By Mary Elizabeth O’Toole
With the holiday season fast approaching, many of us are looking for gift giving ideas that are both fun and practical. Homemade treats from local produce offer a solution you can customize to suit the occasion and the recipient.
Even though it’s late in the season, you can still find plenty of fruits and vegetables at places that buy from area farmers like Uprooted Market and Café (facebook.com/uprootedmarketcafe). Yesterday, I picked up some delicious apples and have apple butter simmering as I write. The house smells delightfully of apples, vanilla and cinnamon. The comforting smells of home and holidays are a side bonus to making many of these gifts. It definitely can help you get in the holiday frame of mind, especially when you play favourite seasonal music while you work.
Here are a few ideas for gifts from the kitchen.
Can, dehydrate, freeze or ferment your fall harvest or farmers’ market finds to serve as gifts year-round. Use old family recipes or explore something new or trendy. Find recipes online or borrow a book from the library. You might even get a friend to share tips for a signature dish. If you are canning, you should follow tested recipes, but many other techniques give you more freedom to innovate.
Wrap your preserved products as they are, or combine them into festive goodies like cookies made with your jams, tarts from mincemeat, or trail mix and chocolate clusters with dehydrated fruits.
If you are unable to prepare your own homemade gifts – or if you are looking for some new varieties to supplement your own creations – our Eastern Shore vendors have you covered. Several shops showcase local makers offering pickles, chutneys, jams, jellies, syrups, oils and vinegars in many flavours and combinations. Musquodoboit Harbour Farmers Market (facebook.com/mhfarmersmarket), Harbour Breezes Daylilies (harbourbreezes.ca – gardens are closed but the shop is open 10-5 daily until Dec 24), and La Cuisine de Brigette L’Acadie de Chezzetcook (facebook.com/acadiantearoom) are just a few of the places for stocking up on tasty preserves.
Package Artistically AND Sustainably
There are lots of ways to make your gift visually appealing that will also make it useful long after people have enjoyed the contents.
Mason jars used for canning can be refilled with preserves the next season, used for storing any small items, or converted to decorative items.
Combine 2-3 preserve jars in a reusable fabric basket or bag in a custom colour or style. Add recipes or a small utensil.
Wrap baked fruit loaves, cookies, or biscuits with a beeswax wrap and instructions on reuse.
Pack dehydrated fruits in mason jars for colourful display and longterm storage. Or put several different items in resealable plastic bags in a decorated paint can or basket, which can be used later for holding small toys or tools.
And check online for lots more sustainable giftwrapping ideas.