How to Make Homemade Holiday Food Gifts

MOTHER's Kitchen column shares how to make homemade holiday food gifts for friends and family, including recipes for flavored oils, holiday breads, biscotti, and homemade chocolates.

| December 1997/January 1998

Most of us recall making homemade gifts as kids. How can we forget? Every December our mothers ceremoniously hang up gold macaroni wreaths, glittery egg carton ornaments, and other embarrassing pieces of creativity. For years my dad had an abstractly decorated orange juice can filled with pens on his desk. There can only be one reason why one would cherish these tacky treasures: they mean something. Homemade gifts, no matter how humble, contain a small part of the giver. Instead of a golfer's necktie being thrown in the bottom drawer, a memory is made.

When it comes to making homemade gifts, food is a sure winner. I've found that culinary crafts, if you want to get fancy, are the perfect gift for casual acquaintances such as fellow employees, an elderly neighbor, your child's teacher, or anyone to whom you want to show your appreciation without buying them a Range Rover. Your recipients are sure to be impressed with the time and effort you've invested in homemade holiday food gifts when, ironically, it takes longer to fight the crowds at the mall than it does to whip up a batch of biscotti. The holidays are not about giving expensive gifts but about tradition, family, and sharing good times. We can feel gratified knowing that we're doing our part to stamp out holiday commercialism. (Also, knowing that come January 1st there won't be a mound of charge account bills.)

Flavored Oil Recipes

Herb, garlic, and hot pepper infused olive oils are great for splashing on a salad or pasta dish. They're expensive to buy, but cheap if you make them yourself. Start saving some small, attractive jars from the recycling bin. You'll also need some self-adhesive labels, a permanent marker, and decorative ribbons. The oils will keep in the refrigerator for about two months.

Most store-bought flavored oils can be stored at room temperature but because some food particles could remain in the home made oils and cause bacterial growth, I recommend refrigerating them. There have been a few known cases of food-borne illness involving unrefrigerated oil containing garlic cloves.

Red Chili Oil (yield: 1 jar)

We use red chili and cayenne peppers from our garden or a Hispanic grocery but you can use any hot pepper, keeping in mind that the degree of hotness depends on the variety of pepper.

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