There is no doubt that I get inspired at this time of year to create gifts from all the things I have preserved over the year. Why spend time in a mall when you can hunker down and make your own beautiful and delicious gifts? Here are some of the gifts I’ve been making so far in anticipation of gift-giving.
This year I have made Herbes de Provence, a mixture that is wonderful with chicken or sprinkled over roasted potatoes. I put the mix in cute little jars for gifts to my foodie friends. As always, I grow herbs for tisanes and teas. I found small bottles with corks for my ‘quiet spirit’, lemon balm, double mint, and anise and bergamot teas. Add a ribbon and you have a lovely gift for those who enjoy herbal soothing drinks. How about pairing a relaxing tea with lavender bath salts? Yup, my many lavender plants produce plenty of flowers for both cooking and for adding to Epsom salts and lavender essential oil. That’s a perfect way to indulge in a little self-time during the busy season.
The Christmas Meal
This year I put together gift boxes with Cranberry Sauce (with and without Port), Cranberry Mostarda and a package of dried herbs to add to make an onion-sage stuffing for the bird. It’s an all-in-one gift. The Cranberry Sauce is just one less thing to make for the hostess. The Cranberry Mostarda is an Italian condiment that blends mustard with cranberry and is delicious on turkey or ham sandwiches or with a grilled cheese. The herb mix can be thrown into the stuffing mix or used to season the turkey, chicken, goose, or capon.
Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without mincemeat. It is the flavour of the season. I always make Pear Mincemeat (vegan) that is excellent for creating baked gifts or even as a stand-alone gift. I make pear mincemeat tarts, squares (think date square with mincemeat instead of dates), warm it and serve with ice cream or incorporate it into a Christmas morning muffin.
Jams, jellies, and pickles are always welcome gifts at any time of year. For the holidays, I try to think about the people receiving the gifts. For the cheese-lovers, two or three wine jellies to accompany the cheese. For the meat lover, Peach-Ale mustard and White Wine, Sage, and Honey Mustard. For the pickle lover, a variety of pickles – dills, bread & butter, pickled carrots, asparagus, or beets. For the Caesar drinker, spicy pickled beans. For families, hot cocoa mix and homemade marshmallows.
This time of year inspires creativity and a desire to give something meaningful to friends and family. Let’s celebrate all the bakers, preservers and creators who keep traditions going and who keep the spirit of the season alive and well.