Who doesn’t like getting something to eat for Christmas? Whether it’s homemade fudge or truffles, some shortbread, or a whole hamper of goodies, everyone enjoys receiving edible treats. I have a friend who makes pickled onions or shallots for me most years, usually from their home-grown supply, and it’s one of my favourite gifts! In these days where people have everything they want and where you don’t want to add to the mountain of potentially unused ‘stuff’ that fills the average house, food gifts are a great idea and sure to be appreciated.
The good news is, you don’t need to be a Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson to produce simple tasty fare for presents. I made hampers for family for many years when times were hard and I couldn’t afford to buy expensive gifts for everyone. Tubs full of pickled onions, and jars full of chutney. My eyes still water remembering the onion peeling. My fingers smelt of onions for days. You certainly wouldn’t want to be making chocolates after pickling onions!
If you want to do a big hamper, you could make a few things and buy a few things from local producers. Choose a nice container and add coloured papers and pretty containers to make it look extra special. For less extravagant offerings, which will be no less welcome, a box of homemade biscuits, jar of chutney, bag of fudge, or even a mini cake would be good options. One year I made elderflower champagne in the summer and elderberry wine in the autumn. I’ve also made homemade ‘Limoncello’ and ‘Baileys’ for friends and family who like a tipple. If you really can’t face making something, you can always weigh out some ingredients into a Kilner jar, or other fancy airtight container, and include a recipe so the recipient can make their own cookies, or whatever it might be. This year I made up my Double Chocolate Brownie recipe, minus the eggs and butter, and loaded it into glass jars, along with the recipe. Labelled and decorated, they looked attractive and sold well as gifts.
You’ll know what the people you want to give a homemade foodie gift to will like. Try and chose something fairly simple and make sure it will keep through to Christmas without special storage conditions if you don’t want to be making your gifts at the last minute. Jarred goods, such as pickles, chutneys, marmalade and jam are always good as they keep really well. For a change how about kimchi, or chillies in oil for something with a bit of ‘wow’ factor for those who like a bit of heat? For the sweet toothed, jarred fruits in alcohol keep well and look pretty in a jar with a simple ribbon. Spooned over ice-cream, or added to a sponge, they make a versatile addition to the kitchen. Flavoured mustards and oils are also a straightforward. Look for pretty jars and bottles in charity shops or re-use glassware from gifts you’ve been given, just make sure you sterilise* them prior to re-using them.
If you’re a proficient baker and fancy making a cake or a festive bread, there are lots of options. Cakes and plum puddings can be made well ahead, and some of the festive breads such as Stollen and Panettone keep relatively well.
For straightforward options to make in bulk, biscuits are always a good choice. No special skill is required, and you can lovingly roll out a few dozen in half and hour (plus chilling time). Go for a rich butter biscuit or a savoury cheesy one.
I often make cheesy olives, which are a nice savoury alternative to all the sweet stuff about at this time of year. The only slight downside is that they’re very moreish; they might not make it out of the kitchen! I’ve included the recipe for you to try, so check out the recipe section.
If you want a really easy biscuit recipe, try ‘fork biscuits’. They require no rolling out and can be made speedily. All you need to be able to do is weigh and combine the ingredients. I’ve linked to the recipe for your convenience.
There are many more food items suitable for giving as gifts: coated nuts and seeds, seasoned popcorn, marzipan, caramelized fruits, as well as the ever popular sweets such as fudge, tablet and chocolates. Select something within your skill set and budget, make sure you have the ingredients and the time and then get making. A pretty box, jar or ribbon is all you need to make your foodie gift stand heads above anything from the shops, and your lucky friends and family are sure to appreciate your thoughtfulness.
*How to sterilise jars.
Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Wash the jars in hot, soapy water, then rinse well. Place the jars on a baking sheet and put them in the oven to dry completely. If using Kilner jars, boil the rubber seals, as dry heat damages them. You can also use the hot wash option on your dishwasher, make sure they’re thoroughly dried before use.