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Somewhere in the midst of the commercialisation of Christmas, DIY gifts got the reputation for being at best childlike or at worst a bit cheap. However, I feel sad when every year someone tries to argue that we simply shouldn't do presents, or that we should only do them for the kids, because it's all got a bit too much. I mean what sort of a lesson is that teaching anyway... Christmas is fun until you're too old guys, never grow up!
So this year I'm going to sing from the snow-coated roof tops about homemade gifts. I want to make them and I love to receive them, and yes, I love it if they are edible!
It would be easy to just make a batch of marmalade and give jars of it to everyone on your gift list, job done! However, if like me you really don't like marmalade then it's not going to feel like a very thoughtful gift, regardless of how zesty and delicious. So, this isn't going to be a blog with "100 ideas for foodie gifts", no, it's going to help you think about how to give thoughtfully, sustainably and deliciously.
Slow Gin or Damson Voka are great gift ideas because on top of foraging for the berries and taking time to find and improve the best recipes, you can also go to town coming up with fun names like "Mad Granny's Poison" and using your calligraphy skills to make beautiful labels.
However you don't want all that hard work to go dusty in the forgotten depths of someone's drinks cabinet. Really think about whether the recipient likes to drink liqueurs. If not how about a non-alcoholic alternative like elderflower or gooseberry and mint lemonade. Either way you can chose a smaller bottle (so if they try it and don't like it, there is less waste) and include a handwritten cocktail/mocktail suggestion. You could even include mixers like tonic or embellishments like dried, edible flowers.
We love a good condiment in our household. If cheese is on the menu then I'll be digging around for the caramelised red onion chutney. If the kettle is on at tea time then it's jam I'm looking for. Sore throat? I need honey, or better yet ginger, lemon and honey.
These are the things we use regularly and would honestly make a great present for us. Getting to know what people really like and then finding or making a special version of it guarantees it will delight and not go to waste. Obviously not everyone has their own hive of bees, but jams and chutneys are easy to make, or you could go a bit fancy and make a jelly.
Ferments and Savoury Preserves
A year ago I'd have batted you away with a tea towel if you tried to give me something pickled in a jar, so tread carefully with this one! However, fermenting is having a bit of a comeback and it's a great way to reduce food waste in times of plenty to enjoy - and nutritionally benefit from - in the New Year, especially with the imminence of the hungry gap. Again you can go wild with pretty jars and handwritten suggestions of how to use.
Cakes & Biscuits
Why not gift a cake? Unlike liqueurs and condiments, cakes and biscuits have a shorter shelf life but if you chose carefully you can find recipes, like fruit cakes, that will last that bit longer. You can trawl the charity shops for pretty tins or antique cake forks for beautiful presentation. Also, why not suggest to the receiver that they freeze the cake for a rainy day or for when an unexpected visitor arrives. That's the gift that just keeps giving!
You can't go wrong with a nice bag of fudge or chocolate truffles. They key here is going to be quality ingredients. Look for organic produce and if you can buy straight from the producer. Try farmers markets or explore the many milk stations popping up around the UK, that often also include a vending machine with butter, cheese and other items. Name-drop the producers on your ingredients list - it will add a very wholesome feel to your gift.
Think about your packaging too as I suspect the go-to would be a clear plastic bag with a nice piece of ribbon. Instead get creative with cereal boxes or old jam jars, and ribbon or wrapping paper saved from previously received gifts. How cute would truffles look in an egg box!
Homemade Recipe Book
I appreciate it's not directly edible but there is something so wholesome and romantic about sharing your favourite recipes. There are creative ways to make a "book" that can be added to, then you can start a tradition where every year you add a new recipe to their collection and encourage them to add other recipes when they discover them.
With all of the above please remember a few things. First the health and safety announcement... follow & share guidelines on how to store food and include an ingredients list so the receiver can check for allergens.
Don't put food gifts under the tree if they should be kept cool or if there are pets in the house. Maybe set a reminder to get gifts out of the fridge... the worst thing is finding them once everyone has gone home!
Remember to keep things as sustainable and waste free as possible. Buy quality ingredients as ethically as you can; shop from producers that you are confident farm sustainably. Try to avoid ingredients that you have to buy specifically for a recipe but that you are unlikely to use again. Don't fall at the last hurdle; think about where your packaging, and any part of the gift that doesn't get eaten, will end up.
I'm very excited to DIY my gifts this year and I'll be sharing what I come up with over on Instagram. If you make your own foodie gifts, tag @thetaleofateaspoon as I'd love to see them.