Homemade Gift Ideas

December 12, 2007

Update: check out our 2008 Top Ten Homemade Gift Idea list. It's even better!

'Tis the season! I so look forward to the holidays. It's my favorite time of year, but as we all know it can also be financially stressful. All the gifts to buy... the credit cards start to burst into flames. I think we've become far too concerned with giving the "perfect" gift when in fact something homemade can be just as touching, if not more! Take a Saturday and/or a Sunday to bang out some delish treats, and the bellies of your loved ones will cheer with glee.

I'm not much of a canner but I guarantee anyone can handle this one, persimmon jam (aka Kaki). If you're lucky enough to have your own tree, bonus! Or, scramble over your fence at midnight to poach your neighbor's (come now, I don't seriously condone this behavior). This time of year chain grocer's prices will cause you to gag unattractively (hello, Safeway, $2.49 each, realllly?) Look for them at your local farmer's market or fruit stand. I saw some at 5 for $1 today at a fruit stand in Sonoma and I skipped like a giddy little girl. (I didn't think there was anything in the wine country for a dollar!)

Most recipes call for a high amount of sugar, but the Hachiya variety of persimmons are already so scrumptiously sweet that I hesitated marring their natural flavor. Also, I wanted my dear diabetic grandmother to be able to enjoy it so I used only about a cup of Splenda instead of the 6 cups of sugar (per 4 cups of persimmon pulp) that my recipe called for. Note: you may want to add more pectin if you reduce the sugar.

I'm also going to embark on making pear chutney tomorrow. I found some really pretty squat half-pint Elite Collection Ball Jars that will make a lovely presentation. (I sounded a bit Martha Stewart-ish there, didn't I?) I'm using a recipe with fresh ginger which I love with pears.

Here are some other handmade gourmet gift ideas:

Herbed salts: Last year I bought some little tin countainers with clear top lids from Specialtybottle.com. They're food grade, inexpensive and they ship quickly. I used Kosher salt and mixed in the following: the first was dried lemon peel and rosemary, the second was rosemary and lavendar, the third was porcini mushroom and fourth was smoked paprika.

Seasoned vinegar is also much appreciated by the gourmet recipient. When we visited Argentina last year the gauchos at our barbeque had bottles of this simple yet mouth-startlingly good vinegar on the tables (see pictures below). We sprinkled it on our fresh grilled meat and it truly was out of this world. It's simply this: pour a bunch of Kosher salt into a wine bottle. By a bunch I mean a bunch, like a cup. Add a few cloves of garlic, don't be shy now. And finally, fill with white distilled vinegar and shake up that salt (do a little tango to feel real authentic). Like wine, it just gets better with time. In fact, make it at least a couple of weeks in advance or tell the lucky recipient to let it age a bit to let the salt fully dissolve and the garlic to penetrate the vinegar. Feel free to add a big ole fat sprig of fresh rosemary (or any aromatic herb) too. This is so easy and staggeringly good on grilled meats, chicken, vegetable or sprinkled over fresh sliced tomatoes. Make a nice little tag out of recycled paper, name it and tie it on your tightly corked bottle with a string of raffia (okay, that definitely sounded like Martha, sorry).

Tell us your ideas!