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Homemade Holiday Gifts

Homemade goodies make the best holiday gifts. They are reasonably priced, fun to make and most of all – they are from the heart, sending a message that you took the time to create something from scratch, often a rarity these days. Luckily there are many cookbooks and websites out there to help facilitate this type of gift giving!

One cookbook I love is Georgeanne Brennan’s Christmas Gifts from the Kitchen. This petite book has several ideas for the perfect edible gifts. Two of my favorites are Cranberry Curd and Gingered Cranberry Relish. Cranberries are a perfect holiday food – bright red, tangy and tart, they pair well with poultry, such as the traditional Christmas turkey or goose. Growing up in South Jersey not far from the thriving cranberry bogs of the Pine  Barrens, luscious jelly and juicy whole-berry compote made from the tiny, yet assertive fruit was always abundant on our holiday table. I had made lemon curd before, but I found a recipe that used cranberries in addition to lemon, giving the curd a lovely deep pink color, yet kept the sweet-tart flavor. This curd would make a much-appreciated hostess gift for an overnight stay with friends or family to be served at breakfast the next morning – it is delicious spread on toast, spooned over pancakes, stirred into Greek yogurt, or as a filling for crepes.

The Gingered Cranberry Relish is so easy – just three ingredients! And the flavor is delicious – spicy, thick, and jelly-like, but with a nice texture. It would be great on a sandwich paired with leftover turkey or mixed into chicken salad.

Gingered Cranberry Relish
1 12-oz package fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger

In a large saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil over med-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until the juices have thickened and a few berries have started to pop, about 10-15 min. Stir in the ginger and remove from heat.
When cool, spoon into jars or sturdy air-tight plastic containers.
Can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Another book I have turned to time and again is the Cooking Light Holiday Cookbook. It has a whole chapter on holiday gifts – from savory items such as specialty oils, popcorn and cheese crisps to sweet items ranging from decadent sauces and syrups to candy, cookies, cakes and breads. Some of my favorites have been the Spicy Thyme and Garlic Oil, Ginger Shortbread, Lemon-Ginger Biscotti, Mint Chocolate Truffles and Cinnamon Rolls. And each recipe header includes suggestions for fun ways to wrap up these gifts.

Since I love nostalgia, particularly the Victorian era, I have also enjoyed Victorian Christmas Crafts by Barbara Bruno. This charming book features all kinds of gift ideas – from items made out of paper and fabric to those incorporating wintery greenery and sweet treats to eat, such as caramel corn balls, mincemeat pies and gingerbread. Each craft/recipe includes the backstory and historical account of its significance to the era and the holiday season. I have made and adapted the recipe for sugarplums several times and it is always a huge hit!

For more inspiration, here are some similar books and articles within the Rutgers library system. Happy Holidays!!!

And for anyone who wants to check out some retro articles, these date from the 1940s!