The holidays should be a time of great joy and peace. It is a time to reconnect with friends and family. It is too easy to get caught up in the other aspects of the holidays and exchange our peace for anxiety. The only antidote for this is to be prepared and make a commitment to give personalized and thoughtful gifts. It sounds trite, but I have honestly found people truly appreciate handmade gifts from the homestead; they show an abundance of good thoughts. After all, we are not just thinking of the person when we hand over the present, but also when we came up with the perfect gift idea and during the entire time it took to make the gift. Depending on the present, this could be days, weeks, or months. Now that is goodwill!
The first thing that comes to mind when I hear homemade gifts is food… and rightly so. Food is the common denominator that holds all of us together and it is a terrific way to show love. The great thing about making food gifts is that you can get as simple or as gourmet as you want.
The first foodie gift I suggest is an amazing way to share your pepper harvest. If you know someone who likes it spicy, these peppers will hit the spot. Their sweet and spicy flavor is the epitome of addictive and they are good on just about everything—potato salads, grilled meats, hamburgers, and sandwiches. I call them Cowboy Candy but a friend of mine thinks they should be called Love Hurts.
Cowboy Candy/Love Hurts
- 3 lbs. fresh jalapeño peppers
- 2 c. cider vinegar
- 6 c. sugar
- ½ t. turmeric
- 3 t. granulated garlic
- 1 t. ground cayenne
Slice peppers into uniform rounds and set aside. In a large pot, bring all ingredients except peppers to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Add peppers and simmer for four minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer peppers to sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Turn the heat up under the syrup and boil for six minutes. Pour syrup to cover jalapeño slices. Poke around a little with a chopstick to release air bubbles. Wipe rims and apply two-piece lids to finger-tip tightness. Process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes. Leave to cool on a folded towel on your counter-top undisturbed for twenty-four hours.
The next food gift on our list is another way to share your harvest. I don’t have pear trees growing on my homestead, but there are wild pear trees all around me so that’s what I used when I made this jam. It is as delicious as it sounds and I put it on everything from toast to waffles to oatmeal.
Salted Caramel Pear Jam
- 5 lbs. pears, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
- ½ c. water
- 6 T. fresh lemon juice
- 2 ½ c. brown sugar, packed
- 1 t. sea salt
- 1 t. grated/ground nutmeg
Bring pears, water, and lemon juice to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to a steady simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until pears are tender. Puree, but do not liquefy. Put pears and brown sugar in a crock-pot. Cook on low for eight hours without the lid. Stir in salt and nutmeg. Cook another hour. Ladle into sterilized canning jars and screw on two-piece lids to finger-tip tightness. Process for ten minutes in a hot water bath. Let cool on a folded towel for twelve to twenty-four hours.
For the true foodie friend, this mostarda recipe is an amazing treat. It is very expensive in stores but if you can make jam, you can make this Italian mustard condiment. Fresh peaches are great, but frozen work just as well.
- 3 lbs. pitted and chopped peaches
- 1 ½ c. water
- 2 c. sugar
- ¾ c. apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 c. Dijon mustard
- 3 T. mustard powder
- 2 T. brown mustard seeds
- 2 T. salt
Combine all ingredients except peaches in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Add peaches. Keep the mixture at a simmer and continue stirring for twenty minutes. As peaches begin to soften, mash with a potato masher, keeping some texture. Continue to cook for an additional twenty to thirty minutes, allowing the mixture to thicken. Ladle into sterilized half-pint jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for fifteen minutes. Let cool on the counter for twelve to twenty-four hours.
Seasoning blends are another great gift idea for the homesteader cook in your life. There are so many different blends to choose from; just go to the spice aisle in your grocery store for ideas. I am presenting three different blends that are beautiful and delicious.
- 1 bottle red wine (you can use store-bought wine or a wine you brewed yourself)
- 1-1 ½ c. coarse sea salt
Simmer wine, stirring constantly, until it has reduced down to approximately one tablespoon. Remove from heat and stir in one cup of salt. It will be moist but there should not be any wine in the bottom of the pan. If there is, add additional salt. Spread on a plate and let dry, stirring occasionally to prevent clumping. Store in an airtight container. This can be used anywhere you use regular salt but it is especially good in salad dressings and when used as a rub.
Coffee-Chile Dry Rub
- ¼ c. finely ground dark roast coffee
- ¼ c. chile powder
- ¼ c. dark brown sugar, packed
- 2 T. smoked paprika
- 1 T. cumin
Combine all ingredients and attach a gift card instructing the recipient to rub seasoning blend on beef, pork, or lamb before grilling.
Roasted Garlic Sea Salt
- 3 large heads of garlic
- 3 t. olive oil
- 3 c. kosher or sea salt
Preheat oven to 400. Peel garlic, drizzle with oil and wrap in foil. Put on a cookie sheet and bake thirty to forty minutes until they begin to brown. Remove from oven and lower oven temperature to 200. Add garlic and ½ cup salt to a food processor and blend until you get a paste. Repeat until all salt is incorporated. Put salt on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake for twenty-thirty minutes, stirring occasionally, until the salt has dried out. Make sure salt is completely dry before transferring to an airtight container.