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Let visions of sugarplums inspire your gift giving. Homemade gifts best capture the season’s spirit of sharing, so this year, head for the kitchen. Easily made, edible gifts are always welcome—with no worries about sizes or colors to exchange. Invite kids to join the fun of preparing homemade treats, too. A homemade gift from the kitchen is also a true gift from the heart. Decorate all your presents with festive paper, bright ribbons, and handmade gift tags.
Gather ingredients and set aside an afternoon to make homemade treats. Cooking up a big batch will give you plenty to divide for gift giving. “I always encourage my kids to help make gifts for teachers and neighbors,” says Ann Freebing of Memphis, TN. “They measure and stir while they learn the double pleasures of making and sharing.” Choose sweet or savory from the recipes below and have fun.
To make nuts: Spread nuts over a jelly roll pan and toast at 350°F (177°C) until golden, about 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. In large bowl, combine 3/4 cup sugar (150 g) with 1 1/2 tablespoons (27 g) coarse salt and set aside. In a large frying pan over high heat, combine 1 tablespoon (18 g) brown sugar, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) honey, and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) walnut or canola oil; stir until mixture boils and immediately add nuts, stirring quickly to coat them completely (about 2 minutes). Toss glazed nuts in the sugar/salt mixture and spread again onto jelly roll pan to cool. Pack in airtight containers. Makes 8 cups (1 kg).
To make preserves: Peel and core 6 pounds (3 kg) firm ripe Bartlett or D’Anjou pears, chop coarsely, and place in heavy, large stockpot. Add 1 cup (250 ml) water, around 3 to 4 cups (600 to 800 g) sugar, 8 ounces (227 g) chopped candied ginger, and 1 package low-sugar pectin. Cook according to directions on pectin package; ladle into clean, hot prepared canning jars or specialty glass jars and seal. Makes about 12 cups (3 L).
To make jam: Blanch, peel, seed, and dice eight (8 ounces [227 g] each) fully ripened fresh Florida tomatoes. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, cook tomatoes; stirring frequently as the moisture evaporates. Gradually add 1 cup (200 g) brown sugar, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Cook over low heat and reduce to jam consistency, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and spoon into hot prepared canning jars. Makes about 4 cups (995 ml).
Personalize the jam’s flavor for friends by adding one of the following seasonings: 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Tabasco or other hot sauce, 1 teaspoon (2 g) ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon (1 g) ground cumin, 4 teaspoons (20 ml) balsamic vinegar, 4 to 6 teaspoons (8 to 12 g) finely chopped jalapeno, 1 teaspoon (2 g) grated orange peel, or 1 teaspoon (2 g) dried rosemary.