Seasons by the Sea: Homemade Treats for Giving

Gingerbread cookies
Gingerbread cookies are more durable and stay fresh longer than soft-baked selections. Durell Godfrey

    Homemade food gifts for the holidays are thoughtful, economical, and original. I love making them and receiving them. They can be as elaborate as fruitcakes, stollens, and babkas or as simple as spiced nuts and infused vinegars. No offense to Williams-Sonoma, but why spend a fortune on store-bought seasonal peppermint bark when you can make your own in literally about 10 minutes for a quarter of the price? Get your children involved in simple baking and decorating the gift boxes.
    Some things to consider when making homemade food gifts are: How far are the gifts expected to travel, and how much time do you really want to invest in their preparation? If you are shipping baked goods, make sure they are the least perishable, like rum cakes or the dreaded fruitcake, which, like a ham, can last for eternity. Don’t risk shipping glass bottles full of rosemary oil; save those for local deliveries. Spiced nuts will keep for weeks, as will homemade granola. Crisp cookies are more durable and stay fresh longer than soft-baked.
    One ambitious year I made cinnamon rolls from a Parker House roll recipe and delivered them risen but unbaked on Christmas Eve. I liked imagining all of my friends and their children waking up Christmas morning to the smell of homemade cinnamon buns. Another favorite is a French orange-infused brandy for adding to white wine or Champagne. I save bottles throughout the year for this concoction, along with jam jars (Bonne Maman has good ones) for homemade chutneys and preserved lemons.
    Unfortunately, we don’t have many craft stores out here so you have to hunt around for containers. Wide-mouthed Mason jars from the supermarket are good for some gifts, Golden Eagle has pretty boxes, and even simple cellophane bags can be dolled up with homemade stickers and pretty ribbons. I like to include the recipe along with my gingersnaps or spiced nuts.
    Personalizing each food gift is fun. Why not make a spice rub for the dude who likes to barbecue? Granola for your hippie friends? Cheese straws for the homesick Southerner?
    Rather than write on and on, this column will instead have more than the usual number of recipes. Some of these you should make now, in time for Christmas. Others you can make at the last minute, or make ahead and freeze. Wishing you happy and delicious homemade holidays!
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