recipe/process from "Jewish Cooking in America." Very popular homemade gift around here.
Firegoat, if you have any pecan (or I guess any other nut) trees on your farm, you might consider nut gifts. It has always been my experience that friends & family without such trees like nothing better than a gift of pecans (preferably shelled - or some of both if a big gift). Have at times sent sugared, spiced, etc. pecan halves, but believe just regular pecans (for use as gift recipients desire) are more appreciated. Homemade jams, jellies, butters, preserves, etc. as well as homemade relishes have always been popular gifts with me - both to give & receive. Homemade breads (a cranberry-pumpkin one is my favorite) and homemade cheese straws are two of my favorites to receive - as I seldom make the breads & never the cheese straws.