Thursday, September 11, 2008

This Season's Bounty. Next Season's Gifts

Though I know I will cringe at the sight of the Christmas decorations that will soon hit the stores, and hate the holiday merchandising blitz that begins earlier every year, I am here to talk to you about Christmas presents. If you make Christmas presents, it really is time to start planning. I know some of you are already started.

For the past few years I've made goody baskets or boxes for many people on my list. Edible presents are wonderful. They are perfect for those who have everything, or when you can't afford the things they don't have. Most of us have plenty of stuff laying around. So, a gift that can be consumed is welcomed.

The possibilities for gifts are endless. Just search "edible gifts" and you can get lots of ideas from business' specializing in doing the work for you. You could go that route, but doing the work yourself will save you some cash, and most likely create a better product.

Currently in my area, it is the harvest season. Produce is at its peak, and readily available. Why not use the bounty of this season to create the gifts that will be needed for next season? Now is the time for apples, plums, pears, and pumpkins. If you grow your own that is wonderful, but these in season gems also can be had for a good price at your farmer's market. Or if you know where to look and who to ask you could score plenty of free fruit like Donna Freedman at Smart Money did.

With all that delicious fruit you can make a variety of preserves that will make wonderful gifts. Don't be put off by the thought of canning. Making jams, chutneys, and fruit butters is really very easy. The only "equipment" it takes is jars with sealing lids. Those can be found at most big box or grocery stores this time of year.

If you have never tried to make preserves, pick up some fruit, sugar, and a box of pectin and give it a try. The box of pectin will contain recipes for a variety of fruits. If you want to make apple butter, skip the pectin. It is a simple process, I promise. Michelle at Scribbit even made a video to convince you, How to Make a Fine Batch of Jam.

Yes, you have to seal jars, but that can be done with boiling water in a large pot, or with the inversion method that I used when making Crockpot Apple Butter, or as Michelle did by using hot jars and hot jam. (Do note that USDA canning guidelines recommend the boiling water method.)

You don't have to limit yourself to fruit either. While you may not want to give someone just a plain jar of vegetables, pickles and relishes can make very interesting additions to a gift packet. Pickles and relishes are not just made with cucumbers either. Beets, tomatoes, corn, or peppers can be used too. This year I made hot pepper jam for the first time, and I am pretty certain some of it will find itself in gift baskets this year.

When I think about using the harvest from this season for next season's gifts, I like to try things that are a bit off the beaten path. Of course, you need to know the recipient to judge how well that may go over. The book that I turn to the most when looking for those kind of ideas is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. It does have basic canning information, but also includes a huge variety of interesting recipes using lots of different fruits and vegetables. If you are trying something new, it is always a good idea to give the recipe a test run. Make a batch and see how you like it before buying bushels of produce.

You may want to pick a theme for your gifts. A Mexican theme could be fun. You could make pickled jalapenos and salsa. Or maybe a variety of sweet treats including jam would be preferred. Don't worry about putting it all together yet. Think about who you need gifts for, the kinds of things they may enjoy, and the things that could be made now with the fresh produce available. Then get started, and you can say you've officially started your Christmas shopping.

Over the next few weeks I will be talking about other edible present ideas, and things like preserves that can be prepared ahead. I welcome your questions and ideas. Or perhaps you would be interested in contributing a guest post on the subject or on another topic. Just email me at makeitfromscratch at


  1. Oh I love apple butter--I should make some! THe only problem is that you use so many apples that could go to applesauce and only get a small batch of the good stuff that I rarely make it. I've heard pear butter is also good.

  2. I did up lots of food gifts last year which including - apple pie jam, varities of fudge, white trash, seasoned nuts, breads, etc. I got more comments about food gifts than other ones that I have given in the past.

  3. Apple pie jam? That sounds wonderful!

  4. We have a unique way to get free fruit: A lady at church is a realtor, so she knows which houses are being repossessed, thus we can go pick apples and pears that are otherwise going to rot!

    Thanks for the information!


Header designed by Crystal. Thanks!